Monday, July 18, 2016

Snapshots: Baton Rouge, Nice

First, Baton Rouge.

Three police officers, shot down. One, just vacuuming his car. I saw the video, the reenactment. The shooter, an ex-Marine, hides behind the corner of a convenience store at a gas station, peeks out, eyes his target, an expert marksman, takes them down.

What is this?

At first you think, Oh, another reverse racism thing, Race in America, the unsolved puzzle, the ultimate in displacement, the psychological defense, placing one's negativity, anger, on someone, something else. If I come home angry and slam a door, or kick the dog, my anger is now in the door, it is the dog's problem. I feel better, momentarily

An immature defense, and too simple an explanation for recent murders in Dallas, five policemen were killed, nine injured, and now . . . more dead in Baton Rouge.

But this massacre is different; one of the policemen, one of the victims is not white, his skin tone is closer to black, so there must be some mistake.

The perpetrator, Gavin Eugene Long, reached 29 short years of age yesterday, the day of the shooting, a birthday, death-day celebration. He self-identifies as Cosmo Setepenra on YouTube, an author of three self-published books, a life coach, and the leader of an extremist group, the Sovereign Citizens.

Protests are not enough, preached Cosmo. Violence is what is called for in the struggle against the government of these United States, a war against the police. He thought the violence in Dallas a good first step.

To me, first glance, this is a man in a florid manic episode, full-blown, psychotic and narcissistic, a person whose reality testing has likely been compromised by mental illness. His words:

If anything happens to me is a reference to his suicide-homicide. Youtube took down his videos, but they're nested in the link above.

An ex-Marine, he had military training. This would be an asset, should one become paranoid, want to take a society, even one with democratic ideals, down.

A therapist would maybe say, "They are only ideals, the government is the means to realize them. It may another two hundred twenty years to create a perfect society. Let's strive for better. How can you make it better? Let's talk about your ideals."

But most probably Cosmo needed another kind of doctor, too, one to give him something that would help him sleep a little, take off that trigger-happy edge.

Nice, France     
Fire Works, Evanston, IL

But first, a story.

Always a fireworks fan, the Fourth of July has become a bit much the past few years. Alley displays are out of control, fire crackers and rockets explode throughout the night, usually a lovely summer night in Chicago.

You want to keep the windows open. The dog covers his ears with his paws and moans.

But watching the faces of the children at an authorized beachfront festival is irresistible, and the music, so,patriotic, upbeat. This year my grandson invited us to join him and his parents to see fireworks. FD suggested we skip the crowd, watch from the top level of the hospital garage near the lake. Perfect for me.

We hadn't counted on security chasing us away.

As an alternative, FD drove us as close as he could to the beachfront, dropped us off a few blocks from the action. We would be in the thick of things (the child among us wanted to do this, anyway, hadn't particularly liked the garage rooftop).

Every street to the Evanston, Illinois beach cordoned off, saw-horses blocking traffic, blinking red, pink beams flashing from flashlights. No vehicle entry to the lake.

You don't think, Well, a truck could plow through that.

But now you do.

When I told a friend that it hadn't been my first choice, going to see fireworks where hundreds of people would be gathering, a jihadist's dream location, and a symbolic gesture, too, this being a national holiday, she told me,
"You can't stop living. That means they won!"
I thought that ironic. They stop others from living.
He had a history of mental illness, according to his father, two nervous breakdowns in Tunisia. Neighbors said he often acted nervous and angry.

Mohammed Lahouaiej Bouhlel murdered people enjoying their holiday, punished others for being happy, for having something he didn't have, maybe. Happiness.
Oddly enough, he flaunted the Koran, scoffing Islamic law, beat his wife, took drugs, drank alcohol and ate pork, according to his cousin. He did not, as far as anyone knows, act as an ISIS puppet.

What could have been done to stop this? He told police that he was delivering ice cream to the beach, so they let him park the refrigerated vehicle over night. They didn't bother to ask for a sample, we suppose. That might have changed everything.

Authorities had him days before that. French police intervened as he threw a heavy board at a motorist during a traffic altercation. He had priors for theft and violence.

Mental health professionals had him, too, the ones treating those nervous breakdowns, and his family knew he could be violent, the potential was there.

Nobody reeled him in, however, when it mattered, when that divorce went through.

Sometimes these things aren't as complicated as they seem.

Great, but what's a professional to do? And law enforcement can't deprive citizens of their rights. We've all watched Law and Order. 

It becomes what might each contact have done, each person who comes into contact with a Mohammed Bouhliel, or a Gavin Long.

What would I have done, had the Bastille Day terrorist in Nice come to see me?  We'd have talked about that marriage, and his anger.

Gavin Eugene Long wouldn't see a mental health professional. He would be the problem of his commanding officer, and likely a military wildcard. But he had a commander, once, who might have picked up on that mania, had he a bit more training.

And we haven't even talked about Bowe Bergdahl, a very different story, an American soldier who walked off his post in Afghanistan, only to be captured by the Taliban and released in exchange for five Taliban leaders in Guantanamo Bay.

(Spoiler alert, if you haven't listened to the podcast, Serial).

What possessed Bowe to walk off, we want to know, ultimately costing the world, not only the US, perhaps hundreds of lives in the future? Do Taliban leaders return home and take up knitting?

Bowe had schizotypal disorder, we learn on that second season of Serial, and should never have been in combat. He had been diagnosed, then sent off to war, couldn't take camp, and the hypocrisy of command. Took off.

O're the rockets red glare, the bombs bursting in air, gave proof, through the night, that our flag was still there.

I don't care what anyone says. Next year, I'm staying home.



Mound Builder said...

One of the things I thought about when I heard about the shooting of police officers in both Dallas and Baton Rouge was that I think in both cases the shooters were ex-military. I thought about what it means when you train people to kill and then you send them off to war and they return, possibly (and even probably) suffering from trauma due to being in a war. Folks may or may not get adequate (or any) therapy. And I thought about how accessible guns are, couldn't help thinking that it kind of sounds like a recipe for potential problems. That's not to say that all returning vets have that nexus of problems. There are soldiers, I'm sure, who may feel harmed by their war experiences but who would never dream to commit an act of violence, though they may suffer from depression. Anyway, if you add the potential for mental illness to the mix of training to kill, trauma from being in a war, and access to guns along with the pressures related to seems inevitable that some folks might be at risk.

The driving terror attacks in Nice...I hardly know what to say. That is so horrifying that someone would take lives like that.

It often feels these days as if the world has gone crazy.

Anonymous said...

The world is in chaos, it seems to me. No matter where you are, where you live, somewhere, during your day, there will be a horrible event that will cause others to be victimized, some dying, some physically hurt and emotionally spent, .

Better Things-- Seeing Ghosts