My friend Dick, happily retired in Florida's Gulf coast, does provide the Good Eats (although you might have to cook some yourself), but the Christian part is definitely tongue in cheek. He's one of the tidiest bachelors around, so the "Dirty Dick" part is there just for color, though it does sound properly rakish and piratical. He was a Navy man before he became a diplomat and eventually my first boss in the Foreign Service.
Those days are past, and we spend much of our time applying our honed analytical skills - sorry, but Evaluation Report language always manages to creep in... trying to get our heads around the matter of the State of the United States. It's a lifelong task.
We were blissfully enjoying a beer and Cheap Eeetz alongside the marina when a wide screen TV on the wall announced the mass killing at Fort Hood ("the largest active duty armored post in the United States Armed Services") Texas. When we read the caption naming the alleged shooter, we knew it boded ill for a whole host of reasons. Yet another "senseless killing" as they say, the work of a possibly deranged individual. A Lone Star Shooter. But because the suspect has a name that resonates from here to the Middle East, and because his victims were soldiers in a place where they shouldn't have been under fire, he won't be "just another" mass murderer.
Nidal Malik Hasan's apparent infiltration of personal weapons onto the base has to cause concern for the hundreds of other military installations scattered across the country, and across the world. "We will increase our security presence here in the coming days" said base commander Lieutenant General Robert Cone. Well, of course they will, but the deed is done, and no amount of posting Humvees with 50 caliber machine guns trained at the gates will screen murderous intent in the minds of soldiers who might "go Postal."
Do you know how many private cars pass through the gates of just this one base - population 50,000 or so - daily? Sure, they can double and triple check ID, pull some suspicious sergeants and potentially mad majors over and have them open up the trunk, but a determined killer will easily stow a few handguns and plenty of ammunition wherever he pleases. It's what's in the mind, not what's under the hood.
Read today's Bob Herbert, himself a Vietnam era vet and consistent in his recognition of the extreme stress that upwards of a decade of wars has put on the US military. Herbert reminds us that stress is not just a minor irritant in the context of repeated exposure to war zones. There is not one iota of an excuse for this insane act's perpetrator, but Herbert reminds us that "we haven’t heard a lot about the scores of suicides at that same base — the highest of any U.S. military installation — since the invasion of Iraq in 2003."
This mass murder, like the many before it, unleashes the perennial battle over gun control, or rather the lack thereof, in the United States. The same arguments for and against will be trotted out with numbing effect. It's unfortunate that there are ultra-stressed out individuals, whether soldiers or civilians, but why oh why do we make it so easy for them to act out their impulses? "Guns Don't Kill People; People Kill People" read the NRA bumper stickers. Perhaps, but a potential mass murderer armed with, say, a kitchen knife he just grabbed on impulse might be a tad less lethal than one armed with an automatic weapon and endless ammo clips.
But at Dirty Dick's Christian Spa and Fine Foods, we don't indulge in pie-in-the-sky. Just add Fort Hood to the list - Columbine, University of Texas, Virginia Tech - shake your head, and hit the remote control. There are, apparently, other priorities. To be continued...