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I Read the El Paso Shooter’s Manifesto Out Loud, and I Was Shook

His feelings about race-mixing, in particular, really hit home for me

Credit: Mario Tama/Getty Images

DDays after the tragic El Paso shooting, rumors began to swirl about an alleged manifesto penned by the shooter and posted to a now-defunct 8chan chat board. Despite social media and other websites’ vain attempts to quickly remove it from public consumption, mostly legible screenshots had already circulated in group chats and text messages as curiosity regarding the shooter’s frame of mind began to mount. Like hundreds of thousands of Americans, I gave it a cursory read before taking my musings to social media.

Reading it was one thing, but reading it out loud was a whole different beast.

One of my friends, who is visually impaired, asked if anyone knew where he might read it using his assistive software. Due to the fact that there were no reliable sources of text that could be converted to audio, I offered to read it aloud to him. (After all, it seemed fair that he should have the same opportunities as those of us with 20/20 vision.)

Reading it was one thing, but reading it out loud was a whole different beast.

GGoing into it, I foresaw two major challenges: First, I’m not very good at reading out loud and often stumble over words or don’t properly enunciate complex sentences (of which he had many). Secondly, I had to read it through without giving my own commentary. Despite my own personal feelings, however, I felt I owed it to my friend to read it in the same basic manner that it was presented to myself and others: black and white, 12-point Times New Roman font, non-redacted, with no additional commentary or notes. My own feelings needed to take a back seat to the integrity of his listening experience.

After one false start (my husband interrupted me to ask if we had any salsa), it took me 15 minutes and 49 seconds to read the manifesto in its entirety.

For a quarter of an hour, I verbalized the shooter’s thoughts, all while experiencing a range of emotions and feelings. On one hand, the almost flawless grammar and complex style made me sad to know that this young man clearly had the potential to become a gifted writer, yet had chosen another path. On the other hand, I saw someone who had become so filled with hate that even his logical ideas about environmentalism had become polluted with the filth of White supremacist rhetoric.

While I don’t condone any of Trump’s words, actions, or inactions, the manifesto was a reminder that one person isn’t omnipotent.

How, I wondered, could someone manage to interpret the world through such a clouded lens, organizing his coherent ideas under the umbrella of hatred for another race?

As I read the portion in which he bemoaned living in a future that he didn’t feel adequately prepared for, I was baffled: How could he, a man who had clearly benefited from a first-world education and an economic and social privilege most could only dream of, feel so disenfranchised? What could others less fortunate have become had they grown up in his situation?

I also felt annoyance at my peers who so narrowly placed the blame on Trump. While I don’t condone any of Trump’s words, actions, or inactions, the manifesto was a reminder that one person isn’t omnipotent. The shooter’s influences came from seemingly ordinary humans who walk among us every day, keeping their dark side in check in public while spewing hatred in private.

TThe hardest section for me was the part about race-mixing, in which he denigrates mixed-race couples and (without reference) cites a statistic that many second- and third-generation Hispanics marry interracially. That was me and my marriage that he was speaking of. To imagine that a 21-year-old man could hate the union of people he didn’t even know was surreal.

As I read aloud, I remembered the time in high school when I wrote an entire book report, but then realized at the last minute it was about the wrong topic. I recall frantically trying to salvage as much of the original essay as I could while interjecting details and themes of the correct book.

The shooter’s vain attempts at creating his own masterpiece appeared to have been undertaken in the same manner. At one point in time, he likely had a coherent worldview, but as his mind became polluted with the White supremacist teachings, he tried to awkwardly shove his newfound ideology into his existing frame of reference. While grammatically correct, his manifesto failed to achieve any objective other than to confirm that his warped worldview is in no way representative of the America we know.

Mother of dragons, queen of the North, future Pulitzer recipient…or just “the girl with bangs and the Jeep.” @zoeshrugged on Twitter and Instagram

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