Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Surrender Dorothy

Ding, dong, the Washington Area Sniper is dead.

I remember being fifteen, fresh and staggering from 9/11, ducking and weaving at the gas station, missing school, searching the roads for (suspicious?) white vans. There was no white van; only a blue Chevy Caprice and a lot of residual terror. I still do the duck and weave at gas stations sometimes when I'm alone. When I'm not alone sometimes I still comfort myself with, "If I get shot, maybe one of these people will see which direction it came from." Maybe that person will be caught eventually, too.

John Allen Muhammed was killed today, by lethal injection. He died without expressing remorse, and I can't help but feel little to no remorse for him. Because he died knowing he was going to die. He wasn't cleaning out his car, or mowing his lawn, or sitting in his taxi, or walking toward his seventh grade homeroom.* He was laying on a cot with a room full of witnesses, possessing the ability and the power to meet death head on, if he so chose.

I was listening to the BBC today when they were talking about it; that's how I found out. A country an ocean away told their perspective, and it got me. The BBC asked its reporter who had lived here for several years, lived here through the three week reign of terror that felt so much longer, and they asked for his version of the story. He said even here, even in this culture of violence, people were shocked at the cold, absolute randomness with which the sniper chose his victims. John Allen Muhammad nearly shut down one of the most, if not the most powerful city in the world for three weeks. Then the reporter said, when they asked if this was out of the ordinary in light of the recent events at Fort Hood, that "spree killing of this kind of nature seems to be... an acknowledged way of expressing anger in this country." He didn't want it to be so, but he wouldn't be shocked if something similar happened again, and soon. And as much as I want with everything in me to disagree, I can't. Because here it is again. And again. And again. And John Allen Muhammed is dead, but do we feel any safer for it?

Surrender Dorothy is still, if you look hard enough, spray painted on a bridge crossing 495 near the Mormon Temple. Meant as a prank on the Oz-looking building, I can't help but wonder if it doesn't reflect how we feel as a city: disoriented and afraid, and so very, very unsure as to which way to go from here.

*The boy in middle school didn't die, but I can't imagine he left this ordeal unemotionally scarred. I didn't leave this ordeal unemotionally scarred, and I was a high schooler in a totally different county, who never even got shot at.


Jackie said...

Great post! I never really thought about the surrender Dorthy thing that way but it definitly hit a cord. It makes me hope that we are all wrong and it won't happen again and yet I'm still scared because I know it probably will. It's like the guy who shot the security guard at the holocaust museum. I hate the fact that we have to ask ourselves "where are we really safe?"

B.Graham said...

Thanks, Jackie! It's so hard to feel safe here sometimes, and it's even harder to figure out what to do or where to start to make it better.