Saturday, December 26, 2009

Wounded Nation

When I read this story in yesterday’s paper I thought: this is so rife with cliches about Southern rednecks that if I met Warren "Gator" Taylor in a movie, I’d complain the writers had cooked up a character offensive to Southerners.

Taylor is the 53-year-old, wheelchair-bound resident of Sullivan County, Tn., who this week took people hostage at the Wytheville, Va., post office. Why Wytheville? No reason except it reminded him of Gatlinburg. Why hostages? Oh, the usual reasons:
The gunman said he had no money, and his 2007 red Dodge diesel pickup truck was about to be repossessed. Mostly, he railed against the government — high taxes, gun control, and President Barack Obama.

"He was really down on the government," Oliver said. "About the government taking over the right to bear arms ... he was angry at the government overtaxing us."

This man lives in a state where they’ve just loosened a host of gun carry laws. And then there’s this:

Taylor, who has a criminal record and was registered as a sex offender in Florida, didn't argue for bail but had his lawyer ask about accommodations for his health conditions. He has a prosthetic leg and diabetes, public defender Randy Cargill said.
Wondering if he had a CCW permit or was mad because he couldn’t get one because of his criminal record. We’ll probably never know. But there seems to be a huge disconnect here. You know, the surest way to lose your Second Amendment rights is to take folks hostage.

And then there’s this:
A woman who answered the door at Taylor's trailer in the Beverly Hills Mobile Home Park in Bristol, Tenn., said she was his girlfriend and they spent a lot of time talking about the Bible and religion. Her Christmas gift to him was going to be an index to the Bible.

I’d say Gator Taylor is one of those right wing nut jobs we find in our rural communities who has bought every wacko conspiracy theory talk radio and Glenn Beck-types dish out. But I think there’s also more at play here beyond the irresponsible rantings of people behind the microphone pushing the Gator Taylors over the edge.

Gator Taylor claims his son was recently killed in Afghanistan (the AP could not verify that) and also says he himself is a veteran (also unverified). He certainly was in financial distress, was about to lose his truck, and had health issues. That's a lot of hurt for one person to shoulder.

We’re a wounded nation, people. The past decade has seen war, war profiteering, bankers and corporations stacking the deck in their favor, and political parties exploiting a divided nation. The result: ordinary people feel increasingly isolated and powerless.

The Gator Taylors of the nation are a symptom of a deeper wound. The question is, do we have the will to resolve these deep divisions? Do we even know how to do this? Or do those in power prefer to exploit our divisions to pursue their own agenda, and let the Gator Taylors of the country suffer the consequences?

At what point do we say “enough”?