April Showers Bring Mass Murder

Gentle April — when the earth thaws and spring flowers bloom!  April, which moved Shakespeare to write:  “As oft ‘twixt May and April is to see, When winds breathe sweet, untidy though they be.”  April, when the optimistic promise of spring is finally realized and the month ends with sunshine and warming breezes on our faces!

So why has April become the month that violence and domestic terrorism experts are calling the start of “the killing season”?

Let’s face it:  April’s recent track record really sucks.  From the Oklahoma City bombing to the Columbine killings to the Virginia Tech mass murders to the Boston Marathon attack, April has a history as bloody as a Quentin Tarantino film.  It’s painfully apparent, and not just for people like me who have April birthdays and notice the awful things that seem to happen, with distressing regularity, during my natal month.  Experts are wondering why.

ahitlerThey think it may have all started with Adolf Hitler.  He and I share the same April 20 birthday, and his legacy is so bloody and terrible, with its toxic mixture of racial purity and brown-shirted fascism and institutionalized genocide, that it has attracted wackos and racists and nutjobs eager to make a name for themselves long after Hitler killed himself.  It wasn’t coincidence that the Columbine shootings also occurred on April 20 — just one of the many bad things that happened on that date, so much so that some people say it’s the worst day of the year.  One of the Columbine shooters was obsessed with Hitler and planned the attack to occur on his birthday.

Unfortunately, the experts say, the crazies among us apparently pay attention to such anniversaries.  Timothy McVeigh specifically planned the Oklahoma City bombings for April 19, which was the same day that the FBI stormed the Branch Davidian compound in Waco and 76 people were killed.  More recently, other killers have planned their attacks to recognize or emulate McVeigh, or the Columbine shooters, or one of the other lunatics who have turned the April calendar into a horror show of evil and carnage.

So keep your eyes open.  If recent years are any indication, something really, really bad is going to happen this month.

Poor April.  It really deserves better.

Who Did It, And Why?

There have been no significant developments in the investigation of the Boston Marathon bombing, and that in and of itself is noteworthy.

No terrorist group or domestic fringe organization has stepped up to claim responsibility for the attack — but the information about the nature of the explosive devices used establishes that the bombs were carefully constructed to achieve maximum carnage.  The bombs apparently were built in pressure cookers and were loaded with ball bearings, nails, and other metal objects, and much of the damage to the innocent people nearby was caused by the effects of the intentional shrapnel.  The death toll from the blast now stands at 3 — including an 8-year-old boy — and more than 170 were wounded.  My heart aches for them and their families, and I know that my feelings in that regard are not unique.

What would motivate a person to build bombs that would tear off the limbs of random, unlucky people who just happened to be in the vicinity when the bombs exploded?  It’s hard to imagine that even the most disturbed domestic group would think that injuring participants in the Boston Marathon would win converts to a cause, or make a meaningful statement about an issue.  Even accepting that the targets of terrorist acts are selected through a twisted, hateful analysis, why would the Boston Marathon even be considered?  How would an event that features everyday people running through city streets be viewed as a suitable object for an attack?

We need to find out who did this, and why.

The Terrorists Amongst Us

Faisal Shahzad, the terrorist who tried to set off a car bomb in Times Square on a crowded Saturday night, pleaded guilty yesterday to a series of terrorism and weapons charges.  He apparently intended his guilty plea to send a message to the United States that if it did not stop “meddling” in Muslim lands and get out of Iraq and Afghanistan, more attacks would be coming.  (As if Muslim extremists did not start this process with the 9/11 attacks, or the even earlier attack on the USS Cole and the failed World Trade Center bombing.)

What many Americans find most disturbing about people like Faisal Shahzad is that his example strikes at the core of a deeply-held belief:  that if our enemies simply got to know us, they would inevitably understand that we mean them no harm and indeed would accept our way of life as the better path.  Shahzad, like the 9/11 terrorists before him, demonstrates that that belief simply cannot be applied to everyone.  Born in Pakistan, Shahzad moved to the United States when he was 18 and was a naturalized U.S. citizen who lived in suburban Bridgeport, Connecticut.  He was thoroughly exposed to American culture — yet he somehow became a radicalized Muslim, went to Pakistan to receive weeks of explosives training, received infusions of cash from the Pakistani Taliban, and then tried to deliver a devastating, murderous blow to the country that welcomed him and his family.

It is a sad day in America when we cannot trust our neighbors to behave as Americans, whatever their religious or cultural beliefs.  The challenge for our society will be to maintain appropriate vigilance for signs of terrorist activity while not becoming inherently suspicious of anyone who looks different.  It will not be an easy task.

Thoughts On The Anniversary Of The Oklahoma City Bombing

The Oklahoma City bombing happened 15 years ago.  April 19, 1995 was an exceptionally deadly day of domestic terrorism, but it was unusual only in degree, not in kind.

The reality is that America has always had a dark, kinky seam of violent insurrection running through its soul like a vein of the blackest coal.  Our country was founded after an armed revolution — a revolution led by brilliant statesmen, to be sure, but a bloody armed revolution nevertheless — and political violence unfortunately has been a part of our history ever since.

Our nation’s history is dotted with periodic domestic uprisings and attempts to overthrow the government, from the Whiskey Rebellion that bedeviled George Washington, to John Brown’s raid at Harper’s Ferry, to the Civil War, to the periodic assassinations and attempted assassinations of political leaders, and more recently to the Weather Underground, the Black Panthers, the Symbionese Liberation Army, the Unabomber, and other “revolutionary” movements and persons. Timothy McVeigh walked in the footsteps of John Brown, Lee Harvey Oswald, Charles Manson, Ted Kaczynski, and countless other twisted, violent, and demented souls who came before him.

Some people contend that there is no realistic threat of domestic terrorism and argue that the focus should not be on American citizens but on terror threats from abroad.  Our nation’s history, however, suggests that paying some attention to fringe groups on the home front is well worth our while.  Those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it, and I would prefer not to see another Oklahoma City tragedy in my lifetime.