Saturday, November 07, 2009

The Other Shooter: Banality of Terror

As the nation was reeling from the Ft. Hood horror yesterday, a pathetic loner killed one man and wounded five other people in an Orlando office building shootout.

Compared to the complexity of Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, Jason Rodriguez looks like a run-of-the-mill loser with a failed marriage and the inability to hold a job after being fired two years ago from the architectural firm he shot up and later from a Subway eatery in a career of downward mobility.

As he was being led away by police, he told them, "I'm just going through a tough time right now. I'm sorry" and explained his murderous pique at former coworkers by claiming "they left me to rot."

Such lethal blandness is, in a way, more terrifying than whatever roiling of religious, ethnic and political passions led the Ft. Hood killer to his actions.

The well-dressed, calm Rodriguez seems outwardly more stable than many members of protest crowds in Washington and elsewhere, venting their passions about health care and the economy across the political spectrum. Even bland Al Gore gets into the acting-out act by proclaiming that "civil disobedience has a role to play" in the struggle to control climate change.

At the Eichmann trials after World War II, Hannah Arendt wrote about the "banality of evil" in a climate where human life was devalued in the service of social hysteria and slogans.

Now we are seeing mass murder as a form of political expression migrating from more savage societies to our own, and that may be the most unnerving prospect of all on this shell-shocked weekend.


Fuzzy Slippers said...

Good post, there is something unsettling about the contrast between Hasan and Rodriguez, something banal about the latter's crime and circumstance.

I do have to ask, if you think the conservatives who showed up in DC on Thursday were a "raging crowd" what did you make of the protesters at the G20 this year? Peaceful college kids out for a stroll? The cops in full riot gear kind of belie that. And I don't recall seeing any American (or other, for that matter) flags burned in the street or cars flipped over as is so common during liberal protests.

Anonymous said...

After reading this (, your post kind of put the whole thing in perspective.