If you’re like me, you’re almost beyond the point of asking “why?”
I don’t particularly care what was in that murderous young man’s head when he went into the school last week in Connecticut. Understanding his ailments, his torments, his motivations — none of this can undo the devastation. And the persistent question of “what was he thinking?” feels emotionally invasive — like a psychological — not a physical form of intrusion. What gives him the right to invade our thoughts, our lives? Forget him (I’d rather use other words). What does it even matter? Why spend anytime thinking about this guy, or saying his name, or showing his face? Get his face off the screen. Get his name off our pages. Ugh! Why act as if there is some great mystery behind his action that perhaps we can unlock and tame in others?
In truth, the motivations of such people don’t seem that hard to read. This guy is nothing special. It is somewhat simple, really, not a great mystery, not worth much in the form of human intrigue. Today’s mass murder gunman is powerless to change the world around him, bitter, burning with humiliation and ready to end it all. Such a person has either lost or never had the capacity for empathy. Selfishly, this person wants the world to remember him. But he is lazy about it, because he sees infamy as much easier than fame. So, he chooses an act that he feels will earn him a place in history without any ingenuity on his part. He sees other shootings and profiles of shooters, the world always questioning “why?” And he wants his own sad past to be suddenly weighted with the same question, knowing that all those who ever knew him will have to reflect on that time they played together in middle school, or how they worked the same shift at a sandwich shop. He enjoys fantasizing about the aftermath, because he knows our pack-driven national media will collectively make him into something of a dark celebrity, endlessly repeating his name and showing his photo, with countless talking heads guessing at what was in his head.
Thus, he enters the darkest world of the ultimate, impotent coward. He is really an utter simpleton of the heart at the weakest extreme. Could he actually articulate his “why?” if we could somehow ask? Probably not in any way that would ever make sense to himself or to us, because he has embraced a senseless act that no language will support. He will generally never face worldly justice, which wouldn’t suffice anyway.
Meanwhile, national recognition in such a dark way requires more and more insanity. The nation is beginning to show some complacence toward random shootings, because they happen so often. So, someone in this deranged mindset must up the ante to get real attention, real panic. That’s why someone might pick a room full of young children.
Just typing that is so sickening! What in the world? Seriously? What expletive suffices? None. I feel outraged and all I can do is strangle thin air.
There is nothing in the world to comfort those who lost their children or their family members. I cannot even bear to watch any footage of those parents. I briefly saw a man speaking of his lost daughter at a press conference. But it is too awful to look on. I am so sorry for him. I am personally shaken in a bad way. I know a lot of you are as well. What the heck?
Of course, this incident will ripple out in many ways, politically too.
We want action of some sort. It’s a part of being wounded. And guns are the natural battleground. Our dysfunction is related to guns, but also far deeper than guns. We can all see that too.
So here’s this: I own a gun and feel somewhat safer having one to protect us, particularly from potentially rabid animals. But I am not wild about them like many are. I recognize that the Constitution gives us the right to bear arms, but the Constitution also gives us the right not to get shot — the right to life. So a society has to deal responsibly with competing interests and recognize that one person’s right to gun possession is juxtaposed to another person’s right not to be confronted with guns in public.
Whether or not we do anything related to gun laws, we could at least enhance gun-safety education. There are too many accidental gun deaths that have no relation to the mass shootings. I read about a man recently who accidently shot and killed his 7-year-old son in the car after he had just purchased a gun. If somebody had given him a five-minute safety talk before he took that gun with him, would things be different? Maybe, maybe not, but I bet somebody would be saved through such efforts. And just one saved life would be worthwhile. I like the idea of gun-safety education requirements at gun ranges for first-time owners. Some would see it as a nuisance, but inconvenience would be a small price for accidents avoided.
Of course, I’d be happy not to have any assault rifles in this world, which won’t happen. But I hate that my children — or any children — might ever fear machine guns, which are designed to wipe out multiple human lives as quickly as possible. And I feel intense anger thinking of them afraid of such weapons of war in strangers’ hands. Arming them with machine guns is not a sufficient answer. Somehow, this sentiment of mine is politically wrong. But you’ll never convince me to feel any different as a father.
Still, I certainly recognize that there’s no way to legislate an end to our insane age of mass shootings. This troubling era is tied to a darkness in humankind that extends beyond quick fixes. There is evil in this world.
It’s worth remembering that the worst of mankind exemplifies itself in sudden explosions of violence, but the best of humanity is shown through goodness of heart over extended periods of time. The dark heart is easy, but weak. The good heart is difficult, but strong. It’s important that we all strive to take the difficult road. And please let there be love and kindness now for those who hurt so bad.
Zach Mitcham is editor of The Madison County Journal.
"Somehow, this sentiment of mine is politically wrong." Is it? Or is it simply a reasonable compromise?
"Some would see it as a nuisance, but inconvenience would be a small price for accidents avoided."
Gun safety is not an unreasonable requirement on the right to bear arms. But this is not about guns. It is about mental health. It is about identifying those who might be a threat to the rest of us. It is about making mental health care available and affordable just like physical health care. It is about controlling bullying. It is about the glorification of violence in our media. It's about a whole lot of things coming together in our culture that needs to be changed. But American freedoms and liberties get in the way of all that. So somehow we have to teach our children how to deal with the extremes of our society just like we teach them to resist drugs or even a poor diet. But good parenting is not in style anymore. What to do? What to do?