Tuesday, February 16, 2010


I’ve been watching this story develop, but until today it didn’t seem anything to Post about.

But it’s reported today that she opened fire during a meeting of 12 faculty members, seated around an oval table, at a faculty meeting.

A few things strike me.

First, after her initial burst of firing seemed to jam the handgun, she was rushed by the remaining five or six faculty members. They proceeded to push her out of the room and locked the door.

I note that they did not take the non-firing weapon from her, and they pushed her out into a hallway – with the weapon – where she might quite conceivably have continued her rampage by firing at other faculty or students.

I’d like to propose that while the members’ response was somewhat understandable, and certainly better than simply sitting there waiting for her to effect repairs on her piece, it was not really very impressive. Not when you figure that a faculty member is not simply an ‘employee’ but has some sort of responsibility for the well-being of a larger community.

Perhaps this is sign of the times – with so many people, certainly university faculty, not having much military experience.

Or perhaps it could be characterized as a not-particularly ‘male’ response, which stereotypically would include at least enough ‘aggressiveness’ so as to disarm her and perhaps restrain her (especially with a five-to-one advantage) while proper authorities were summoned on 911.

But then ‘aggressiveness’ is not something held in high esteem in certain circles nowadays. Certainly not in university circles.

But then again, this was ALABAMA, for cripe’s sake, not the bosky, effete precincts of some East Coast or West Coast ‘elite’ university. Mah, mah, mah.

It was a female professor, apparently, who took the lead in making a move on the shooter.

But – and this is perhaps a characteristic and not just an accident of circumstance – the woman did not attempt to subdue or neutralize the assaultive threat. Rather she simply tried to get it away from herself, pushing the shooter – still armed – out the door. (So it was then somebody else’s problem.)

In light of numerous larger thoughts, this may bear on the whole women-in-combat push so popular in elite Beltway circles.

In the Fort Hood shooting, one of the first responding MPs, a female, was shot and wounded when she came barreling around a corridor corner without checking first to see if the armed shooter was perhaps in the corridor she was about to enter. And things went from there. The media didn’t pay too much attention to that.

Yes, it was an emergency. But in the military world, two elements precisely should come into play – and the training is supposed to ensure that they do: one, training so powerfully instilled that caution – in the service of effective neutralization of the threat – comes almost instinctively. Two, that a male – with or without training – is by virtue of his ‘aggressive’ nature (so loudly bethumped and decried in most elite circles of discourse nowadays) would stand at least an instinctually greater chance of neutralizing the threat.

But then again, since the military nowadays is trying to ‘demasculinize’ males, and somehow effect an “ungendered” and “more compassionate and sensitive” aggressiveness (which is like trying to create ‘dry water’ or ‘cold heat’), then perhaps males have ‘aggressiveness’ trained out of them, so to speak.

Surely, the natural ‘emotional detachment’ of males, and their equally natural ability to be concentrated and galvanized by threats, and their equally natural tendency to want to ‘get’ the threat … surely all of these would have come into play.

Such is Our modern American reality.

Back to Alabama. This shooter had apparently had numerous problems before, going back decades.

When she shot and killed her brother in 1986, the local police chief in that town of Braintree – apparently at the behest of the shooter’s mother, a female municipal elected official – didn’t follow up, but quickly called the whole thing “a tragic accident”. Still alive though retired now, that official of the law is now blazing a dizzy trail in his public statements from day to day.

Matters aren’t helped by the fact that the entire corpus of police reports stemming from the incident has disappeared, and apparently did so while the former Chief was still in charge of the local police department. The DA’s office at that time also declared the whole thing an accident.

The current police Chief in Braintree says that the whole thing was handled “questionably” and he’s looking into it. Perhaps he might locate the original police files – although We recall that in the Salem Witch Trials (Salem not being far away from Braintree) the judges quietly destroyed their own trial records once they realized that the shedding of so much blood with their official authorization had sparked a rather negative response from their own superiors. Indeed, the Chief Trial Judge – one Judge Stoughton – then found his way clear to become Governor not many years later, and – who says History doesn’t have a sense of humor? – the town named after him lies just beyond Braintree’s border.

Then it comes out that she had numerous other problems over the ensuing years with an elevated tendency to get verrrry angry at relatively common aggravations and irritations.

The University is now claiming that since she was never convicted of anything, then their usual background check would not have revealed anything, so the institution really doesn’t see what more it could have done.

My thought is that if she was this disturbed, then it would have been obvious in even small everyday ways frequently.

But in an elite atmosphere where one doesn’t want to be ‘judgmental’, and perhaps since she was a ‘woman’, then you as a faculty member really wouldn’t want to be so insensitive as to notice anything ‘strange’ about her. After all, judging someone to be ‘strange’ is a form of oppression and elitism and is, really, just a matter of ‘attitude’ and ‘perception’ – meaning that if you sense its presence, then it’s your attitude and perceptions that need to be worked on.

And perhaps in the university world nowadays, especially if you’re … ummmmm … a non-female, then you could lose your own tenure and job if you were so insensitive and unreconstructed as to notice anything a little odd. And if you were a female, then you might start getting ‘the look’ and worse from other females who would consider you a traitor to your ‘gender’.

Such is Our modern American reality.

To its credit, perhaps, the University was not going to grant the shooter tenure – and that’s what set her off this time, it appears.

But as one administrator said, a deeper background check – “more extensive and expensive” – would have been an” invasion of privacy” and – to be sure – “they are so invasive”.

Such sensitivity. A man with – say – a sex offense, even one long ago or not sensationalistic – would have been very much ‘invaded’ (and perhaps a woman too); privacy in the matters of the current national Mania is considered merely a “quaint” obstruction to finding out what needs to be found out. Which is perhaps why We are noticing that the old Constitution doesn’t seem to be operating with its traditional robust and efficacious energy any longer – it is an ‘obstruction’, and has been since long before Bush-Cheney and the jingo Rightists took the country to war(s) a decade ago.

Lots of larger forces in this matter, under the surface.

Having fired at her brother twice in a room in the family home - with a shotgun! - hitting him fatally with the second blast, then firing a third blast into the ceiling for God knows what reason, this woman was enfolded in a string of official mis, mal, and non-feasance, all to her great advantage, and the result is that there are now more dead folks – shot with a gun.

Her husband – who to judge from his public comments seems to have had as much insight into her as Hitler’s secretary of many years, Traudl Junge, had into that maniac – claims that she was “just a normal professor”.

Well, who’s to say?

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