What is it they say, God takes care of drunks and fools? He must also keep an eye out occasionally for journalist bloggers, who often exhibit characteristics of both.
At my brother's last week, we didn't get around to our range session until Wednesday, but we had a good time shooting the hell out of paper targets and, yes, some poor, defenseless Peeps. I intended to post about it Thursday morning, having a lot of fun writing about the virtues of revolvers vs. semi-automatics in dispatching the useless critters. But I ended up not doing it, partly because my photos didn't come out very well and partly because I was on vacation and just didn't feel like it. Then on Thursday afternoon came the news of the horrible event at Fort Hood. "Bad taste" is often a matter of bad timing. A blog post that day about enthusiastic shooting would have seemed grossly insensitive, and heaven knows I try to avoid that.
We heard about the shootings from my niece Shelli even before we saw it on TV. Her husband is stationed at Fort Hood, and she wanted us to know that they and the two kids were OK so we didn't freak out when we saw the news. Her son's school is on base, so he was on lockdown for hours after the shootings, but he seemed to treat it as an adventure. But, Shelli said, one of the men from her husband's unit had been one of the ones killed. They knew this even before the Army was releasing names -- a base grapevine is a remarkable thing.
Fort Hood is about two hours from my brother's house in Hill Country, which, strangely, had never occurred to me before. I spent a year and a half there after Vietnam, a couple of miles from the main post at a place called Gray Army Air Base. Now, Fort Hood is said to be the biggest military installation in the world. Then, it was known as the biggest repository of drugs and druggies in the U.S. Army -- it wasn't called "Fort Head" for nothing. This was also back in the days of unrest in the street, and there always rumors that we were going to be trained in riot suppression. But there was no training, and nobody ever even demonstrated, let alone rioted. The closest we came to soldier-town animosity was when we went into a restaurant and annoyed everybody by playing the same song on the jukebox 10 or 12 times in a row.
The post was a good place to decompress after overseas, and the people in Killeen and surrounding areas were generally pretty good to us. It's nice to see that the relationship has continued. It will probably get even better now that off-duty civilian cop Kimberly Munley stopped the rampage before it got any worse, and thank goodness for such people who are in the right place at the right time and don't flinch from doing what they have to. Pretty much the definition of "hero."
Because we were interested only in the news as it developed, my brother and sister and I missed a lot of the usual nonsense that accompanies such a horror. Now of course we're catching up on all that. The hot speculation today is whether Maj. Nidal Hassan flipped out or whether he intended the killings as an act of jihad:
As military psychiatrist trained to counsel troops returning from combat, Hasan's personal history has sparked many theories about why he turned on the very people he was employed to counsel -- killing 13 and wounding at least 30.
Some see this as an act of terrorism, but crime experts and fellow psychiatrists familiar with the military question whether Hasan's alleged actions compare with those of George Sodini, who is accused of shooting 11 women in a Pennsylvania gym this summer, or Seung-Hui Cho 's motives in the 2007 Virginia Tech Massacre.
I don't suppose it matters much in the long run. I've seen enough of serious mental illness to know that it sometimes travels through religious extremism to get to where it's going. It shouldn't be terribly shocking to think terrorism and derangement fit very well together. This is one of those "nobody saw it coming" incidents for which, now that it's actually happened, we can see that there were so many signs that a lot of people should have seen it coming. But what can they do -- lock up everybody who acts strangely and says harsh things about a war he's going to be sent to? I said harsh things about Vietnam when I found out they were sending me there, and probably acted a little strangely, too.
But Hassan is paralyzed now, crippled by Munley's fire. May he have a long, long life. That would be justice, don't you think?