Syed: Making Sense of Senseless Mayhem

20-year-old James Alex Fields Jr.’s high school teacher says, he espoused Nazi ideals. He is now accused of killing Heather Heyer of 32 years and seriously injuring nineteen others.

One way to make sense of James’s journey of espousing hatred from his native Ohio to murder and mayhem in Charlottesville is to remind the mordant wit of the Sufi mystic who said, “I love the moon because it brightens the sky and helps us navigate the dark night. And I hate the sun because it only comes out during the day when it is bright anyway.”

Most of us are capable of missing what is perfectly obvious, especially when we allow our thinking to become fogged with strong emotion.

Yes, we should condemn the mayhem and mourn the loss of life but we should also struggle to open our eyes and discern the perfectly obvious patterned behavior here.

In 1995, twenty-seven-year-old Timothy Mc Veigh bombed the federal building in Oklahoma and killed 168 innocent people including 19 children and injured more than 500.

In 1995, Stormfront was born online with its slogan, “White Pride, World Wide.” A two-year long study by the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Intelligence Report claims that the “registered Stormfront users have been disproportionately responsible for some of the most lethal hate crimes and mass killings since the site was put up in 1995. In the past five years alone, Stormfront members have murdered close to 100 people. The Report’s research shows that Stormfront’s bias-related murder rate began to accelerate rapidly in early 2009, after Barack Obama became the nation’s first black president.”

There is a pattern of why do so many of us always express utter shock and fail to see the inherent racism that exists in America? Neither Timothy McVeigh of the Oklahoma bombing (1995) nor James Alex Fields Jr of Charlottesville are exceptions, but they are an un-acknowledged new norm of America.

The Southern Poverty Law Center has also catalogued 1064 race inspired hate incidents in the first month after Trump won the presidency. This is an invaluable record of the new normal on Trump’s watch that includes misogyny, Islamophobia, homophobia, transphobia, anti-Semitism, and anti-immigrant sentiment.

Among other valuable revelations, the report discloses that, “a typical murderer drawn to the racist forum is a frustrated, unemployed, white adult male living with his mother or an estranged spouse or girlfriend.” In a word, our mass killers are almost all profoundly isolated and alienated; they are lost souls who imagine they will “achieve” something through lethal violence. To no one does the lost soul pattern may apply more perfectly than to the twenty year old James Alex Field Jr.

Almost always when victim mentality is combined with toxic ideology, a radical is born. We cannot but ignore this factor at our peril.

As we recoil in this yet another recent horror, we also tend to remind ourselves that “we” are all good and decent, whereas “they” are all deranged haters. In an ever-more interconnected and interdependent world, this is a sure recipe for continuing disaster.

There is surely some irony in the fact that we who have learned to see so well in the dark–witness the marvelous three-billion-mile journey of New Horizons to Pluto–are still not able to see what is right before us in the plain light of day.

Until we learn to see that which is so obvious, we may continue to believe that sunlight is a waste because the days are always bright anyway.

Shakeel Syed is executive director of the Orange County Communities Organized for Responsible Development

Opinions expressed in editorials belong to the authors and not Voice of OC.

Voice of OC is interested in hearing different perspectives and voices. If you want to weigh in on this issue or others please contact Voice of OC Involvement Editor Theresa Sears at

  • verifiedsane

    Another one sided liberal perspective of the events in Charlottesville..while failing to even mention the hate groups on the other side of the spectrum, and the role they played in the escalation of the violence…where is your condemnation of BLM followers assassinating police officers, or antiFa anarchist groups creating violent mayhem and fermenting riots in major cities throughout the country…I can only assume by your rhetoric; those groups are deemed acceptable racist in the regressive left’s little bubble safe space world of politically correct selective bigotry…your one sided hallow drum beat opinion piece is completely void of the larger context of the entire extremist issue today in America..making it little more than worthless race baiting propaganda.

    • justanon

      Ah, ‘Verifiedsane’ the VOC’s very own alt-righter comes out to defend his brethren.

      That is sooo … not surprising.

      “When near sighted pundits like your self call out the good, honest, hard working, flag waving, God fearing majority of America’s that encompass all creeds and colors with terms like deplorable, misogyny, Islamophobia, homophobia, transphobia, anti-Semitism, and anti-immigrant.”

      You mean those Nazi’s and White Nationalists who were chanting: “Jews will not replace us”, “Blood and soil” and “White lives matter”?

      And of course, there’s VerifiedInsane’s link to the New English Review a right-wing publication who’s contributor’s include John Derbyshire, a flagrant racist who wrote “The Talk: Nonblack Version” which includes these pearls of wisdom:

      “(10d) Do not attend events likely to draw a lot of blacks.

      (10e) If you are at some public event at which the number of blacks suddenly swells, leave as quickly as possible.

      (10f) Do not settle in a district or municipality run by black politicians.

      (10g) Before voting for a black politician, scrutinize his/her character much more carefully than you would a white.

      (10h) Do not act the Good Samaritan to blacks in apparent distress, e.g., on the highway.

      (10i) If accosted by a strange black in the street, smile and say something polite but keep moving.

      (11) The mean intelligence of blacks is much lower than for whites…..”

      You alt-right racists can try and hide behind the flag and “illegal” immigration, but the TRUTH about you and your “deplorable” racist beliefs and ideas always seems to bubble to the surface.


      • verifiedsane

        The clap trap Latino racist & anarchist illegal alien communist, justadiaperboy writes; and everyone ignores them as usual… 🙂

        • justanon

          Insults from an ignorant and despicable racist are actually the highest form of praise.
          The bigger the difference between you and me the better, so, thank you.

          • verifiedsane

            clap trap ignored 🙂

          • justanon

            Or not … : )