Two 21-Year-Old Men Killed People Recently

On March 16, a young man with a head stuffed full of conservative evangelical notions about sex shot and killed eight people, six of them Asian women. The accused shooter is 21-year-old Robert Aaron Long of Woodstock, Georgia. Yesterday, a young man who appears to have been struggling with and defensive about his identity as a Muslim in America shot and killed ten people. The accused shooter is 21-year-old Ahmad Al Aliwi Alissa of Denver.

I’m hearing that the Right was joyous when they found out the Boulder shooter was a Syrian immigrant and Muslim. Now they can blame Islam, or terrorism, or both. But I’m not seeing a significant difference between the Boulder and Atlanta shooters, and the Atlanta shooter was a Christian. From what little we know at the moment, it appears they were both confused young men who would have benefited from some psychological counseling. Instead, they bought guns.

I’m not saying either one was “mentally ill,” mind you. I’m not even sure what that means. No one is saying that either shooter was psychotic, although psychosis often presents itself in young adulthood. Assuming Mr. Alissa is not psychotic, I doubt that a serious terrorist would choose a neighborhood grocery store as a target. We may learn more about what was eating at him eventually.

Mr. Long had been a patient at an evangelical treatment center very near the first spa that he targeted. He was there to be treated for “sex addiction.” The treatment center doesn’t seem to be of the sort operating under American Psychological Association guidelines.

HopeQuest has ties to major evangelical institutions and has promoted “ex-gay therapy,” the idea that people can become heterosexual through counseling. Long, 21, who grew up in a conservative Southern Baptist church, was a patient at the treatment facility in 2019 and again in 2020, according to his former roommate Tyler Bayless. … The founder and creator of HopeQuest, Roy Blankenship, was once considered one of the nation’s foremost conversion therapists.

So it’s a quack center, and the “help” Long got there probably made him worse. It’s a damn shame.

Oh, and targeting three different Asian-women-owned businesses in three different locations kind of does speak to Long’s having an issue with racism and misogyny, no matter what Andrew Sullivan thinks.

A number of articles have been published since calling out evangelical “purity” culture as a possible motivator. For example:

 The murders in Georgia represent a uniquely American twinning of racism, sexism, and religion.

“It’s not a jump to say white conservative Christianity played a role here,” said Joshua Grubbs, an assistant professor of psychology at Bowling Green State University. “The facts need to come to light, but all the facts that are in the light right now suggest it’s at play.” …

… gender experts say it’s impossible to understand the role of misogyny in the killing of six Asian women at massage parlors without also thinking about the way sexist stereotypes objectify Asian women. And religious studies scholars say it’s impossible to understand either without looking at evangelicalism.

Please also read Atlanta Suspect’s Fixation on Sex Is Familiar Thorn for Evangelicals by Ruth Graham in the New York Times and Evangelicals Must Confront Their Toxic Sexual Politics by Sarah Jones in New York magazine. At the very least, Long’s “Christian” upbringing failed to teach him that Asian women are human beings, not objects sent by the Devil to tempt him.

Back in 2017 I wrote a post titled Evolutionary Psychology and Extreme Gun Ownership that proposed that American mass shooters, violent gang members, and Islamic men who join ISIS are being motivated by similar if not identical social-psychological factors. One person quoted in the post called them all “street kids drunk on ideology and power.” Again, we don’t yet know enough about Alissa to know if he fits this description.  But certainly there’s some kind of toxic stew that involves extremist, reactionary political or religious views, some sort of fanatical grievance, and young males stumbling on their way into adulthood at the root of a lot of atrocities these days.

And, as ever, there’s just too damn many guns.

7 thoughts on “Two 21-Year-Old Men Killed People Recently

  1. This Covid-19 pandemic must be winding down, because the usual American Spring rituals are returning:

    The beaches in the South are packed with kids on Spring Break, getting drunk and high, and looking to screw like rabbits! YAY!!!

    Baseball starts its season on April 1st! YAY!!!

    The Masters Golf Tournament starts the week after that! YAY!!!

    And mass gun murders are back!  Eighteen people dead in ONLY two shootings! Yay?


    NOT YAY!!!!!




  2. Once again, the South is holding everyone back. Thom Hartmann in How Institutional Racism & Gun Culture Have Poisoned America

    …the Second Amendment was written the way it was, at the time it was, to guarantee that Virginia, South Carolina and Georgia could maintain their state-based militias, which they explicitly referred to as “Slave Patrols.”

    Those Slave Patrols were used for hundreds of years by white people to keep African-Americans under their thumbs, and, after the failure of Reconstruction in the election of 1876, the Klan used guns as readily as they did nooses to terrorize Black people in the South.

    Thus it should be no surprise that when a 21-year-old white man in Georgia decided he wanted to murder Asian women, he would stop at a gun shop and walk out minutes later with a 9 mm handgun…

    The Onion, ‘No Way To Prevent This,’ Says Only Nation Where This Regularly Happens

  3. The two murders have more in common than the ages of the shooters. In both cases, the gunmen felt compelled to act out their rage with lethal random violence. Now, I'm all for background checks and a ban on military-style weapons. And 'military' isn't the stock–it's the ammo velocity that makes the AR-15 so lethal. I'd bet that the cop who died was wearing a vest and the bullet went through like tissue paper.

    We need to look at how we are nurturing the anger that erupts in violence. There are patterns to the violent mass shooters. With the early reports, both shooters were paranoid – they viewed themselves as victims. They didn't see an alternative to shooting their way out of whatever hell they were in. If there is a pattern, the question is if we can design a way of identifying these potential weapons of mass destruction and defuse the anger before the bomb goes off. 

    Other societies make guns harder to get. That's fine but it's only part of the reason for their success at a less homicidal society. People in the US are conditioned to see violence as a solution – other societies have a more evolved mindset. The task of developing a higher ethic may take decades – if so the time to begin is now.

    • People in the US are conditioned to see violence as a solution – other societies have a more evolved mindset. 

      This is really the root cause, more than access to guns.  Education in this country has degraded to the point where, too many people don't have the intellectual ability to resolve disputes through discussion.  A "reality" society focused on reveling in bad things happening to other people results in people lacking a sense of morality and self control.  You have legislators and others in positions of authority glorifying "second amendment solutions" e.g. shooting those you disagree with.  Throw in easy access to guns and you get what we got. 

      In order to come up with solutions, you have to understand the problem.  Even those with the best of intentions — assault weapon ban!, background checks! (not saying they won't help but just not enough) — call these things out as political boilerplate "solutions" just to get past the latest massacre, only to get ready to go through it all again.


  4. Well, I think they should treat guns in the same manner that they treat automobiles. Require a registration that has to be renewed annually, require insurance, a license with safety certifications courses attached. Once there is a reoccurring expense imposed to maintain proper ownership it will encourage a lot of people to reconsider their necessity or desire to own a gun. There's nothing like paying a few hundred dollars a year for what could amount to be an expensive dust collector, or paying a few hundred dollars for home security.


  5. Once again we have a story without a moral to it. What justifies killing nine random people, a policeman, and creating chaos and terror in many more? Absolutely nothing.  These people are shopping at King Soopers. Just look at what they are mostly putting in their carts.  They are going to generally kill themselves in due time anyway.  Why rush it? Or are you anxious to hear Ted Cruz say something really stupid and want to inspire him to do so?  Try watching reruns of the Three Stooges instead.  That should take care of your twisted desire.  

    Look on the bright side.  At least our founding fathers did not include the right to bear hand grenades in the bill of rights.  Things could be a lot worse.  Little chance of things getting better though.  Such is the life of the deeply entrenched and that we are.  Waiting for the rain so we can wallow in the mud some more.  




  6. I was sure that change in the form of common sense would kick in after Newtown.  But when that didn't happen after the massacre of innocent children by a gun crazed mentally ill man who no sane person could credibly argue that the 2nd amendment required that even he has the right to have a weapon like he did, I knew then we had crossed the last signpost of decency as a nation.  Still, those who we’ve voted in to maintain this hell scape require that we must insist we are "the greatest country in the world."

    The "greatest country in the world" denies health care to many of its citizens, and subjects others to bankruptcy just to have access to it.  It allows pharma companies to gouge US consumers on drugs, charging them exponentially more for the same drugs other countries won't allow them to charge their citizens.  In the name of white supremacy it maintains minority status for non-white citizens, ensuring unequal treatment before the law, credit opportunities, housing.  We accept the "black unemployment rate" being twice that of the "white" rate as normal, yet we as a nation deny there is institutional racism.  We promote democracy abroad while we destroy it here at home.  We don't want the people to start voting to the extent any of this greatness changes.

    We denigrate life and glorify death.  What says that more than the fact that we allow these massacres because profits from gun sales is more important than lives, and that the "right" to own a gun and parade around with it works as a distraction from all the other things "America" subjects its citizens to.  Sadly, for many, its enough.

    I'm tired of these massacres, tired of hearing the same people say the same things, have the same "arguments" talk about the same solutions until the next news cycle and all is forgotten, until the next massacre, when we do it all over again, for nothing.  I'm tired of hearing the pious insist we are a "Christian nation" when we are so far from the teachings of Jesus, who said in describing the parable of the fig tree "ye shall know them by their fruits" and our "fruits" are not of Jesus.

    I am sick of the hypocrisy, the "thoughts and prayers," the massacres.  I don't expect a panacea but we can do better, but we need to get real about who we really are first. 


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