Buffalo Police on scene at a Tops Friendly Market on May 14, 2022 in Buffalo, New York. According to reports, at least 10 people were killed after a mass shooting at the store with the shooter in police custody. (Photo: John Normile/Getty Images)

The Nobody: Name the Plague, Not the Murderer in Buffalo

The biggest problem with naming this nobody is that it will attract others like him, people who sense their own non-existence and want to affirm themselves by seeing their names in print or their picture on television.

Since the shooting in Buffalo, articles and commentaries have been appearing that condemn the shooting, but which include the name and personal history of the shooter. Why would anybody do that? He's nobody.

Oh, I don't "nobody" as in, "Nobody was born in upstate New York eighteen short years ago." I don't mean "nobody" as in, "Nobody was radicalized online and by cable television." And I certainly don't mean "nobody" as in, "Nobody went out and legally purchased a weapon capable of delivering mass death at a moment's notice."

Of course there was somebody. Someone with a body, a nervous system, and access to society went out and did a terrible thing.

I mean "nobody" at a much more fundamental level, perhaps at the level of subatomic particles and time-travel paradoxes. Nobody is capable of such monstrosity. Nobody can generate such terrible thoughts about an entire class of people.

Nobody can think and act that way without losing the essence of what it means to be human, of what it means to exist as a person among people.

Commentators who use the killer's name are making an ontological error. There is no such person. That name defines a null set. There is a person-shaped hole where that individual once stood. No, not a hole. A tesseract, a wormhole, a curvature in space-time that connects to every other nobody with a gun, a keyboard, a TV camera. Each nobody is a tunnel to all the other nobodies, to that starless vacuum where nothing lasts except the darkness.

"The great replacement"? The only person who could possibly fear replacement is the person who isn't there. The one who fears replacement already senses that there is nothing left to replace.

But don't we need to find the killer and stop him? Isn't some sort of punishment in order? Yes, of course, the same way we need to close the door to keep out a cold night breeze. Don't we need to identify and denounce the hateful ideas that turn people into nobodies? Of course. But we don't do that by elevating the people who preach or act on those ideas. They aren't even human beings anymore, in any reasonable definition of the term. They are the plague itself, given arms and legs. They are vectors. They are drones in a hive.

That's why zombie movies are so popular. We know that the once-living walk among us. Perhaps they can be restored to life again, but that would take time and the profound light of a forgiveness that isn't ours to give. It belongs to the victims alone. And, even then, redemption is far from assured.

In the meantime, the biggest problem with naming this nobody is that it will attract others like him, people who sense their own non-existence and want to affirm themselves by seeing their names in print or their picture on television. Nature abhors a vacuum, and so does the vacuum itself.

Human beings can never replace one another. Each of us is unique. We complement each other. We enrich one another. We have evolved for cooperation. That's why we have mirror neurons. That's why we protect, and punish, and forgive.

"You will not replace us," they chant by firelight. Replace who? There's nobody there. There is nothing but a vast screaming silence, a void that can only be filled with love.

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