The question everyone wants answered in the wake of yet another random shooting- but is it the right one?
Normally I stay out of these debates. I have little interest in them but I have found in all the pontification about the causes of these tragedies that something seems to be overlooked and wholly unmentioned.
I could be wrong, after all I have unplugged for the last two years.
Before I begin, I will vet my opinion. I didn’t go to culinary school as my career may have implied.
I did attend and graduate with honors from UCSC. I have BS in Psychology and a double minor in Sociology and Philosophy. I wanted my education to aid in my understanding of myself and the world I was born into and I think it has.
The fundamental attribution error is Pshyc 101, day one. It states:
“Essentially, it involves placing a heavy emphasis on internal personality characteristics to explain someone’s behavior in a given situation, rather than thinking about external situational factors.”
When you want to understand a behavior you must understand the motivation for the action, rather than the person acting. If you want to change or impact a behavior you must provide or discourage the motive for it. We are not that complicated and far too often spend our time looking the wrong way or mistakenly inferring causality.
The motivation for these events is not the gun itself. Yes- It is an object that makes such a crime easier and more devastating. This should not be debated, but look at all the horrendous atrocities where guns were not the tool utilized by the perpetrator; The Oklahoma city and Boston Marathon bombings, 9/11, Any number of hostage situations at knife point or mass poisonings.
What is the common motivation for such random violence?
What is gained by these sad souls through their (often) final act? The one thing their life did not provide them:
We all buy into it. The media plays their manifestoes, philosophies and demands on a loop. Their pictures are on the cover of every newspaper and magazine. The red flashing “breaking news” banner appears at the top of every major search engine all over the internet.
As if the “WHY” matters.
They get what they came for and we get another group of seemingly nameless victims and families that will never recover completely from these injuries.
When a child does something egregiously wrong, wise parents don’t ask “why.” Why- is often simply because they are a kid and could.
Nothing more nothing less.
Often times they just wanted attention or to see what would happen.
When we ask “why!?” in these instances the child rarely has the awareness to provide this simple answer. What comes out is “because I am bad” , “I’m just stupid, I guess” or (most often) “I don’t know.”
Just by asking the question we imply that there could be a justifiable reason, when there should be none. There is no ‘because’ that would make the behavior ok.
Thus there is no reason to ask “why?”
The question is misplaced from the start. What matters is the behavior was completely unacceptable and must be discouraged in the future. The consequences should provide a deterent (anti-motive) strong enough so that the behavior will not repeat.
When we, as a nation, give these despicable men and women the attention and airtime we do not offer any discouragement for copy cats. On the contrary we assure them that it will provide the thing they lack. They too, will gain entry to the club of infamous mad men and mass murderers, their name and deeds will live on.
Is this what we want to provide them?
What if, instead of entertaining the question of “why” or launching into a debate on firearms- we acknowledge that the specific ‘why’ is irrelevant.
The actions of most perpetrators can be explained simply: they did it because they were suffering.
“When another person makes you suffer, it is because he suffers deeply within himself, and his suffering is spilling over. He does not need punishment; he needs help. That’s the message he is sending.”
― Thích Nhất Hạnh
What if the victims and the families got all the air time? What if it was THEIR names and deeds that were remembered and exulted? What then?
Would the motivation for future rampages still be as strong?
In truth, I don’t know. But I think it would be a more balanced understanding of why these things are so tragic. They are not horrific because of the weapon used or the diseased justification for the act.
These grievous events should be remembered for the lives lost and families interrupted. We should not entertain or give credence to any of the reasons behind the act. What matters is the futures cut short. It is their stories we should tell.
There is so much about this nation that troubles me. These events are symptoms of our illness. We spend endless time and effort focusing on things that should not matter.
What so-and-so wore at such-and-such. Who is dating who. Who is divorcing who. Who playing who in whatever spots season it is.
Meanwhile our earth is suffering our enlightenment stifled and our awareness turned to trivialities that produce nothing but further unbalance.
It is like digging to find flowers. That is not where they grow.
My conclusion is simple, we have lost our way. I have to believe we can find it again if we start looking in the right place. If we stop giving our time and attention to things we seek to discourage. Maybe then, we will have peace.
A girl can dream can’t she?
Because peace, love and kindness are the things that give life meaning. The things we should give our attention to. A place to aim our bow and begin our journey.
A goals worth achieving.
Be well and be kind.
“What is gained by these sad souls through their (often) final act? The one thing their life did not provide them:”
Interesting especially since you said you studied psychology. I have had a theory about many of these mass killers in schools and wonder what you think.
They have reached a point where they want to end it all. But they don’t want to do that without achieving some of the attributes you mention above, and probably need to act out their anger at the world or some particular subset they are particularly angry at.
Think of Newtown and the Colorado movie theater for example. AR-15 rifles that look like the M16s they have seen on TV or the movies. Various “tactical” paraphernalia. They want to look powerful for their last act.
What locations do they invariably pick? Gun free _school_ zones are a particular favorite but any gun free zone can work. They don’t want to be stopped by someone with a gun before they do what they came to do. They study the records of previous killers with the intention of outdoing them.
What do they do when good guys with guns, usually the police, show up? If they have the resolve they shoot themselves in the head. If not, they surrender meekly. They absolutely do not want be killed by someone else – destroys the fantasy of power.
So here is my theory on how to protect schools at least. Arm a lot of people in the school. Maybe a gun safe in the principal’s or main office with a couple loaded AR-15s and let some staff carry concealed handguns. Put a big sign at every door that says in clear, unambiguous terms that the school is prepared to blow away anyone who tries to come in and kill kids.
That would probably take a lot of the motivation out of attacking schools for these crazies. They aren’t looking for a fight. They are looking for defenseless victims.
I actually completely agree.
I hope my post did not come off anti-gun as it was not my point to debate our right to bare arms. I am and have been (and since the age of 10) a gun owner and was taught about fire arms and gun safety from a very young age. I do think that we should protect what is most dear to us- as that is was the intention behind second amendment in the first place. That every person had the right to defend their family with deadly force and that the government could not take that from them.
Now we send our children off to places where they are unprotected from such things and vulnerable to attack. The problem with guns is not the gun, but the intention of the person firing it. I would have no problem if my principal had a gun safe. Living in a place where everyone hunts I would be SHOCKED if there wasn’t a rifle within 500 yards of our elementary school.
A good offense is the best defense.
That being said if I am blessed with children of my own (as a stepmom you have NO say in such matters) I will likely homeschool AND teach my children weapons training of all types as I think teaching self defense is one of a parent’s most basic duties.
I think you are right, these people have decided they have nothing to live for but instead of doing the honorable thing and ending only their own lives they deiced to take the lives of others in order to force someone else doing for them what they could not. Suicide by cop is a real thing. As is suicide contagion- where one well known event sparks others and there is a breakout. Monkey see, monkey do.
So yes, I agree. Though I dislike debating gun issues. The topic is so charged with emotion and so removed from facts. I have made my choices and I am happy to have the firearms experience I do. I have well above average experience in most types firearms and I would not change it for the world.
Thank you for your thoughts!
“I hope my post did not come off anti-gun …”
No, I did not see it as anti-gun. Just wanted to run my pet (amateur) theory by someone who might have actually read a book or two about psychology. I found your article interesting. Your description of what they are seeking is food for thought for me. Thanks.
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Well then, glad to have been of service. And thank you, Sir- for yours. All my best!
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