Another mass killing, new communities plunged into grief. As Charleston knows, those harmed by such crimes far outnumber the actual victims, and such is the case with the Chattanooga, Tenn., shootings on Thursday.
The tragedy reaches beyond that city and state. Each of the four murdered Marines came from a different community. And they represented all Americans with their service.
The motives of the shooter, who came from an Arab family and worshipped in the local mosque, remain shrouded.
Authorities continue to investigate whether the crime can yet be labeled “terrorism,” or whether the killer, who died in a gunfight with police, acted for some other reason.
But circumstances, including cryptic writings and a recent trip to Jordan, strongly suggest he was acting out hatred fanned by a twisted sense of religious struggle, or jihad. One question is whether he acted as a “lone wolf,” like the Tsarnaev brothers, who set off shrapnel bombs at the 2013 Boston Marathon, or at the instigation of a terrorist group.
The authorities continue to investigate that essential point.
Toxic levels of vicious, warped hatred are a common motive in mass shootings. Norwegian Anders Breivik killed 77 people in 2011 in a fascist rage as a particularly lethal expression of political madness.
But as a Colorado jury found Thursday, a hate-driven mass murderer is nevertheless responsible for his acts. James Holmes was convicted of killing 12 and wounding 70 at an Aurora, Colo., movie house. Holmes pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity, but the jury found that he carefully planned the 2012 rampage as an act of revenge for losing his girlfriend and failing a graduate school course. His motivations were bizarre, but deadly, and justice demands that he pay the penalty.
Charleston continues to suffer from its own agonizing experience with the murder of nine innocent people at the Emanuel AME Church on June 17, allegedly by a gunman motivated by racial hatred.
Now, a month later, another American community mourns more victims of hatred.
Presumably, the authorities will fully determine the vile motive behind that awful crime in Chattanooga. The knowledge could lead to measures to minimize the risk of similar attacks.
Meanwhile, Americans mourn together — again — for those so senselessly slaughtered by the plague of raging hate.