Sunday, December 16, 2012

Spree Killers: Why Do They Do It?

Famous school shooting fantasy scene from The Basketball Diaries.
According to Wikipedia, before Andrew Kehoe perpetrated the Bath School Disaster, he had posted the following sign on his farm:  "Criminals are made, not born."

Like the recent Connecticut school massacre, Kehoe's mass murder started with a home killing.  This is also similar to the Pearl High School spree, in which Luke Woodman stabbed and bludgeoned his mother (in contrast to the apparent irony being advertised for Nancy Lanza as a "gun enthusiast and the first victim"--not-so-subtly implying that if only she hadn't kept guns around...) before starting his spree at the local high school.

Uncharacteristic of these other sprees,  Woodman was apprehended by the assistant principal Joel Myrick who, contrary to law, armed himself and held Woodman at gunpoint.  Woodman was on his way to continue his lesson to society at the nearby junior high school when he was intercepted.  (The police hadn't had time to respond--they might not have even been called yet.)

According to Wikipedia, before the police arrived Principal Myrick demanded that Woodman explain why he had killed the kids.  Woodman replied that the world had wronged him.  Before the school shootings, Woodman reportedly sent a message to a fellow student explaining: "I did this to show society, push us and we will push back. ... All throughout my life, I was ridiculed, always beaten, always hated. Can you, society, truly blame me for what I do?"  

What I would like Americans to ask themselves is why in the history of America, a history filled with adolescents and social outcasts who had access to household firearms and knew how to use them, we have had relatively few incidents (compared to the last half century) of killing sprees targeting the public, bystanders, co-workers that did nothing wrong, people at restaurants... until after the 1960s.  

Is the fascination with removing a convenient means of killing (which is also a necessary means of keeping democracy for all and a necessary means of self-defense for many) a canard to keep society from self-reflecting on what has changed to predispose people to blame "society" and take?

We have, for one, a culture that has more and more entertained the idea (and encouraged youth to entertain it) that people that lash out in violence need special understanding, that one man's terrorist is another's freedom-fighter and people that blow up buses of schoolchildren are obviously just reacting to great injustice that has been served to them.  It is a culture that increasingly rejects personal responsibility and diffuses blame around.   We also have more and more children not being raised according to their parents values but rather being raised by television, movies, video games, and the philosophical tidbits of their educators.  We've had repeated attempts to redefine the way society and family work.  We have people simultaneously laughing at those who try to protect abortion survivors from neglect and protect prenatal infants from brain evacuation and curettage, calling it liberty, while acting outraged at teenagers that kill their newborns and demanding life sentences for them.  Why are our teenagers so confused about the sanctity of life?  It boggles the mind.

After a number of killing sprees in China accomplished with knives (there is serious gun control in collectivist states), "[s]ome analysts have suggested that an increase in psychiatric illnesses brought about by rapid social change is behind the attacks."  Well, China has gone through several generations now of the government experimenting with the family structure and promoting social loyalties over family loyalties and otherwise redefining things according to the whims of "central planners."  Why would that affect kids' minds?

You know, bullying is nothing new.  In general, it has possibly gotten worse in the last several decades with the decline of public schools, but insecure children have long targeted other children for anything: being overweight, wearing funny clothes, being effeminate, shy, etc.  For many, many, many decades, bullied children didn't take their dad's guns to school and start shooting.  If there were any fantasies like those in The Basketball Diaries, they stayed as fantasies.  Taking Andrew Kehoe's claim at face value, why is society making more terrible criminals out of teenagers?  Gun availability isn't the variable that has changed.

There was a time, for that matter, when Lizzy Borden's rampage and the events in In Cold Blood were relative anomalies and much more shocking than they are now. What has changed since then?

What you will probably hear in answer to this question (in the rare event it is entertained publicly), that societal changes are too sweeping and complex to analyze and there's no way to roll back the clock to the 1950s (and that would mean bringing back the bad things of that time), we really have no choice but to "just get rid of the guns." It is The Answer.

"For years they spent a lot of money saying, 'There's no other way! There's no other way!' They said it so many times, people actually started believing it."

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