Military Terror Plot: Are You Shocked?
The story’s headline on the front page of Huffington Post Crime section reads “SHOCK: Serving Soldiers Planned To Bring Down U.S. Government.” That’s the headline, but the title of the article reveals a bit more: “Military Terror Plot: Murder Case Uncovers Terror Plot By ‘Militia’ Within U.S. Military.” The Huffington Post reports that an anarchist militia group from within the U.S. military had very ambitious plans:
It plotted to take over Fort Stewart by seizing its ammunition control point and talked of bombing the Forsyth Park fountain in nearby Savannah … In Washington state … the group plotted to bomb a dam and poison the state’s apple crop. Ultimately, prosecutors said, the militia’s goal was to overthrow the government and assassinate the president.
The members of the group were composed of active-duty and former members of the military. They purchased $87,000 worth of guns, including semi-automatic rifles, and bomb components. The leaders of the militia recruited troubled soldiers who were disillusioned. They did more than just plan their violent coup’ they had already taken action. They murdered two people who left the militia, calling them “loose ends.” Prosecutor Isabel Pauly stated yesterday to the Superior Court Judged that they had done even more. “The domestic terrorist organization did not simply plan and talk. Prior to the murders in this case, the group took action. Evidence shows the group possessed the knowledge, means and motive to carry out their plans.” Prosecutors also stated that they don’t know how many members the terrorist militia had recruited.
It’s a troubling story of violence, but the story doesn’t shock me. We want to be shocked. We want to think that a terrorist militia group within the military is aberrant. We want to think it’s a small group of crazy, disillusioned soldiers. We want to think that they are the problem. But the problem is much bigger than them. The cause of their violent plans is directly related to the cause of the violence that has plagued the United States during the last three months. There is one thing that connects the violence within the military to the violence at schools to violence at a movie theater to violence at a house of worship. That connection is revealed by mimetic theory.
René Girard, the father of mimetic theory, claims that “Humans relations are essentially relations of imitation” (Evolution and Conversion, 238). Throughout our lives we have a profound capacity to absorb and mimic our cultural environment. As we absorb that spirit, we mimic (imitate) the actions of those around us. Here is the mimetic connection to the events of the summer: those tragic acts of violence are committed by people who have absorbed our culture of violence – a culture that claims the way to defeat violence is with our own violence.
Some people will claim that I’m letting these people off the hook by blaming a “culture of violence.” I’m not. I’m putting us all on the hook. If we really want an end to violence, we all need to take responsibility for the violence in our culture. We must admit that we are all infected by a culture of physical, emotional, and verbal violence. It’s in our politics, in our military, in our families, in our neighborhoods, in our music, and on our television and movie theater screens.
We are all part in our mimetic culture of violence, but none of us is enslaved to it. There is a mimetic alternative to the absorption of violence that has run amuck in our culture. Girard states that from within our mimetic nature we have options. “We will always be mimetic,” wrote Girard, “but we do not have to engage automatically in mimetic rivalries [violence]. We do not have to accuse our neighbor, we can learn to forgive him instead” (Evolution and Conversion, 262.) That’s the only alternative to the mimetic violence running rampant in our world: mimetic forgiveness.