The Second Fort Hood Shooting in 5 Years.
Nobody is entirely sure what exactly drove Ivan Lopez to open fire on his colleagues with a .45 caliber pistol yesterday at Fort Hood in Texas, killing 3 and injuring 16 before taking his own life. The 34 year old US Army Specialist had served four months in Iraq in 2011, and though there was no official record of him having been wounded in combat, he says he was suffering from a traumatic brain injury. Army records show he was “suffering from depression, anxiety and other psychiatric disorders” and was receiving medication.
It was less than 5 years after the November 2009 shooting at the same Texas Army base, when Army Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan survived after killing 13 people and injuring another 32. Hasan was sentenced to death, and is currently awaiting execution.
Since the last thing to go through Lopez’s mind was a bullet, we’ll never know his exact motivations. From his name alone, it seems unlikely this was some sort of “jihad”. By all accounts he was a normal enough guy, considering his profession. He had moved onto the base just two weeks before the shooting with his wife and daughter, and seemed to get along with his neighbors. His wife was shocked and hysterical upon hearing what had happened to her husband.
What we do know, is that military service forces men to do things that do not come natural to most. This has always been the case, but in today’s hyper paranoid warfare and security State, the situation is all that more severe. Military suicides are quickly becoming a bigger problem than combat fatalities, so when trained killers decide to take a few people with them on their way out, I don’t know why anybody is all that surprised.
In the history of warfare, warring populations have been largely separated from each other by oceans, vast swaths of land, racial, and language barriers. Back before racial diversity was the norm, a global computer network interconnected all these people, instant language translation tools were available, and the truth about warfare and the State were readily available to anyone who bothered to look, perhaps this was easier on the minds of the men who did the State’s killing. After all, if all the information you have available to you today is what you see on the TV, war still looks pretty noble.
Today though, State mercenaries are a Google search away from seeing past the lies they have been told about the motivations for their orders. They know that their neighbors, even if complicit in their crimes, also know the truth. It must be far more difficult for these men to walk about civilized society knowing how despicable their actions are, and knowing that everybody else knows it too.
While there is still no shortage of hero worship for State sanctioned murderers, this all must take a bit of the majesty away. People still go through the motions of their traditions and religious rituals, shaking the blood stained hands of the marauders, buying them drinks, and thanking them for protecting some long lost notion of “freedom” that they had in fact helped destroy, but with the truth so readily available, the mind must work harder to maintain its cognitive dissonance. Once the cognitive dissonance breaks, it’s almost impossible to repair.
Combine that with modern medicine’s trend to treat a perfectly normal reaction to all this with psychotropic drugs, drugs that list suicidal and homicidal tendencies as a side effect in black and white, right on the warning label for anybody with a 2nd grade reading level to understand, and the real tragedy here is that shootings like this one don’t happen two, three, four times day, and bring a stop to all this madness once and for all. I mean, you train a man to kill people, who in today’s interconnected world might as well be his next door neighbor, he comes home, tells a doctor he feels like shit about it, and the doctor thinks there’s something wrong with that? He thinks this guy’s actually sick because he’s got a problem with breaking into some hut and murdering some innocent family because some dude he didn’t even vote for told him to. Yeah, break out the meds. What could possibly go wrong with that?
Sure enough, since there’s nothing wrong with the mind of the guilty party, the medications do nothing to solve the problem. His military therapists simply try to convince him that what he did was okay, but he knows that’s a lie. He sees his buddies who did the same things, joking around and going through life like this shit didn’t even happen, and he’s left wondering if he’s surrounded by psychopaths, they’re just better at hiding their distress, or if there’s actually something wrong with his distaste for carnage.
Whatever conclusion he may or may not reach, he wants the thoughts to stop. He tries to think about other things, but his mind always comes back to the hell he endured and inflicted on others. He can’t even look at his daughter or make love to his wife without seeing mangled bodies of innocent Iraqis, or hearing them beg for their lives in a language he still doesn’t understand, and he realizes that there’s only one way to remove those sounds and pictures from his mind.
So he buys a gun. At first, he doesn’t plan to use it. It just makes him feel better to have it. With the gun in his hand, he knows he always has the option to stop his mind from dwelling on these horrors. At first, this soothes him.
But the images don’t go away. It’s around this time that the drugs he was prescribed begin to build up to effective levels in his blood stream. They take effect and he becomes detached from reality. He still dwells on the horrors of war, but now it’s like he’s on the outside looking in, like some bad reality TV show, a rerun he’s seen a thousand times that he knows ends badly. Day in and day out the same miserable existence. He imagines dealing with this for the next 50+ years, every single day, and he just plain cannot tolerate the thought.
He puts the gun to his head, takes it off safety, puts his finger on the trigger, and applies pressure. It’s a new weapon, he’s still not sure exactly how much pressure he has to apply before it goes off. Somewhere in the back of his mind he doesn’t want to kill himself, but if it happens by accident in this way, he tells himself, so be it. Anything to stop these horrible thoughts.
Then, he remembers his training. He can’t kill himself, but he is surrounded by trained killers. Surely if he opens fire on them, somebody will do him a favor. So he gets in the car, drives to the medical brigade on the base, and begins shooting at his comrades. To his surprise, nobody fires back, they just run away. He gets back in the car, goes to transportation battalion, and begins shooting again. Again, no return fire, just screaming and panic.
He goes back to his vehicle, and in the parking lot he’s confronted by a female MP who draws her weapon, but again, does not fire on him. Faced with the prospect of enduring these thoughts while locked in a cage for the rest of his life, he knows he cannot allow himself to be captured. He reaches under his jacket, draws the pistol one last time, puts it to his head, and pulls the trigger.
Peace at last.
How Many More Fort Hood Shootings Will It Take?
Now, it should go without saying that it would be preferable for the events leading up to this never to have happened. What I really wish, was that Ivan Lopez took a job in construction, or computers, or any other productive field, instead of joining the military. It would be better for all involved, if the events of September 11th never took place, giving the US Government its pretext for war. It would have been even better if after the first American Revolution, the people responsible never set up a new government.
But all of those things did happen, and there’s nothing we can do to change the past.
Dealing with the reality of today, I’m really glad that soldiers are so traumatized by their actions, that they cannot live with themselves afterwards. It signals there is some humanity left in them. I’m really glad to see them firing on each other, because this tells me that when they are inevitably ordered to fire on American civilians, some of them will change sides.
While it’s easy to say that events like this one are tragic and we’d all prefer they didn’t happen, all available evidence tells us that a majority of the population will never give up their twisted love affair with the American war machine. If anything is to stop the madness, it will be a very small minority that make the greater mayhem of State warfare impossible. Any soldier who is then planning to take his own life, if he cannot be talked out of it, would do far more good for the world around him by making that sacrifice as costly as possible for the US Military, instead of fading off quietly in a bathtub somewhere.
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