Dear friends of Switchback,
As I woke up on the second of October, Annie was reading her phone to catch the morning news. Aine was already up, getting ready for school. “There was a s-h-o-o-t-i-n-g in Las Vegas,” she said, so Aine couldn’t understand. “Fifty-eight d-e-a-d.” I shook my head as it was too much to comprehend. Praying that it wasn’t some terror plot, I was relatively relieved in some odd way to know that it was a lone wolf. While the fact that all those people died cannot affect me the way I know that relatives, loved ones, and the wounded and innocent bystanders are affected, still it made me feel empty inside, trying to get my head around the motivation to do so much evil. Once again it was attack on music and people gathering to celebrate life.
Once again, like the Bataclan nightclub in Paris, a person chose an attack on the one place where people can be together without any politics, religious differences, or social judgment. It is the one place in my opinion where pure joy can be created and shared.
As the news unfolds, it has become apparent that this person deliberately plotted and stalked these people. The difference between him and the terrorists who killed in Paris rendered nil. The senselessness only magnified. I am guessing this person, as well as the terrorists at the nightclub in Paris, are motivated by a misguided urge to be recognized as “somebody."
The one clue that I noted to motivation is that one of the shops that sold this person the means to kill and change so many lives is called “Guns and Guitars.” The shop has the legal right to sell such weapons, and that is not the point of this article. What is the point is what the name of the shop says about what attracts such people to these feats of evil.
It is my opinion that our world has become a place where being “somebody” is what life is about. And one way to be “somebody” is to clutch a guitar in one’s hands and stride across a stage in front of a lot of adoring people. This desire to be relevant I believe transcends the reality of the work, sacrifice, and plain luck that being a rock star is all about. But that doesn’t matter as long as the allure of it is offered. That said, it is a lot harder to master a guitar than a gun. One can have the most expensive guitar in one’s hands and that won’t make that person a rock star. However, one can have a gun in one’s hand and that alone can make that person feel powerful.
And here is where the gun issue comes into play. These guns are also misused by people wanting to be “somebody." You cannot screen or make a background check to determine who wants to be “somebody.” And so the quandary. We end up with a few with the means to do a lot with a tool that makes them think they are “somebody.” And that tool, unlike a guitar, is a hell of a lot easier to learn to use. And like with a guitar, the glamor and allure, no matter how misguided, are just as strong.
The terrorists like to extol their minions by turning them into martyrs or “somebody." They go as far as lauding them in magazines and videos. They give them just enough craving, just enough adulation, to make them go out there and kill. Not in the name of an ideology, as they would like us to believe. But in the name of being “somebody.” It has become a cult, a hollow religion in and of itself. In my opinion there is enough blame to go around for the creation of this cult, this odd need to be “somebody.” It has been around for a long time and perhaps we will always be fighting to rid our human condition of its siren call.
Like guns, in the wrong hands guitars can cause a lot havoc. Unlike guns, guitars cannot kill someone. Like guns, guitars can change someone’s life or the lives of hundreds. Where one properly used can elevate, the other improperly used can destroy.
If my line of thinking is correct, the only alternative we have is to destroy the cult of being “somebody.” Replace it with being “someone.” Someone who serves and lifts others to boot. Lincoln was “Someone.” John Wilkes Booth wanted to be “Somebody.” And that illustrates my point.
We also have to take a deep breath and admit that because we haven’t eliminated the drive for these individuals to be “somebody” we need to adopt a line that “nobody” can do or have certain things until we change this. And yes, that means that we have to eliminate the ability for the easy misuse of guns. That is something I pray we can all agree on and start from there. If we don’t, “somebody” will make sure there is nobody left.
Read writer Greg Palast's first-hand perspective, "I Went to School with the Vegas Shooter."
American Roots & Celtic Soul