On Bowling Alley’s and RV Bombs.
We’re back from the Christmas Holiday Weekend and in this year of stress and strange occurrences we were given two more.
On Christmas day at 6:30 AM local time in Nashville Tennessee an apparent suicide VBIED (Vehicle Born Improvised Explosive Device) was detonated outside the AT&T building. It caused significant damage and knocked out both common and emergency communications in the region and resulted in 3 hospitalizations. Significant damage to the adjacent structures was dealt.
What is, however, most curious is the fact that the time of the attack was chosen for minimum casualties and the RV played a warning message, reportedly for between 15 minutes to an hour, prior to the detonation. The message warned people to evacuate and clear the area. People did and the only death was the apparent driver/bomber, Anthony Warner. Warner was 63 and a self employed computer technician of some sort as is being reported.
The bombing, the act of violence on a day traditionally associated with peace and goodwill, is clearly a statement. But of what? We don’t know. And that troubles us, perhaps more deeply than the act itself. It’s why Mandalay Bay Las Vegas is so terrifying, we don’t know why Mandalay Bay happened, we just know it did.
While this attack only appears to have taken the life of the attacker, done some infrastructure damage, and rung a few ears, it remains as scary. Violence we don’t understand, that doesn’t have a motive we can fathom, is far more disconcerting than political or ideological motivations. We are more comfortable in uncomfortable, even horrific circumstances if can understand it on some level.
We can fathom rational motives, even if we disagree with them, even if we are ideologically opposed to them and would use our own violence in that opposition, we can still understand them. ISIS makes sense to us, radically motivated groups the world over have a rationale, a line of thought that we can follow to a logical if highly disagreeable conclusion. It might not ‘make sense’ to us reasonable folk in a manner suggesting we would do the same or similar, but we can track the pathway A-B-C-D-Violent Act because of [Motive].
We don’t know Warner’s motive. We can speculate anything from 5G fearmongering to a private grudge with AT&T, one that AT&T might not have been aware of, to a more abstract motive about drawing attention to the futilities of the world. But we don’t know.
And that wasn’t the only baffling attack of the weekend.
In Rockford Illinois the next day, just before 7:00 p.m. local time, an Army Green Beret, home stationed in Florida with 7th Special Forces Group, shot and killed three elderly male patrons of a bowling alley’s bar. He wounded a fourth older patron and two teens who were there picking up food.
This man is a 12 year veteran, an E-7, Sergeant First Class assigned as an operations and intelligence sergeant with 3rd Battalion 7th SFG. In short, he’s what we would call the ‘best of the best’ and he was in Illinois on leave when he suddenly shot six people at a bar for no known reason.
That no known reason scares us, we crave a reason, we need a reason because if there is a reason that we can fathom then there are steps we can reasonably take to bolster our own peace of mind. That we are not ______ and people we know are not ______ either.
Acts like these two remind us of the ever present, but rarely spoken of, fact that the only reason any of us make it home on any given day is that nobody decided it was worth their efforts to stop us and nothing unintended got us either. Nothing hurt us, harmed us in some way, tried to take our lives, for any reason known or unknown, not maliciousness nor carelessness nor natural acts beyond our control.
Unknown reasons terrify us. We want to know for our peace. To know it was racism, because we aren’t racists. We want to know it was bullying, because we aren’t bullies. We want to know it was extremism, because we aren’t extremists. Part of us desperately wants to disassociate with the violent actor(s) on a fundamental level and that becomes far more vague when there is no known motive.
Because ‘no known motive’ Anthony Warner was just some 63 year old man, like many other 63 year old men, not some identifiably distinct fringe. Sergeant First Class Duke Webb was a Special Forces soldier, a “hero” perhaps, up until he killed three elderly men, shot a fourth, and shot two teenagers in a Rockford Illinois bar the day after Christmas. Without a motive it becomes terribly difficult to disconnect Webb from the heroic soldiers we hold in such high regard, because until that moment he was was one, as far as we knew.
This Game of Thrones Little Finger look-a-like was an elite warfighter for this nation. And we don’t know if it was COVID restrictions, masks, no masks, an insult, radicalization, a fight at home with the family, or anything else under the sky. We don’t know.
Known vs. Unknown Motives
That is perhaps the reason why the Twisted Tea guy is getting all the social media coverage. That a man hitting another man comically hard with a large yellow beverage can, is more resonate with us than a bombing and a shooting.
We don’t know Webb or Warner’s reasons, they are a current mystery. But we know Twisted TeaHammer’s motive, we know an can empathize. He got called a racial slur, got kicked at by the same belligerent who called him the slur, and he then proceed to level said belligerent douchecanoe with explosive panache, in what appears to be a well earned concussive can collision to that man’s head.
The man then, clearly not learning his lesson after being taken out by a can of tea, tries to go fist-to-cuffs with the righteous tea wielding convenience shop patron and gets introduced to the floor a second time, where he is further informed verbally and concussively that his choice to call the tea wielder the racial slur was a very poor choice.
This is violence we can understand. Many would even call it an earned consequences for poor behavior. We don’t call it getting ‘tuned up’ or ‘an attitude adjustment’ for no reason, we can see justification. We can understand, even should we disapprove (I for one, welcome our new beverage overlord and the justice done at his hand).
Not every act of violence is going to be accompanied by a comprehendible motive. We had two poignant examples of that this weekend. One where there were clear steps taken, for some reason, to avoid killing anyone else, and one that took life seemingly at random and suddenly.
We don’t know, we can’t know, when an emergency of violence will visit us. We can’t know the motive or method. But it is an emergency, like any accident or one of weather, and you can either take steps to be better prepared for it, or hope it doesn’t happen to you.
We aren’t owed an explanation, no matter how hard we look for it. There will be times it simply isn’t there. Timothy McVeigh we understand, we were told the reasons. Anthony Warner we don’t understand, and we may never understand because no explanation was left for us.
Whether we get explanations or not, we need to be able to act in our best interests for life and limb.