28 July 2008

Jim D. Adkisson: American Terrorist?

The question mark is my nod to the principle of "innocent until proven guilty in a court of law," but Adkisson was basically caught red-handed blasting at a Unitarian Universalist congregation in Tennessee with a shotgun yesterday. The local authorities claim that he targeted the particular church for its "liberal" views, and eyewitness survivors hint that he denounced "liberals" while firing.

Putting questions of his mental state aside for the moment, this narrative, if accurate, makes Adkisson pretty plainly a terrorist, unless you want to define the term to include only those whose violence is meant to influence the government. But if a Muslim charged into the same church and shouted praise for Allah as he fired, there'd be no question of what the media would call him. So why isn't Adkisson headed to Guantanamo Bay?

In all seriousness, an incident like this, no matter how modest in scale it might seem in comparison to Muslim exploits, absolutely belies any suggestion from Christian apologists that Christians don't and wouldn't do this sort of thing. Adkisson probably resembles the typical Iraqi terrorist, right down to his troubled economic circumstances, more closely than most American observers will want to admit. In other ways, he is distinctly American. As I've noted in the past, the American terrorist (or his near-relation, the ostensibly non-political mass shooter) prefers the gun to the bomb. He'll sacrifice body count for the satisfaction of firing the weapon repeatedly and seeing his victims fall. He may intend "suicide-by-cop," but he usually means to go down fighting, and his death-impulse is different from that of the Islamic suicide-bomber, who more likely sees himself as a vessel for Allah's will. The American terrorist is not uninterested in body count, but his need to verify the count himself limits what he can accomplish, for which I suppose we fellow Americans should appreciate.

The other side of the Adkisson story bears emphasizing: an unarmed congregation stopped him. An unarmed usher was willing to take a shotgun blast to shield others from it. Despite police speculation that Adkisson didn't intend to survive his adventure, he was taken alive and will answer to the people for his actions. I'm probably the last person to praise a church congregation for anything, but the people who thwarted Adkisson are better role models for the rest of us than the cartoon cowboys whom the gun nuts would have us imitate. If there actually is a liberal media, please take note.


Anonymous said...

Certainly a good point. He is a terrorist by any definition. So why don't journalists say as much?

Adkisson is not a psychopath like Charles Manson. He is just a hate-filled bigot. He probably thinks many people will silently cheer his actions, and he could be right.

hobbyfan said...

I really can't say for certain that a church takes a liberal or conservative stand, though most Christian churches, especially in the South, have been categorized as leaning toward conservative. If Mr. Adkisson is in your eyes a terrorist, what does that make the kids who shot up Columbine nearly 10 years ago before taking their own lives? What about the dozens of delusional, disgruntled, recently fired workers returning, gun in hand, to vent their vengeful rage on their former employers? Does that make them terrorists? NO! Until I read further into this, I'm putting him in the "disgruntled" category.

Samuel Wilson said...

Terrorists are politically motivated murderers. The Columbine kids had no political motives that I know of. The article to which the original post links suggests Adkisson's political motives. I would await more information before making a definite judgment, hence the question mark in the article's title, but we've been given enough info for the moment to at least ask the question.