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The Christmas Bomb in Nashville

The Christmas Bomb in Nashville

When you’re alone
And life is making you lonely,
You can always go
Downtown…

Anthony Warner, the man behind the enormous bombing in downtown Nashville on Christmas, purportedly blared “Downtown” by Petula Clark for some time before he started warning everyone to get away from his RV, about 10-15 minutes before finally detonating. Only he was killed.

This minimizing of the loss of life seems intentional:

The man who detonated an RV bomb in downtown Nashville early Christmas morning was a loner with no significant criminal record and as yet no signs of a political ideology.

Anthony Quinn Warner, a 63-year-old from Antioch, Tennessee, died when his RV exploded on 2nd Avenue, damaging more than 40 buildings and injuring at least eight people.

Yet no one else died in the blast, partly because Warner’s RV had broadcast ominous warnings in a computerized female voice that it would soon explode, spurring police and bystanders to leave the area.

CNN

Scott Adams has said that the motive for the bombing is probably something we won’t guess because we haven’t seen a bombing like this before.

But I think that perhaps we have seen something similar.

People may recall that in 2004, an angry and lonely man decided to wreak his vengeance on a small town in Colorado. Like Warner, he caused enormous financial damage, but took no lives besides his own. His name was Marvin Heemeyer.

Heemeyer and his “killdozer” were seen as righteous vengeance against corrupt and petty local officials, working with vindictive and uncaring corporate interests. But had Heemeyer not been divorced and seemingly abandoned by everyone he knew. He had no family in the area, no children, and probably felt he had no prospects either.

Would he have still gone on his rampage had there been some hope? Screw justice — if he had had children, would he have still lowered that concrete sarcophagus over his komatsu and pushed through the side of his shop into glorious destruction and death?

My guess is: probably not.

The killdozer may have been an act of revolt against injustice on the surface. But I think that at the same time, it may have also been a symptom of loneliness and social despair.

Like Heemeyer, Warner had apparently also been working on his plan well in advance:

Police were warned Anthony Warner was making bombs in his RV more than a year before his Christmas morning attack in downtown Nashville.

News Channel 5

What I think we see in Warner is an expression (such as it is) of loneliness and total despair.

Josh from the Lotus Eaters suggested that there seemed something poetic about choosing to do this on Christmas day, a poetry that only makes sense if you feel totally isolated. To me, the choice of “Downtown” perfectly matches the kind of bittersweet music that one might play in moments of profound sadness, not to comfort yourself, but to feel righteous in your sadness. That naive, cheerful tone can sometimes make you feel — through the music alone — as if you are an observer from on high, or on the other side of one-way glass, watching other people be happy while you yourself are not. It can be a strangely justifying feeling.

I’ll bet he played that song to himself many, many evenings.

Heemeyer was a pretty unique individual who did some pretty unique things in a unique context. Not everyone experiences collusion between concrete plants and corrupt local officials like that, on top of divorce and isolation from other family.

But the loneliness that Warner experienced seems a lot more mundane. In the context of the COVID-19 lockdowns and the isolation and social stress they induce, it may even be downright common.

This is not to say that COVID-19 caused Warner — who had apparently been preparing since before lockdowns existed — to bomb the AT&T building in Nashville. But it is to say that the sorts of social circumstances that motivated him to go out with a bang — to get just one moment of recognition and attention — are now widespread.

This might be concerning. We’ll see what happens.

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