My mother used to say, “She needs to have her head examined.” Or, “He needs to have his head examined.” I thought of her, of this, when I read that Stephen Paddock’s brain is in route for examination at Stanford University where Dr. Hannes Vogel will analyze the tissue for any number of neurological disorders that might shed light on motive for the mass shooting in Las Vegas.
And then I thought about Chris Kyle, the US Navy sniper, who in 2012 wrote his self-masturbatory autobiography, American Sniper. Clint Eastwood directed the movie adaptation, glorifying the life and death of one of the deadliest snipers in American history. At a shooting range in Texas in 2013, Kyle was murdered by a former Marine, Eddie Ray Routh, who had been diagnosed with PTSD. Process this quote from Kyle’s book:
The Navy credits me with more kills as a sniper than any other American service member, past or present. I guess that’s true. They go back and forth on what the number is. One week, it’s 160 (the ‘official’ number as of this writing, for what that’s worth), then it’s way higher, then it’s somewhere in between. If you want a number, ask the Navy—you may even get the truth if you catch them on the right day.
More kills as a sniper than any other American service member, past or present. Perhaps Kyle’s brain should have been sent to Dr. Vogel for analysis.
Maybe the brain of each person pronounced a terrorist and is killed at the scene of what is labeled a terrorist act should be examined by Dr. Vogel.
Sayfullo Habibullaevic Saipov, the Uzbekistan native who allegedly drove a truck into a group of bicyclists in NYC on Tuesday, Oct 31st was shot by police, apprehended. Soon after, he underwent surgery. If Saipov doesn’t survive, perhaps his brain should be examined by Dr. Vogel.
American citizen Anwar al-Awlaki was killed by a drone strike in Yemen under the order of former President Barack Obama. Two weeks later, Obama directed the CIA to drone kill Awlaki’s 16-year-old, American-born son. Their brains couldn’t be sent to Dr. Vogel for analysis. Drone strikes leave only smoking craters.
During the first military raid carried out under President Donald Trump, Nora, the 8-year-old daughter of Anwar al-Awlaki, was killed when a bullet penetrated her neck. Maybe Nora’s brain should have been sent to Dr. Vogel for analysis.
I’m imagining Vogel’s research results.
Stephen Paddock was a wealthy old white guy. What would have compelled him to maintain an arsenal? Why the particular victims he targeted? Did he have too many prescription drugs in his system, altering reason, or did he simply crave notoriety?
Chris Kyle’s brain: His reputation for accuracy in sniping earned him the nickname Legend. Did he become a legend in his own mind, his brain steeping in gratification for his expertise: killing?
Like Obama, who said he was really good at killing people. Someday, his brain should be examined. Someday, the brain of each warmongering president should be analyzed.
And those terrorists? The men who used airplanes as weapons on 9/11? Any terrorist whose political statement is violence?
I’m visual, so I imagine the brains of the dead, see the samples and slices. Suddenly areas in the lobes appear to be countries where US finger and boot prints have extracted oil, minerals, whatever—whatever is necessary for the survival of US Empire, the conquest-oriented occupation of territories for access to more territories.
But little Nora. What would Dr. Vogel learn from examining Nora’s eight-year-old brain? Would he find little-girl dreams? A first crush? The entries in a diary? A sadness that overwhelmed her when she learned her father had been killed? Her brother’s death, this brother vaporized, thanks to Obama? Would Dr. Vogel see Nora’s pain, the pain that leads to frustration, to anger, to radicalization?
When Trump’s directive killed Nora, he didn’t mention her or the other civilians murdered that day. Only the US dead received his acknowledgment.
After the truck driver killed eight bicyclists, NY Mayor Bill de Blasio said: “This was an act of terror, and a particularly cowardly act of terror aimed at innocent civilians, aimed at people going about their lives who had no idea what was about to hit them.”
How many people has the US military killed, people going about their lives?
US “leadership” is not going to verbalize that there are consequences, blowback, to US carnage throughout the world. They and their masters profit from death. Is it naïve of me to hope that a majority of Americans eventually will grasp that we reap what we sow? Maybe I need to have my head examined.
Missy Comley Beattie has written for National Public Radio and Nashville Life Magazine. She was an instructor of memoirs writing at Johns Hopkins’ Osher Lifelong Learning Institute in Baltimore. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.