Every time there’s a horrific mass murder, I end up having the same debates over what would “solve” this awful problem – “It’s a mental health issue” – “Lousy parenting produces killers” – “Our permissive culture rewards violence” – “Our media glorifies anonymous and impersonal brutality.”
My response is that all of these play a role, but that none of these are sufficient deterrents. The only real deterrent is to empower the State to kill killers, and ensure that without exception they will execute murderers swiftly and methodically. Why does this idea get so much pushback? I believe it meets so much resistance because it is frightening and deeply disturbing to face the killer in us.
I have had three life experiences that put me, face-to-face with unbridled violence. During the first summer of my freshman year of college, I was a “camp counselor” for gang members in Chicago. I was introduced to them by the camp director, and as soon as he disappeared from sight, they beat the crap out of me, one-by-one. They then introduced themselves, and we began camp activities. My feelings toward them were not charitable, nor understanding.
During grad school, I did an internship in the Federal Office Of Probation And Parole, and was assigned to work with a number of inmates scheduled for release. One is indelibly printed in my memory. He was a relatively normal appearing young man, pleasant and articulate. We chatted for a short while, and I then asked him what he was planning to do, upon his release. Without hesitation, and looking straight at me, he responded: “kill people.” “Why I asked – caus I’m good at it.” (He turned out to be a “hitman” for the Chicago Mob.) This was more than a surreal experience. It transported me to a place deep inside – scary and, at the time, impossible to integrate. When he left my office, he shook my hand and thanked me for my time. We could just as well have been talking about sports.
A number of years ago, Arleah asked me to sit in on a group she was working with, of veterans, who had seen fierce combat and sustained heavy losses. They were aware that the carnage they had participated in, had significantly impaired their ability to have meaningful relationships in their civilian lives. They were making progress in connecting their military service with their struggles in civilian life, and one person, in particular, had asked Arleah for some time in the group, to get into some memories and feelings that he knew were important. He started to talk, but was rambling about and clearly struggling. Arleah stopped him and asked him what he was feeling, right then. He started to talk, but broke down, and almost shouted – “I liked killing those bastards.” Once the floodgates were open, everyone jumped in and soon the focus was on how remorseful and guilt-stricken they were, killing people who had hunted them down, to kill them.
I have no doubt that our society will endlessly struggle with random murder, until and unless we get a handle on the shame we put ourselves through, when we feel rage and intense hatred toward senseless killers. When I’m watching the news and see a defenseless and totally helpless elderly person struck down and savagely beaten – there is no doubt, in my gut, about wishing I was there, so I could put a bullet in the scumbag’s head.
So the question remains – Why do we struggle so much to empower the State to act on our behalf? Until we all can answer that, we will be unwitting participants in a ghastly tragedy. ~ Morrie
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