Police vehicles surround a U-Haul truck and arrested the driver after...

Police vehicles surround a U-Haul truck and arrested the driver after the vehicle reportedly struck multiple pedestrians in Brooklyn on Monday. Credit: AP/John Minchillo

These days, a jagged stream of deranged and deadly actions across America feeds a mood of unease. There's a creeping fear that a variant of post-pandemic disorder is the dystopian order of the day.

On Monday, we felt a horrifying regional drama when a man drove a U-Haul truck wildly through Brooklyn, careening along sidewalks, killing one, striking another eight people, all apparent strangers to him. Police cornered and arrested the driver, Weng Sor, 62, who allegedly said, “Shoot me.” They said he may have been living in the truck. Soon it emerged from Nevada news media that in 2015, Sor stabbed his brother in Las Vegas. “Weng has [an] unknown type [of] mental health illness for which he takes medication,” police records said then. Later, Weng stabbed a roommate and served some jail time on a lesser charge, Nevada authorities said.

Hours later came word from Michigan State University that a gunman unaffiliated with the school had let loose in different locations on the campus, leaving three dead and five others critically wounded. Alleged killer Anthony McRae, 43, was found dead off-campus early Tuesday with an evidently self-inflicted gunshot wound. He had a criminal history of illegal weapons possession; motive in the campus rampage is a mystery.

Announcing an incident wasn't rooted in political or religious terrorism isn't the reassurance it once was.

These two atrocities have familiar themes — one mental illness, the other guns. But the lack of a more specific pattern or predictability to the growing sense of mutant behavior is extra disturbing. The old bromide of “a troubled young man who just snapped” no longer works, especially given the range in ages and backgrounds of recent attackers from here to the West Coast.

The way we receive horrifying word of these incidents makes it more intimate and "real." On the smartphone we see "developing situation" or "active shooter" or "breaking news alert." We sigh and say "what now." Soon, the grim photos and videos intrude.

Ignoring it all is no answer. But the anxiety can make us exaggerate to ourselves the chances of our own danger. That would help erode the basic trust in neighbors and institutions to whom we must turn. Saying “the whole country has gone nuts” with a wave of the hand or worry in the voice will not help. Gun laws, mental health measures, and the courts and correction systems need improvement, as we've said before. But our collective frame of mind and our confidence count, too. It's hard to argue for the intangible, but we need to avoid despair and summon the spiritual courage to fend off isolation.

Sane attitudes are needed to beat an insane trend, whatever the concrete steps that should follow.

MEMBERS OF THE EDITORIAL BOARD are experienced journalists who offer reasoned opinions, based on facts, to encourage informed debate about the issues facing our community.

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