There's something irksomely twee about the headline. Is there really anything that once was "important," or is Stankiewicz humbly revealing that it felt important to him at the time? Is there anything about the text of the interview that is "chilling," or is it just supposed to be chilling to have access to some words from a man who later did something evil? That's what I'm wondering as I set out to read this on the theory that you're cagey about the WaPo paywall or you prefer Althouse reprocessings or both.
Stankiewicz needed material for the "Humans of Ohio State" feature in the student newspaper and he chose Abdul Razak Ali Artan because he was: 1. the first person he saw, and 2. sitting alone. Artan, "surprised" to be chosen, was "friendly," open, "thoughtful," and "engaged."
Stankiewicz chose to focus on the problem Artan said he had praying on campus: He wanted to pray publicly, but "I was scared with everything going on in the media." According to Stankiewicz, Artan "ticked off examples of Islamophobia that garnered media attention." (The word "garnered" sets off my bullshit detector.) Artan claimed to worry that he might be shot if he prayed openly.
The interview was on August 23rd, and the summary of the interview ran in the student newspaper a few days later. That is, Artan began the semester surrounded by many students who'd read the piece and were probably moved to feel sympathetic toward him. There was a photograph of the distinctive-looking young man, enabling students to act upon a desire to help him feel included. I'd be interested in hearing from students who read the piece and, especially, students who interacted with Artan after feeling sympathetic because they believed he was sad, feeling like an outsider.
But we only hear from Stankiewicz, who tells us how he felt talking to Artan, which is that he had no access to the inner life of the man he experienced as "friendly" and "thoughtful":
There is nothing I heard from Artan that day that would have ever made me think he could be responsible for the brutal, senseless attack that would come just three months later. Nothing to indicate his thoughtful frustrations and fears would lead him to drive a car into a crowd of people on campus, that he would lash out with a knife at students and faculty, that he would make national news for what many believe was a terrorist attack. That he would be dead, shot by a police officer trying to prevent him from killing others.Sentence fragments. Allowed by WaPo. Expressive of feelings of author. Clueless author who accepted polite exterior manifestations as evidence of another nice person looking for friends at college. Don't misjudge him. Stankiewicz wanted students to feel. Ironic, considering.
Oh, but Stankiewicz assumes he did see the real Artan that day. It's just that later the "thoughtful, engaged student I had met on the first day of classes... snapped."
I wished the whole day was a dream in the first place; I wished a gray Honda sedan never drove over a curb, struck a group of people, before being lunged at with a knife; I wished the sirens I heard on my walk to class were phantom. And then I wished — like I’ve never wished before — that the assailant was not Artan.And then I wished that I was not reading The Washington Post. That I was reading a young adult novel. Because that's what this sounds like.
IN THE COMMENTS: Leland said:
Artan was shot while preying openly.