The massacre at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs was, to put it simply, effective and spectacular. It also had the resonances of the primeval, ignoring the sanctity of the church in favour of murder within it. The alleged assailant managed to do less God’s work than his own, slaughtering 26 and injuring 20 others.
The regularity of these mass killings is become less jaw dropping than wearisome. With each incident, the forensic eye is deployed and duly adjusted. A form of profiling is triggered. Was the person of colour? Possess a beard? Use a rental truck? In this case, the implicating signifiers were not present: “Witnesses and authorities described the shooter as a white male in his 20s wearing all black clothing and a tactical vest.”
The late suspect, Devin P. Kelley, proceeded to slaughter a good number of the population of Sutherland Springs, Texas. On Monday, special agent Christopher Combs of the San Antonio division of the FBI dismissed suggestions that a terrorism investigation was underway.
As with previous killings, law codes and statute books are consulted, leaving the categorisers empty and scratching. The US Code of Federal Regulation is certainly more specific than some on the topic of what might constitute terrorism, “the unlawful use of force and violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social…