On May 28, 1982, Edward T. Mann, a former employee of the company International Business Machines (IBM) drove his Lincoln Continental through the glass doors of the company’s headquarters in Rockville, Maryland. Mann jumped out wearing a mask and dressed in fatigues and began shooting up the building. Mann killed three people that day, held the authorities at bay for hours and then surrendered. Mann didn’t fight the charges; he pled guilty and showed no remorse. He was given three life sentences plus 1080 years, making it impossible he would ever see the light of day. The judge famously dismissed him as deranged.
Mann came to mind when word began leaking out of my city that some man killed 12 people at the Navy Yard. The individual (whose name is unworthy of being printed here or being spoken) has just ruined so many lives it is unfathomable what he has done. He, of course, unlike Edward T. Mann died during his spree. It is now reported he had shown conduct issues when he was in the U.S. Navy and that this is not likely surprising to a certain extent. Killing 12 people should be surprising to us; the fact that we have reached a point of acceptance indicts our society completely as a nation of violence. This kind of thing just happens way too often in other words.
The gun rights people have already shown up on various websites. I did not read the notes. I also ignored the notes of those who would totally restrict guns in an effort to stop the madness brought forth today. I don’t think either of these strategies would work in this instance. This was going to happen once this guy was not flagged and locked up for observation due to his erratic behavior.
This is like the individual who shot up Virginia Tech or the guy who shot up the theater, or the guy who rode around Washington D.C. years ago with a 17 year old and shot people at random. It is sick. We have got to figure out how to identify better those in our society who are powder kegs. I do not know how this can be done but it must be done. There are 12 people dead tonight because again we didn’t flag someone who was ready to explode. These people have families and friends and colleagues who have to figure out how to go on.
Have we reached the point in our society where we think these mass shootings are normal? The answer can be found in the film, “Brick City,” about the city of Newark, New Jersey. In the film after a shooting at a high school in that city, Ras Baraka, the poet, and current candidate for mayor of that city, famously screams to the students in a gymnasium that “this is not normal.” Baraka was the principal of that school and the incident was not normal. Everyone armed to the teeth is not normal. Everyone saying we have to get armed to protect ourselves might be smart (right now) but it is not normal. We created this craziness we live and have accepted it but that still does not make it normal.