Blame the killer
After this week's tragedy at the Lockheed Martin plant, Meridian is grieving and asking how something so terrible could happen. Everyone is grasping for answers to why a man would kill so many people he knew and what can be done to ensure this never happens again.
Perhaps it's our way of being polite; perhaps it's our desire to find an excuse for the actions of a fellow human being, but the tendency for many after a horrible crime is committed is to shift the blame from the killer to the circumstances around him which supposedly led him to kill.
It's true that we are all capable of murder. We all have stress and are all bombarded with graphic images of violence that influence what we think.
But none of that changes the fact that Doug Williams went out to his truck of his own free will, armed himself to the teeth, and brutally ended the lives of people we knew and loved.
Let's be clear about this: Doug Williams is responsible for his actions, and nothing we will ever learn about the killer can lessen the severity of his crime. He is not the victim.
Like suicide bombers and terrorists the world over, this killer had no respect for human life. So focused was he on his own selfish anger that he did not regard the lives of his co-workers or consider the grief their families would suffer as he gunned them down.
Someone to blame
In the midst of sorrow, it's normal to look for someone still with us to blame for what happened. Some already fault Lockheed Martin for not preventing Tuesday's attack. It's Catch-22.
The killer had a history of conflicts with other workers and had even been through anger management training. But to fire someone with seniority in today's litigious environment would surely bring on a wrongful termination lawsuit.
And even if Lockheed Martin had fired Doug Williams for making racist comments two years ago, who's to say that wouldn't have caused him to snap then and go on the same murderous rampage that occurred this week? Even if they did have armed security guards at every entrance to the plant, who's to say that they would've won the shootout and prevented him from entering the building? The pistols carried by most security guards are no match for a shotgun in the hands of someone willing to kill.
How far does a company have to go to ensure the security of its spaces? Anyone at anytime could walk into Wal-Mart and kill dozens of people. Should every single car that enters the parking lot be stopped and searched for weapons?
I was on temporary duty at an Air Force base during the 9/11 attacks. For a week, the base was in security condition Charlie, meaning that every vehicle coming on base was searched for weapons. It took three-and-a-half hours to get through the gate.
If a terrorist really wanted to, though, I'm sure he could've crawled under the perimeter fence in the middle of the night. No one, not even the U.S. military, can be sure of stopping someone who is bent on violence.
Ultimately, the only person to blame for Tuesday's tragedy is the man who pulled the trigger. And ultimately, we won't be secure by arming ourselves to the teeth or searching every car in the parking lot.
In a free and open society like ours, we are secure only when we have love for one another, control over our emotions, and respect for human life.
Craig Ziemba is a pilot who lives in Meridian.