Friday, March 02, 2012

I'm trying to understand

I suppose it's a curse of being an academic/curious person, but I try to understand other people's motivations, why they do things. Sometimes, I guess you can't.

I keep thinking of the latest school shooting. I grew up not too terribly far from Chardon, Ohio. I kind of know the area (Haven't been back in 20 years, but that's another matter). When I turned on the news one day and saw the breaking news of the school shooting, my response was, as always: "NOOOOOOO!"

I don't get it. I can think of exactly one situation where I could justify to myself killing another person: Self-defense, if I or someone weaker than I, were in clear and immediate peril of dying. Like, for example, if someone had a knife to a friend's throat, and I had a gun and a clear shot - I'd take that shot. Or if someone broke into my house at night and threatened me with a weapon. Other than that, no. Even in the case of bullies. Even in the case of something like blackmail. Even in the case of something that might ruin your reputation.

I suppose the fact that it's teenagers involved in these shootings says something. I know, teenagers are prone to believe things will NEVER get better. That it's always going to be like that. I suspect that's part of the reason behind the high suicide rate - people are using a permanent solution to what is actually a temporary problem. (Thank God my parents were there for me, thank God that I felt even at the worst days at school when I felt like I'd never fit in ANYWHERE that they cared about me and that at least I fit in in my family...)

Every time I hear of a school shooting, I wonder: are they becoming more frequent, or does the 24-hour news cycle and the (possibly false) sense of connectedness we have now mean they get reported more? When I was growing up, most of the news you heard - other than big global things like about OPEC meetings or yet another Soviet leader dying - was purely local. If there was a school shooting in Washington State or in Maine or somewhere, I don't know if we would have heard it. But now with CNN and Fox and MSNBC and all of those, with hours and hours to fill, and with competition - with the need to grab people's eyes - sensationalistic stuff makes the news.

And sometimes I wonder if for sick or evil people, if that doesn't feed the desire to do things like this: a way of going out in a blaze of - well, not glory, but a blaze of SOMETHING - of getting 15 minutes of fame. I suspect a big number of school shootings are really intended as what's called "suicide by cop" - the shooter wants to die, but instead of just killing himself (have there been ANY school shootings done by girls? I'm sure girls can be violent but it seems to me in our culture that we're more likely to turn our anger on ourselves alone - so girls seem more likely to simply commit suicide without taking others along), he has to kill others as well. I suppose because in some twisted way, he thinks it makes him a big man, or it impresses or scares other people. (I dunno. I suspect Satan's seen far worse in his career...)

I also wonder if the casual attitudes towards life and death in our culture (not just violence in the media, not just video games that celebrate being a thug...) is part of it. Or if part of it is that it's increasingly easy to see the other person as not-a-person. (One thing my faith teaches me, and it often stops me up short when I'm cussing about someone driving foolishly on the road, or complaining about someone in the line ahead of me in the grocery store: we are all children of God. God loves us all. Whether we know it or not, whether we believe it or not....we're all human, we all have some kind of value. That person who is arguing with the wal-mart cashier was someone's baby once. That guy pulling in and out of lanes on the interstate and making driving risky could be someone's dad. Maybe he's doing risky stuff because he's hurrying to get to the hospital, where someone he love is close to death... in my calmer moments I can remind myself of this and am less likely to go off on people. Oh, people still frustrate and annoy me - or rather, their behaviors do - but I try to see them as PEOPLE, first and foremost). And I wonder if a lot of these shooters are seeing the people they're mowing down as just so much meat, so much grass, not people.

I don't like the angle that "he was bullied, he was in a program for at-risk kids." Because that's too pat and too easy. I was bullied to a certain extent in school. I know lots of kids who were bullied worse than I was - some of my Youth Group kids, for example. I also know kids who got sent to the "alternative" high school (though in my town, that seems mostly to be for girls who are "in the family way" and maybe a few kids whose parents caught them with pot). That stuff doesn't make someone a bad person,  and it sure doesn't justify violence to others. Bullying is a huge problem but it seems that scrutinizing the bullied kids - which is what the "oh, he was bullied so he shot up a school" would seem to suggest - is not the answer.

I don't know. Every time one of these shootings happens, I cringe: there's probably no easy way to prevent seems to me that teaching kids from cradle days the value of human life, to treat others kindly even if they don't always treat you well, and that tough times don't last. And probably also how to "fight back" on a small scale. (I think also allowing schools to expel the worst bullies might help. Or, for that matter, dropping the age at which compulsory schooling would end - but that's another question for another time). I think a lot of the policies in place at schools right now allow things to fester and escalate so that when things happen, they're big and bad.

I heard they're trying the guy as a juvenile. I think that's unfortunate.

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