By Andrew Macdonald


Last night’s shootings had been too late to make the morning paper, but the television news was full of them as Oscar fixed breakfast. As he had guessed they would, the masters of the media finally had decided to lift the curtain of silence with which they heretofore had shrouded his nocturnal parking-lot activities. The newscaster excitedly barked out the details: “...12 known victims of a mad killer... apparent racial motivation for the shootings... more than 200 FBI agents working on the case for the last two weeks... a tall, blond man sought as a suspect....”

At this last item Oscar became thoughtful. So someone had gotten a glimpse of him; it must have been the fourth shooting, when he had left his car and fired from a standing position. He strolled into the bathroom and looked searchingly at his reflection in the mirror: the deep-set gray eyes; the craggy lines of jutting nose and chin; the yellow stubble on his broad, heavy jaw; the somewhat oversized ears; the thin scar running diagonally across his left cheek, the consequence of a skiing accident some years ago; the high, smooth forehead beneath his uncombed, golden-blond hair. It was an easy face to spot in a crowd, unfortunately.

Well, it was almost certain that no one had gotten a clear view of his face, or there would have been more of a description, probably even an artist’s sketch. Still, he would have to be much more careful in the future. He had been almost deliberately reckless the first few times. Defiance of the authorities had been as much a motive as the abhorrence he felt for those selected as targets. There had been another motive too, he reflected, and it had weighed at least as much as the others: the therapeutic motive, the need to purge himself of the spiritual malaise which had been afflicting him increasingly in the last few years.

How had that begun? Oscar tried to remember. Was it after he moved to Washington, or had it started earlier? Probably earlier; he thought he could trace it all the way back to Vietnam. He just became much more aware of it in Washington.

In Vietnam it was basically the Vietnamese which had bothered him. He had arrived there with no particular prejudices, but he quickly acquired a strong distaste for Vietnamese of both sexes and all ages. He didn’t like their looks, their smell, their values, their behavior, or their company. He couldn’t see that it made the slightest difference whether they were ruled by a gang of communist gooks in Hanoi or a gang of capitalist gooks in Saigon. He would have been just as happy if the South Vietnamese and the North Vietnamese had been left alone to kill each other indefinitely.

Oscar certainly was no pacifist; on principle, he was opposed neither to wars in general nor to the Vietnamese “police action” in particular. He thought of his job in Vietnam as dangerous, but also challenging and exciting. Nevertheless, there were certain things which began to worry him, certain nagging ideas.

One was the utter hypocrisy and falseness of the U.S. government’s position. The South Vietnamese supposedly were America’s “allies,” and American forces were there in fulfillment of “treaty obligations.” But that was clearly nonsense. These were not the sort of creatures anyone would choose for allies; if America ever got in a jam and needed military assistance, there would be none forthcoming from this quarter.

The better he had gotten to know the Vietnamese, the more Washington’s self-righteous cant about “helping to preserve freedom” in Southeast Asia grated on his sensibilities. These gooks couldn’t care less about “freedom” - but even if that weren’t so, giving it to them wasn’t worth the life of a single one of his comrades. This was something Oscar thought about every time one of the fliers in his squadron failed to return from a mission, and every time he saw the rubber body bags being unloaded from a chopper.

If the government had told everyone that the action in Vietnam was simply a war game – Spartan-style practice to keep the U.S. military machine on its toes-and all the phony target restrictions imposed on the U.S. forces were part of the game, it would have been easier for him to accept. But to maintain the pretense that they were fighting for vital national objectives, and at the same time to do everything possible to avoid the military victory which could have been won: that turned Oscar’s stomach and left him with a deep bitterness toward the politicians, the masters of the controlled news media, and all the others who made up the “System” back home.

One other thing his Vietnam experience had given him was a deeper appreciation for people of his own kind. All the fliers in his unit were White - in fact, as fliers they were a highly selected group of Whites, an elite - and Oscar could not help contrasting them with both the ARVN troops and the Black GIs in the heavily integrated U.S. ground forces. It was not just his instinctive xenophobia responding to differences in appearance and speech; it was something deeper and more fundamental. The vibrations were different.

The Blacks felt it, and they used the word “soul” to express it: a good word, meaning the individual’s spiritual roots to all the past and future generations of his race. From these roots come everything: physical, mental, and spiritual. They determine not only what an individual looks like and the way he thinks and behaves, but his entire relationship to the world.

Take the word “pride,” for instance, another word much used by Blacks. It was manifested in wholly different ways by the various races. To Oscar and the other pilots it meant, essentially, self-respect, and it was based on the individual’s sense of achievement or accomplishment - most of all on his achievement of mastery of himself; it came across as an aura of dignity or, one might even say, of honor.

To Blacks, on the other hand, “pride” meant a sort of swaggering insolence, a pugnacious determination to get one up on “Whitey.” It manifested itself in the way of a barnyard pecking order. As for the Vietnamese, it was hard to say whether or not their language even had a word for such a concept. Probably the closest they came was something translated as “face.” As with the Blacks it was primarily a social thing, depending upon relationships with other individuals, while with the Whites it was much more a private, inner thing.

Oscar hadn’t personally liked all his fellow White fliers; there were a couple for whom he hadn’t even had much respect. He recognized the personal failings of his fellows: the weaknesses, the stupidities, the meannesses - military life bares a man’s true nature as no other life - but they nevertheless formed a natural community. Oscar understood them, and they understood him. They could work together on a common task and feel right about it, despite their individual differences. With the Blacks and the Vietnamese, neither Oscar nor his fellows could ever form such a natural community.

Oscar did not hate either the Vietnamese or the Blacks while he was in Vietnam, but he did become fully conscious that they were races apart. He became conscious of their innate differentness, as well as the differentness of their life-styles. He saw their folkways and their attitudes as products of race-souls wholly alien to his own, and this gave him a greater sense of racial self-awareness than he had felt before.

He did a lot of reading between missions, trying to understand better the significance of his newly heightened consciousness, trying to see it in a historical perspective. What began emerging in Vietnam and developed more fully in graduate school after he left the Air Force was a realization of the racial basis of history and of all human progress. Previously Oscar had seen history as a mere succession of events - battles, revolutions, technological advances - associated with dates and names, and he had a vague notion of progress as a sort of concatenation of events, with one political happening leading to another, one inventor or artist building on the work of a predecessor. His new conception placed the events in their human context, all the intimate details of which were essential for an understanding of the meaning of the former.

Take the Vietnam war as an example. Oscar could imagine himself as a history student reading about it in the 25th century. The account in the history book, if it were written the way most history books have been written, would tell of two countries, one rich and powerful, the other poor and backward and struggling to maintain its independence in the face of internal subversion and external aggression. It would relate a series of political and military developments in the poor country, as the rich country sent soldiers to help it against its enemies; it would describe the political reactions in the rich country to these developments; and it would analyze the way in which these political reactions prevented the rich country from utilizing its soldiers effectively to help the poor country, so that eventually the former had to withdraw its forces from the latter and leave it to be defeated by its enemies. The dates and places of every major battle, the numbers of troops involved, and the names of the leaders of the various political factions in both countries could all be set down without error or omission. Yet the whole account would be essentially meaningless.

The 25th-century history student could not possibly understand the Vietnam war unless he knew what the Vietnamese were like and what the Americans were like; unless he had already learned about the values, behavior, attitudes, and life-style of the Vietnamese the way Oscar had; unless he had a thorough comprehension of the decadent condition of American political life in the 20th century: of the hypocrisy, the cant, the concealed motives, the total irresponsibility of the leadership, the general ignorance and alienation of the citizens, the role of the media, the effects of the civil-rights movement on military morale, and a dozen other things.

History is a record of the thoughts and actions of people: not just political leaders and artists and inventors as individuals, but as members of the communities - racial, cultural, and religious – with which they share values and motivations, attitudes and tendencies, capabilities and aptitudes, specific strengths and weaknesses. It is, therefore, a record of the development and interaction of various human types: of races and ethnic groups, above all else. The record only has meaning when it is read with a comprehensive, detailed knowledge of the physical and psychical characteristics of the particular human type or types involved.

From the time that Oscar had understood this simple truth, the disturbing things which were happening around him after his return from Vietnam began to make some sort of sense. The growing use of drugs by young Whites; the open displays of homosexual behavior by an increasing number of them, with the blessing of the news and entertainment media; the appearance in public of more and more interracial couples - all of these things began to fit into a pattern which Oscar could understand. Understanding that the civilization of which he had felt himself a part was losing its sense of identity and therefore its ability to sustain itself was not only disturbing and depressing to Oscar, but also deeply frustrating, because he wanted to do something about it.

If he had been more of a political creature, Oscar might have thought about running for public office, perhaps even organizing a new political party. But he did not have the stomach for that sort of thing. He held a deep, visceral loathing for the whole democratic political process, as well as for every politician he had ever met in person or given notice to on the television screen. He could not, without a shudder of revulsion, imagine himself becoming a habitual liar and doing all of the other dishonorable things required to curry favor with a degraded and ignorant public and a corrupt media establishment, just so that he might win an election and the opportunity to attempt to reform the System from the inside.

Nor, he thought, was he the type to become a pamphleteer, so that he could rail at the System from the outside. Oscar was not only a man of few words, he was a man of action. His inclination was to do something about a problem, not talk about it.

What he did, when he finally decided to act, was begin shooting racially mixed couples in shopping mall parking lots. Not that he hadn’t given the matter quite a bit of thought first: he had considered many possibilities, from using his electronic expertise to “break into” commercial television broadcasts with a pirate transmitter and deliver his own message, to renting an airplane at a nearby airport and using it to bomb the Capitol building during a session of Congress.

He settled on the shootings for three reasons. First, they were highly symbolic of America’s sickness and of the danger threatening his race. Everyone would understand immediately their significance and the motivation behind them. Second, they were personal and direct actions; they had more therapeutic value for him than a more impersonal blow against the System would have had. Third, and most important, they were acts that could easily be imitated by others. Very few men were capable of operating a pirate broadcasting station or carrying out an aerial bombing raid on the Capitol, but many could shoot down a miscegenating couple on the street.

The media masters obviously were aware of this third consideration, and that was the reason for their previous blackout on his activities. Now that the blackout was over they were attempting to forestall any would-be imitators by pouring on the venom. Before he had finished his breakfast, Oscar already had heard newsmen on three channels represent the shootings as the most depraved and reprehensible crimes imaginable. He grimaced as he listened to a fourth commentator grimly describe the gunman as “obviously a very sick person.” Clearly, there wouldn’t be much glory for him in this business.