Greetings and Salutations;
The recent uptick in violence in America, some of which is real, and some of which is amplified because of the gluttonous need for a story by the several, 24/7 News Networks, has grabbed my attention. It is a terrible result of the changes in society over the past couple of decades. In this article, I am going to look at what we, as a society, could do to short-circuit these mass killings. This is hardly comprehensive, and I welcome useful insights into areas I have missed, of course!
I have mentioned, in other posts about mass shootings and such, that a common factor in all of them is that the killer who does this evil thing has left a trail of “Red Flags” behind that show he/she is an increasing danger to themselves or society. Here are a few of the Flags I have seen, in no particular order.
- The person has shown an increasing interest in weapons, usually of “assault-style” guns, and has made comments about their ability to inflict large amounts of damage in the shortest time.
- They show an increasing isolation from society. Either they are bullied, and so being “pushed away” by society, or, simply are developing a dislike for others, they become isolated. This, I believe, makes it easier for them to move to actual violence, as it enables them to turn other humans into sub-human enemies…which are OK to kill or hurt.
- They show an increasing interest in violence as a solution for problems. I am sure we all know or have known, at least one person whose world is so focused on violent video games that they seem to like them WAY too much, and enjoy the destruction of them more than is comfortable.
- Their parents are often too disconnected to them. For whatever reason, the parents are “too busy” to be an integral part of the person’s life, or, are not interested in teaching them good values. They often are so disconnected they are wearing blinders and ignoring the person’s behavior.
- In some cases, they are living in a very violent, abusive household, so, not only have been the target of violence there, but, have been programmed from birth that violence is the way ALL issues are resolved.
- They start to show more and more hatred for a given group of people. Be it cheerleaders and jocks, who they see as being more popular than they are, to people of color because they believe these people to be an enemy that is going to destroy their lifestyle, to a general anger because they feel invisible and a failure, and so believe that everyone else is more important in the world’s eyes, or more successful, these negative feelings and attitudes take root and grow, pushing a person to Evil.
- They start making comments on Social Media (these days), talking about their feelings and desires.
- They will often join with extremest groups, like Militias, the KKK or other white supremist groups, or fanatically religious groups.
How do we address these issues? That can be a difficult thing to do, alas, as people are complicated and since the Constitution rightly makes it difficult to deprive citizens of freedom and such, that adds a secondary barrier to changes. That having been said, I suggest some of the following actions.
Do not simply dismiss their speech as “blowing off steam”, or “just being a kid”. That may have been true, 50 years ago, but, these days, as we have seen too many times, what used to be venting to relieve pressure and stay on a more positive path, has become a way to feed the anger and stoke it up to the point that action happens. This is especially true if the shooter has joined with a group that supports a twisted agenda of violence and death for those who are different from them.
Intervention can help. Just being a positive force in a person’s life can do some good. However, that DOES mean that we will need to find a way to confront and disagree with their radical views without it being a personal attack. I have talked with many supporters of the current administration, and, while I do not think that all of them are dangers to themselves or others, it can be VERY challenging to present them with facts and discuss their views without being called names and insulted in a manner more suited to the elementary school playground than a discussion between adults.
Speaking of Intervention, I think we should start pressuring our Representatives to change how Society deals with mental health. Reagan, with his massive undercutting of the Mental Health Care system in America did no favors to the country. Subsequent administrations have continued that sad process, making mental health care even more difficult and challenging. I am not one of those folks that dismiss the actions of a mass shooter as being the acts of a person who is mentally ill. Classical mental illnesses – Clinical Depression, Schizophrenia, etc, do not tend to generate the sort of madness that creates mass shooters. I do believe, though, that anyone who engages in this Evil Act, is in a very bad place, and would benefit from some therapy. If we had easier, less expensive, access to therapists that could help these folks work through the Anger and Fear issues that have driven them to the point of picking up a weapon, I am quite sure that many mass shootings would be nipped in the bud. Having these resources available for help and evaluation would also make interventions a far more positive event.
Another issue is the response of the Law Enforcement Community. Quite rightly, I suppose, they are useless to notify if one is concerned about the path a shooter is on. They, at best, will have a short interview with the person, and, in most cases will say “We cannot do anything until a crime has been committed”. Then, of course, when there is an active shooter situation, they are glad to go in with guns blazing! This might not be an issue that should be handled by local LEOs, but rather by the FBI. In that case, I would like to see changes instituted to ensure that reports of worrisome behavior get sent upstream to the Feds in a timely fashion. As an example of what I am talking about, I am going to touch on the young man who killed too many students at Parkland’s High School. Already, it has come to light that the local police had reports of anti-social behavior and many signs that he was becoming increasingly violent, starting at least 5 years ago. Yet, because “no crime was committed”, nothing was done.
Dealing with these issues is a challenging situation, as we have to balance the protections of the First Amendment, against the need to keep people who are on the path of Violence from successfully committing mass murder. For example, the POOO* has just come out and said that he supports the idea of the cops going in, and confiscating the guns of anyone who shows signs of being a mass shooter, leaving the whole thing of “Due Process” for later. Not even a majority of his most fanatical followers think THIS is a good idea… What I would like to see is enough resources allocated, so that when a person is reported as being a danger to himself or others, a judge can evaluate the information, and decide if an investigation of the person’s social network postings, and police records should be done. Once the investigation is ordered and completed, the judge looks at the results of that investigation, and decides that further action is necessary, If it seems that this person presents a credible threat, it would be appropriate for the judge to order a psyche hold/evaluation and a temporary removal of weapons from the person. During that psyche hold, a trained psychiatrist should interview the subject, and, determine if therapy or other treatment is necessary. This examination by a trained professional needs to be more than a half hour visit, and some paper shuffling, too! It should involve several, lengthy sessions, and some serious talk during the sessions. At the end of the hold period, a judge should take the recommendations of the psychiatrist, and other evidence and determine the next step. Either the person should be released, and their weapons returned in due time, or, they should be run through the system and set up for mandatory therapy for a period of time, probably determined by their progress as evaluated by an objective board. While the person should, likely, have their freedom, subject to making their appointments, during that time, they should either not be allowed weapons, or, only under supervised and limited settings (say, at a gun range).
One of the issues I struggle with while writing this is the idea of “freedom”. How “Free” are we in America, and, by implementing a change like this, are we having freedom taken away? My general answer is…”well, yes and no”. The fact is that “freedom” does not mean life unfettered by rules. We, as a society, have millions of laws that limit our behavior. We have limits on how fast we can drive on public streets, and if we break those limits, we are punished. We have laws about our responsibilities and rights as landlords and penalties if those laws are broken; We have laws dealing with selling foods to other citizens; we have laws that limit how we can interact with each other – with violence or theft being punished quite strongly. While it might be possible for the above suggestions to be perverted and turned into a tool of oppression, it is not built into them to be that… I believe that with sufficient oversight, the perversion of the goals of such laws could be blocked.
That having been said, I believe there are other things that Society can do to help deal with these issues. For example, an intervention does not have to go as far as involving Law enforcement, as with the above example (which is the most extreme case). It could be as simple as an increased number of therapists in schools, whose job is to interact with students that are acting out, or showing other negative signs in their lives. These therapists could evaluate the stresses in the student’s life that are causing these issues, and, perhaps find ways to help the student deal with them. If it is a result of abuse at home, or in the school, there are appropriate ways to handle that and make it stop. Today, alas, Child Protective Services tends to be so overwhelmed and under-funded, it is nearly impossible to provide the level of service needed to deal with violence in the home. Schools have shown a poor track record of adequately dealing with bullying and hate speech by other students, leaving the targets of this evil feeling very unsupported, and very vulnerable. In both cases, changing funding levels and policies would make a huge difference. If it is a matter of anger management issues, perhaps a series of counseling sessions in school would help the students build the tools to deal with the issue.
Another thing that Society could support is having the schools teach tolerance for others, and critical thinking skills. I am NOT advocating religious instruction in schools, as I am in full agreement with the Constitution here, that the government must not allow support of any religion over any other one. However, by showing students the realities of the lives of others, it can help them to be more tolerant and make it more difficult for them to treat them as sub-human, or enemies.
Some years ago, there was a social experiments called “The Third Wave” http://www.thewavehome.com/faq.htm
Now, while this proved to be a kind of scary moment in education for several reasons, it was valuable in that it demonstrated to all the students, in a very clear way, the dangers of discrimination, and how necessary it is to be alert to it, and combat it when it rears its ugly head. It also demonstrated how thin the veneer of Civilization is and that we must, as part of our evolution of society, work to thicken that to a point that it is far more difficult to rip away. Would participating in such an experiment mean that the possible mass shooter would see the error of their ways, and turn from violence? I do not know…as people are complicated. However, it likely would rattle the cages of those who are abusing others, and perhaps ensure that they would change their ways, and that could well remove a stresser that pushes a shooter to action.
Alas, unhappily, the greatest burden and responsibility for these mass shooters falls, in my opinion, on the shoulders of the parents. Over the decades since the social revolution of the 1960s, I have seen an increasingly “Hands Off” attitude by parents. As I have said elsewhere, too many parents seem to want to be their kid’s “Best Buddy” and want them to be the same to the parent. They do not want to be the bad guy who says “no” to the kid, as they take the resulting “I hate you” response personally. Kids, when they are born, are like an empty vessel as regards their rules for life. All they have are the basic, instinctive rules required to survive from day to day. If a parent does not take the time and effort necessary to fill that vessel with good rules for life, including such things as respect for other people, including their elders, tolerance of differing views, a willingness to debate in a rational and less emotional fashion, an understanding that they do not know everything, but, that education is important, and makes their life better, and the idea that discussion is always best, and violence should be the absolute, last resort for dealing with a problem, then, that vessel WILL be filled by rules from other sources. Think about the media these days…Look at the video games available to kids of all ages. Look at the movies that they are exposed to. Sadly, look at the example that the Administration presents. These sources are, to a greater extent, filled with violence, hate, misogyny, racism, and a plethora of other pretty terrible ways to deal with society. In “Grand Theft, Auto” for example, one gets point for running down and killing game characters that are prostitutes. That, along with the whole concept of stealing cars and treating the authorities as the enemy.
This is a complicated issue, of course, and I am sure there are other issues and facets of it that I have not touched on. However, unless we address these basic issues with society, we will continue to see these explosions of violence and death. I have, in this article, focused more on youth, being involved in school and church shootings, and have not looked at the issue of ideologically motivated shootings, or, like the guy in Las Vegas a few months ago, who apparently got into such a dark place that he believed that suicide was the only answer, and he wanted to take a large honor guard with him. This is a whole other topic… However, to a certain extent, many of the Red Flags I listed at the start of this article apply to these mass killings too.
* POOO stands for “Person Occupying the Oval Office”…
God Help Us All
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