Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Two dead in church shooting in Knoxville

Well, I guess shooting rampages are America's real national pastime:
An out-of-work truck driver accused of opening fire at a Unitarian church, killing two people, left behind a note suggesting that he targeted the congregation out of hatred for its liberal policies, including its acceptance of gays, authorities said Monday.

A four-page letter found in Jim D. Adkisson's small SUV indicated he intentionally targeted the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church because, the police chief said, "he hated the liberal movement" and was upset with "liberals in general as well as gays."

Adkisson, a 58-year-old truck driver on the verge of losing his food stamps, had 76 rounds with him when he entered the church and pulled a shotgun from a guitar case during a children's performance of the musical "Annie."

My emphasis. There's an irony here, in that cuts to welfare programs are most definitely not a "liberal" policy, at least in the sense that the accused would understand the term. It reminds me of a comment made by Chomsky on the Oklahoma City bombing:

At the beginning, they were looking for some Middle East connection, and they would've bombed anybody in sight if they'd found it, you could tell that right off. Didn't work, so you're stuck with the angry white men. And the source of that is quite real; they have every reason to be angry. They have a lot to be angry about... but I don't think people know what to be angry about. What has been created by this half century of massive corporate propaganda is what's called "anti-politics". So that anything that goes wrong, you blame the government. Well okay, there's plenty to blame the government about, but the government is the one institution that people can change... the one institution that you can affect without institutional change. That's exactly why all the anger and fear has been directed at the government. The government has a defect- it's potentially democratic. Corporations have no defect- they're pure tyrranies. So therefore you want to keep corporations invisible, and focus all anger on the government. So if you don't like something, you know, your wages are going down, you blame the government. Not blame the guys in the Fortune 500, because you don't read the Fortune 500. You just read what they tell you in the newspapers... all you know is that the bad government's doing something, so let's get mad at the government.
Chomsky said this in 1995 (in a speech that was released as a CD entitled Class War: The Attack on Working People), and a lot has changed since then, but not everything has (despite what some people will tell you about how "9/11 changed everything"):

While the anger and the fear is real, and it's based on something, and you've got to sympathize with it, because it is real - when your wages have dropped 25%, roughly, in say, 15 years, and your wife has to work, and your kids can't eat, and you have no future, and everything's rotten, you have a lot to be angry about, but people are not focused on what's doing it.
And from the sound of it, Mr. Adkisson had a lot to be angry about too. It's a shame the people who he's alleged to have taken his anger out on had nothing to do with his problems. A slightly different twist - this guy's perceived enemies were gays and liberals, neither of whom has too much role in government in the US these days - but the same general phenomenon, a real and justified anger acted out in a vicious manner on the wrong target. Indeed, the targets in this attack had far less responsibility for his troubles than the Clinton administration had for Timothy McVeigh's. Yet instead of shooting up the welfare office that had cut him off, he went to a church known for accepting people that he'd been taught to hate. I guess that's what happens when you watch Fox News too much.

Of course, even the US media isn't entirely monolithic. Besides the idea that you should blame your troubles on gays, women, ethnic or religious minorities, liberals, atheists, or anyone who Anne Coulter and Bill O'Reilly don't like, there's another current - the one that says you should blame yourself. Maybe this is why this woman responded to foreclosure the way she did:
TAUNTON, Mass. (AP) - A 53-year-old wife and mother fatally shot herself soon after faxing a letter to her mortgage company saying that by the time they foreclosed on her house that day, she would be dead.

Police in Taunton said Carlene Balderrama used her husband's high-powered rifle to kill herself Tuesday afternoon, after faxing the letter at 2:30 p.m.

The mortgage company called police, who found Balderrama's body at 3:30 p.m. in her brown-shingled raised ranch house. The auction was scheduled to start at 5 p.m. and interested buyers arrived at the property in Taunton, about 35 miles south of Boston, while Balderrama's body was still inside, according to police chief Raymond O'Berg.

As far as my own life is going, well it's a lot better than that. In fact, so far I don't feel like shooting myself or anyone else. The Fringe Festival is over, and I saw a total of five shows, not huge compared to many people but far more than I'd gone to in any previous iteration of the festival. And on Sunday I checked out My Winnipeg at the Globe. Fascinating, filled with a confusing mix of fact and fiction (some of the anecdotes about Winnipeg's history are false, but some, such as If Day, are true). It's not a particularly flattering portrayal of the city, but anyone who grew up here is bound to identify with parts of it. It was the first Maddin film I'd seen; now I want to look up Tales from the Gimli Hospital, which apparently annoyed a lot of folks from Gimli when it came out. I guess it's easier to get a pass when you're from the place you're portraying.

So now it's time for something funny - Garfield minus Garfield. Removing the eponymous character allows one to focus more on Jon, which is not only amusing but downright good for the self-esteem:


Thanks to bugsybrown for the link. And much to his credit, it seems that Jim Davis likes it too:
One of Walsh's occasional readers is Davis, who heard about the site a few months ago. The cartoonist calls the work "an inspired thing to do" and wishes to thank Walsh for enabling him to see another side of "Garfield."
I have to admit that this is a far better reaction than I'd expected from Davis. I guess even cartoonists can have a sense of humour.

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