Monday, April 19, 2010

Weekend; Oklahoma City Bombing Anniversary; RIP Buford

Well, the weekend went by way too quickly, and I'm not sure what I did with it. I played a whole lot of guitar this weekend, and did a bit of recording. Jamie's brother, Doug, is in town, and he brought his collection of movies with RiffTrax (which, if you've never seen a RiffTrax movie, involves a film with some very funny people making jokes and comments about it in the soundtrack- yes, it's a lot like Mystery Science Theater 3000), so I ended up watching the fairly awful Terminator: Salvation again- although this time the RiffTrax made it much more entertaining. We also had a Mono Ensemble practice, sans Jim, and things went pretty well. And I made a trip to Austin Books with Ryan.

Also, I'm thinking about my friend (and Mandy's sister), Kellie, today. Her dog, Buford (who's a really cool dog that lots of people know and love) isn't doing so well, so my thoughts are with Kellie and Buford (and Mandy, who also takes care of Buford a lot) and Damon (Kellie's boyfriend, who also takes care of Buford a lot). Just wanted to mention that because I'm thinking about them.

What else? It's the anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing today (4/19/95), as well as the anniversary of the tragedy at the Branch Davidian compound (4/19/93). I was in college during both of these events, and remember them quite clearly. My memory of the Branch Davidian standoff involves me standing in front of the TV in our dorm room and feeling a sort of sick feeling in my stomach as the whole place went up in flames on live TV (while my friend Richard commented about how those Davidians had to be crazy fools to do such a thing), while my memory of the Oklahoma City bombing involves my friend Sarah (now married to my good friend, Lee) being over at our house and watching TV coverage of the devastation that had been wrought upong her hometown (her father's office was near the Murrah federal building). In particular, I remember her telling me a bomb had gone off in downtown OKC. At first I envisioned something the size of a hand grenade and thought she was overreacting by worrying so much about family and friends who might have been downtown that day. Then we turned on the TV, I realized that the scale of the disaster, and her fears seemed a lot more well founded.
So now it's been 15 years since the Oklahoma City bombing and 17 years since The Branch Davidian compound burned. I'd like to say that the danger of violence and/or terror attacks as carried out by violent, domestic extremists has subsided over the last 15 years, but I'm just not sure that's true. In February of this year a man who was angry with the IRS flew a plane into a building housing IRS offices here in Austin. Individuals angry about health care reform have inflicted death threats and vandalism against Democrats (yeah- I'm not comparing it to OKC, but it's still an attempt to bring attnetion to political issues through violence and threats). A lone fanatic, angry about our involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan, shot and killed 13 people at Fort Hood last year. Members of the Hutaree Christian militia in Michigan were arrested last month in connection with a conspiracy which was meant to kill a police officer and then ambush subsequent officers at a funeral procession. A white supremacist shot and killed a security guard at the Holocaust museum in Washington last June.
And I'm sure there's a lot more stuff. This is just the stuff that comes to mind right off the top of my head.
My general point is that, while subsequent attacks may not have been as dramatic or spectacular as the Oklahoma City bombing, the general trend of violence from people on the fringes of our society (people who typically have a combination of emotional or mental instability coupled with some sort of political axe to grind) hasn't really seemed to subside at all. In fact, FBI Director Robert Mueller made statements last week in which he described the threat from homegrown and "lone wolf" terrorists (i.e., people taking terrorist actions on their own, without the backing of a supporting nation or organization) as now being as great as the threat which is posed by Al Qaeda or other foreign terrorist organizations.
So that's great. You know what freaks me out even more than the idea of being blown up by angry foreigners?- the idea of being blown up by one of my neighbors (somehow it seems like the foreigners might be a little easier to see coming, plus there's an added sense of betrayal when . The thought that there are people out there who are just sitting in their homes (many on the internet) and working themselves into a violent frenzy because they can't get other people to go along with their completely off the wall political beliefs? I find that pretty disturbing. I mean, they're already tearing down my Bill White for Governor yard sign!! (yes, that was a joke. Mostly. I mean, someone did tear down my yard sign, but let's hope it wasn't the same kind of person who'd fly a plane into a building.)
The main thing is that I just don't get the escalation to violence, and I don't know what to make of the fact that our society seems to produce a disproportionately large number of these wackos. I mean, we have a society that allows for free speech and participatory democracy. People have the right to all kinds of free speech- demonstrations, participation in elections, and even the right to fill the internet with their views (some even write silly blogs, but most bloggers, despite abysmal readership figures, don't end up physically attacking people ;-)). Anyway, there are all kinds of outlets that fall short of violence. But the people committing these domestic terrorist, lone wolf attacks aren't content to simply express their views. They demand that everyone else conform with their personal set of beliefs.
The problem for these people is that we all have to live together, so everyone gets a voice, but, for the most part, the majority rules. Sometimes that sucks, but out of the available forms of government, it's probably the best that we can do. Most of the nutjobs end up feeling that they're being personally affected and impacted by our government and our society in a way that makes them sepcial or unique. No one else can understand their pain. Even though everyone else in the country is being similarly impacted by the same set of rules.
So there are still people out there who take all of this stuff extremely personally, who feel entitled to live in a world which is taliored to their personal desires and beliefs, and who are willing to resort to violence if they don't get their own way. And given recent advances in technology and the ready availablility of information (especially about how to make weapons and carry out attacks- just Google the phrase "how to make a bomb" and try flipping through the results), we're now living in an age when a single person can inflict massive amounts of damage (i.e., Timothy McVeigh taking out a city block with a homemade bomb or Nidal Malik Hasan killing 13 people and wounding 30 others with a set of handguns) with relative ease. We've entered an age when tyrrany no longer comes only from governments and rulers, but in which individuals may try to forcibly impose their particular political views upon the public (and in which they can use terrific acts of violence as a means of trying to incite other people to similar action). And, of course, given the number of people out there who are fanatically militant about various (and sometimes conflicting) political and religious views, it seems like we could really be in for a nasty ride if this trend toward "lone wolf" violence continues to rise.
I don't know. It's just such a weird phenomenon, and I can't quite get may head around it. I think part of the answer lies within the way that Americans perceive the relationship between society and the individual. We live in a country where we place a huge value upon the uniqueness, importance, and the power of individuals, and in most cases I think that's a good thing, but the flip side is that sometimes I think that individuality is emphasized at the cost of an appreciation for the values and traits that are necessary for us to all coexist peacefully and happily together- values like cooperation, the willingness to compromise, empathy, intellectual and emotional flexibility, etc..
Our democratic process is a good thing, but by it's very nature there are always going to be people on one side or the other who aren't happy with the results.
The one thing that I know for sure is that everyone would be a whole let better off if people would just relax.
Anyway, I hope we get this all figured out because I really, really hate turning on the news and seeing bombings and mass shootings that are carried out against Americans by other Americans (well, I don't like any attacks on Americans at all, but you know what I mean).

What else? I got a text a moment ago. Kellie's dog, Buford, has passed away. So sad. Well, Buford had a really good, full life (or at least the part of it that he spent with Kellie), and he'll be sorely missed. Via con dios, Buford.

Uggh. This hasn't really been my favorite Monday. Congrats to my friend Jennifer for coming in second in her pool tournament this weekend. I know she's disappointed not to have finished first, but second out of 46 contenders is still really, really good!

So that's it. Hope you have a good one.

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