I Wish I could Say I Was Surprised…

I can’t tell you how much I’d rather be out making images and writing about them… but sometimes the world gets in the way.

While still reeling from Gilroy then El Paso, we got Dayton.  I am not surprised though I am profoundly saddened by it because, to me, it reveals a total breakdown in the cultural morals, ethics, and values that I’ve been writing about for years.  And still, idiots rush to politicize the incident(s) and sometimes by giving the despicable killer precisely what they wanted: exposure and in a truly perverse way, a score card to show their achievements.  Committing mass murder has always been about body count with the murderers believing the more they can kill the more they will become famous.  They study the web for data on previous killers to learn from their mistakes and hope to better their score.  And you cretins giving them that broader exposure are doing far more to facilitate more such incidences than any stretched connection between the words of some stupid politician.

Achievements?  Have you been so hung up on one issue solutions you’ve failed to see what was in front of you?  Yes, Achievements.  Whether it is a younger school shooter or an older mass shooter, there may be all sorts of rationales thrown up on their screeds to explain and promote their actions to their simple minded social media followers, but the bottom line is they are all driven by the same level of percolating, sub-surface rage flowing from a sense of rejection, abandonment, and disrespect that started in childhood and has never been dealt with by the actual adults in their lives, much less by the people who they have looked to for solution, their parents.  And so it builds and builds… and builds.

Finally, wound tighter than a drum, some emotional critical mass has been reached just waiting for the trigger of some acceptable pretext in their own warped perspective to ignite it.  But those “causes” jumped on by the press and by political partisans are just pretexts. I understand why you partisans would jump on those because they advance your agenda.  But they are not helpful and simply are distracting us from real issues.

What the killer wanted and achieved was attention (which the press and social media morons gave to him) through which, among those of his “friends,” he achieved some immortality with his score of bodies.  But any ideological aspect was simply a pretext to allow him to finally visit his revenge and reckoning on the world at large.  IF the shooter is drawn to a given hate-filled rhetoric it is because the rage was already there and he was simply looking for reinforcement from like minded morons.

Don’t think so?  The air is filled with the pundits’ blind certainty that the El Paso shooter was fueled by white nationalism and the rage at the “invaders” of other races victimizing the poor “real” Americans.  After all, that was what he wrote, wasn’t it? Isn’t that what his literary mentor, Ragnar Redbeard, told him?  Isn’t that what the histrionic partisans would have you believe Trump told him?

But who did he kill?

Did he select and murder just those he saw as Hispanic-looking sub-human invaders? If he actually believed what he read and wrote, or even if he was truly motivated by the hated Demon in Chief  and was in anyway doing good work for the country, he would have done his best to cut down the numbers of those identifiable invaders but spared the victims of that invasion.  But that’s not what he did.  No, instead he killed or tried to kill any and everyone he came across.  The truth is the screed is a smokescreen.  He just wanted to kill, period.

The published rant of the El Paso killer was to try to explain, perhaps even to himself, why he was driven internally to do strike out and kill and also to get him noticed by the other killers on social media.  But it was, and is, no more than a cover story happily slurped up by those whose political agenda is served by it.  It is far from the whole or even real story.

The Dayton killer murdered his own sister in the process of his uncontrolled rage and rampage. And he did it in a hot tourist spot that was not even predictably filled with logical targets of any ideological war. His screed was from a different perspective promoting socialism and “the squad” but in the end it too was simply a smokescreen.   He just wanted to kill and needed an excuse.  Finding the solutions to that is a very different effort than trying to stop truly dedicated ideologues killing targeted enemies for their honest faiths.  Theology is a lot more powerful than ideology, but both are trumped by psychology and hate.

And the next one, and oh yes you can be sure there will be a next one, will be just the same.  Because while you are arguing over how to limit the chosen tools not a single effort is being made to examine and address the root causes of what turns some of humans into wanton depraved killers while the vast majority of citizens, many of whom are far better armed, trained, and better able to wreak havoc if they chose to, in fact do NOT chose to.  Their access to weapons, their skill with them, their awareness of global and domestic events, their struggles in life on all levels from emotional to economic are no less stressful.  But they are not out there killing people wholesale in mass killings.

The self-credited brilliant sociological minds posting on FB make much of the concept that these shooters are all white males and then, in the next post tell us how horrible the conditions are for the minorities in this country… and never see the connection.  For purposes of this post lets stipulate to that.  Let’s accept that minorities are the ones with the real grievances and especially against their white oppressors.  We also know that there is a high percentage of weapon ownership in those communities.  So why have they not fielded competition in the sport of mass killing if that was the real cause.  They may fight back over particular events rightly or wrongly but they do not typically go collect massive firepower and assault some bastion of so-called “white privilege” to rack up a high score.

They certainly have those from their community saying no less by way of encouragement to violence than Trump has ever done.  Farrakhan, Omar, Wright, and Sharpton, the sleazy holder of the Tawana Brawley award for astonishing hypocrisy, have all said the problem is white males and hinted or openly asserted that the world would be better without them.  And yet, where are the minority communities’ entrants into the contest for who can be the most cowardly, disgusting human being devoted to death or those, in their own minds, out to persecute them? OR where is the righteous warrior riding out a la Don Quixote, to tackle the windmill giants of oppression?  I’ve looked and I’m not seeing them.  So maybe there is a different cause…  After all if even your mother told you to jump off a cliff would you do it?  I’ll bet not.

Perhaps for another time, this does raise some very interesting points about why have the minority communities seemed to have held on to some of those values and morals better than the majority community but that is not the point here.  The point here is dealing with what we have unfolding before us: another and another and another individual who went over the top on a killing spree.  After the last blog post, in an FB post where I asserted the poster(s) were all wanting a one size fits all answer because that fit their narrative from a political ideology, I was asked, basically, “Oh yeah, what would YOU (Mr. Smarty pants) suggest we do?

I assume they thought I had another simple answer just a different one.  But I don’t because I do not think one exists. There are multiple parts to this complex issue, and, worse yet, multiple issues within the multiple parts. There are many answers and all of them will need to be addressed in a unified approach if we are to succeed.

But if we do not, as a culture and society, seriously address them ALL, if we only continue to bicker about whose approach is the right one, as if there were actually A RIGHT ONE, this carnage will simply continue.

As an example let me pass on an interesting anecdote on point.  England has one of the toughest gun restrictions that side of Chicago.  But unlike Chicago, there is no easy place to get guns and import them.  So what to do when you want to kill people?  Easy.  Use a different weapon, in this case, knives.  You’ll not see the American media talking about it since it does not fit their agenda, but Parliament has been sufficiently concerned to discuss various types of knife bans.  Unfortunately since virtually every description of a knife used in both domestic and public attacks also fits more banal kitchen utensils, a workable and enforceable law has been elusive.  If  you honestly believe that someone whose inner rage has reached the point of killing will be dissuaded by not having the easy weapon to do it readily available, you are delusional or perhaps from another universe.  Humans grew adept at killing each other long before there were any firearms.

But lets get back to the topic of finding solutions for us.  Broadly speaking we have the following areas of inquiry to search for answers (there may be more but these are ones I thought of off the top of my head):

  1. The Beginning.  How are these shooters created?  Are they just born with an evil gene or are they created and formed?  This is perhaps the most important inquiry since if we can stop them at the beginning, there is no point in going further because there would be no place to go.
  2. Before the Event. This is what is referred to as “pre-incident” and is a two part issue…
    1. What can a potential victim, which is to say all of us, do to avoid the event by recognizing and then acting on the pre-incident indicators? And,
    2. What can be done to “harden” typical target locations such as schools, government buildings, places of worship, malls and even private businesses, and now parks and open air event locations, etc. (You do realize, do you not, this now includes basically EVERYWHERE?)
  3. Surviving the Event. The shooting has started… now what? You hear gunshots close by where there should not be any gunshots.  And they are getting closer.  What can you do to give yourself better odds of being a survivor.

Regarding Issue one, I covered my views on the genesis of these killer in my book, “Making Schools Safer” as the conclusions to its discussion of school shooters.  But aren’t those school shooters different from these mass shooters?  For the most and most important parts I think they are different only in age but I think the derivation of their psyche’s and undercurrent of rage are exactly the same and initially set in motion by the same group… parents.  If you don’t believe it get and read the book then let me know if you still don’t see it.

However this is a huge area packed with individual issues to deal with that may seem unrelated.  Many of you know I’m a huge fan of “Complexity Theory” and as such am inclined to look for and see the connections between those points in the larger system.  Here are just some of them that I think have an impact on the creation of the shooters and need cultural and societal attention.

However before I list them, let me be clear, I don’t think any ONE of them accounts for any of the shootings, nor are they all in play all the time.  Just as if Guns were the definitive cause since we are awash in guns this would be a lot worse.  If video games were the only element it would be a lot worse.  But I believe in greater or lesser degrees, all of these things play into the mix of influences and need to be looked at.

  • Parenting This is THE one that I believe is an issue of far greater importance and far more commonly found in all of the shootings.  But parenting methods are the result of both philosophy and economics so even here this is not as simple as it might appear.  I personally think it significant that with a single exception mass killers are male, and that a recent study revealed that 26 of the 27 recent killers of 8 or more people, were, in the words of the study, “dad deprived.”  That doesn’t just mean that there is no father, it also covers situation where the father seems to take no interest in the child or what they are doing.  Remember the song, “Cat’s in the Cradle?”  Think it was only a song?  Bottom line is that boys who are hurt and angry are the ones most likely to hurt us.  When a kid feels abandoned, even if that makes no sense to the adult minds around them, some of them will go on an occasionally deadly campaign to get that attention.
    Does that mean that not having a father is a guarantee of creating a mass killer?  Of course not, that’s just stupid.  But it is an influence prevalent in killers and has to be added to the mix of potential influences.
  • Entertainment media that promotes the idea to formative minds that violence is an acceptable solution to problems
  • Video Gaming that, as military use indicates, is good at desensitizing our natural inhibitions against killing other humans.  The industry argues there is no direct causal link demonstrated but that’s not the point.  Causing some one to do something is not the same as desensitizing them so that when they do succumb to the urge to kill it is easier.
  • News media and social media that consistently gives these shooters precisely what they want: exposure and attention
  • Social media and the culture of anonymous/semi-anonymous ad hominem attacks on those who look and think differently basically fueling the pretext collection for the killers.
  • The political environment of unvarnished hate for those who think differently. The rhetoric from all sides successfully blocks any indications of any side being willing to really work with the other and that means that not only is the running of the country paralyzed but to our point, it increases the acceptance of hatred especially when it appears to come from the top whether that is accurate or not.  Remember (for those who read the book) the logical adult/parent’s perspective is meaningless, what counts is what do formative youth “hear” and especially what do those just looking for a pretext to act hear?
  • Weapons availability. I’m including this as a discussion point though I personally think it is a bogus point given the ocean of weapons out there and the relatively rare (historically speaking) incidents of mass shooting compared to the ability to do it.  Nevertheless, to me this issue is worthwhile as a “trade goods” issue.  I do not think guns are the problem.
    However, I understand the fear behind those who know little about them except what overwrought folks tell them yet also see no logical reason behind the obsession with scary looking guns either to own one or to ban them.  What I do know is that fear trumps logic and when fear drives legislation than all hope for sanity for law abiding gun owners will be lost so it is in our vested interest to do something to get things moving.
    Hunting and self defense has been successfully practiced for a very long time with far less scary looking gun for those frightened of guns per se.  Nevertheless I do not ever recall hearing of a home invasion carried out by a platoon of 20 or so miscreants, nor a mugging by 100 or so muggers.  Unlike police actions where hundreds of rounds may be fired, most missing the target, in actual reports of personal or home defense the situation is resolved either no shots fired or no more than 3 or 4.   For myself, a long time shooter, my own selection for home defense would not be a rifle of any configuration and though from near childhood I’ve hunted small, medium, and large game I’ve never needed more than 2 shots to bring home the meat.  So if – IF – I could be convinced that a ban on scary looking guns was not simply a foundational step on the so-called “slippery slope” to total gun bans, I’d put them on the table and say to the politicians on the other side, OK, here’s your bone, now lets see if you can deal in good faith on other issues.
    I’ve also written about my being in favor of a federal CCW program that licensed everyone to own and carry a gun following specified training and testing.  The Federal database would then be incredibly easy to query when data was needed.  Since very often illegally procured guns are used I think background checks are overrated (by the way I’ve purchased several guns over the years at gun shows and every time had to wait for a background check ) but if they could actually demonstrate efficacy in finding and stopping the occasional problem, then great.
    But we all know that a dedicated bad guy will get a gun somehow and skirt the law. And the real problem is the coordination of systems locale to locale, store to city to state to feds.  Without that cooperation and interconnection it serves no purpose to gather data one place that is unavailable to another.  And we would need standardized definitions of the condition needed to refuse the purchase.  Good luck with that one.
    One last thing, there was one “good guy with a gun” who violated the mall’s gun free policy to go in several times and rescue kids and carry them to safety.  And for the record he was African-American.  Of course the media is pretty quiet about him too since that REALLY does not fit the narrative.
  • Red Flag Laws. These sound great and in principle could be of real value. The perfect complement to put some meaning and teeth into the “See Something, Say Something” efforts.  But before I’d back a specific law I’d want to read it all to make sure all due process was in place to protect the innocent in an age when we seem, politically, have transformed into a “guilt by accusation” mode.  When we can act on the basis of what someone might have done then we have fundamentally altered the basis for our legally and naturally given rights.  I think that needs to be addressed but with great care.  I also believe these laws need to be absolutely “clean” with no riders attached to them to force a vote one way or another.
  • Mental Health Issues.  Lots of controversy here and it does make an easy scapegoat.  Mental health experts insist the connection is vague at best.  The recent Secret Service report on Mass Killings, noted that very few of the perpetrators had a current mental issue that would have been treatable or at a level to require confinement.  However, and it is a big “however,” that report  noted that nearly all of them had past mental issues and had suffered from symptoms such as depression, paranoia, etc. that had warranted observation and or treatment or medication though not all of them have availed themselves of the help.
    To add “sport” to it various jurisdictions have very different criteria for mental issues sufficient to prohibit firearms purchase.  Those need to be standardized and, much as I hate saying it, may be one of those areas needing Federal oversight.

Regarding issue number 2b, I’ve already talked about it at length in my book noted above.  In fact that book also got into the weeds on ideas being floated for “hardening” schools in various way as well as the issue of arming teachers.  As I wrote in the book and in the last blog post, I’m not a huge fan of that, but in fairness I have to admit I learned after my book was finished that in the aftermath of the Florida school shooting (which had been the catalyst for me to write the book in the first place), a major review panel consisting largely of parents of victims and survivors plus law enforcement and security experts and counselors was convened and one of the primary recommendations from their report to the governor was to train and arm teachers who were willing to do it.

Issue 3, as noted both in the book and in my last blog entry, is covered well by specialists providing approved and licensed A.L.I.C.E. and RHF training to businesses and schools.  My own school, City College, offered the A.L.I.C.E. training to faculty.  I attended and thought is was very, very informative.  Personally I think there ought to be follow ups to keep faculty up to date and practiced so when it happens they will know almost automatically what to do. I’d love to see some “advanced” classes offered that extended beyond the school facilities out into the real world.

It is issue 2b that needs a lot more training and awareness by the public in general but specifically by education and business leaders and managers to be disseminated down among students and employees.  How do we re-awaken our natural intuitions to not just see but mentally react to pre-incident indicators that something is wrong and needs to be addressed. As I said in the last post, these killers work up to this and always, always leave a trail littered with “red flags.”

When I was a kid and my uncle was teaching me to track, what I learned was that only rarely could you follow footprints until you found one with a foot still in it.  Most of the time you were on your hands and knees looking for something out of place, something unusual.  But that meant you had to learn what actually was right in the first place.

When I was in spook school the instructor gave us a metaphor based on the then popular jigsaw puzzles.  Those were killer puzzles of a gazillion pieces and an image that was an abstract painting of subtle hue changes of a basic color.  He told us to image such a puzzle that the box top showed was all blue hues but when you dumped out the pieces, there was one pink one in the pile.  What was amazing was that he had a special puzzle like that made up and when he dumped out the pieces a large number of students did not see the pink one.  Some of you have seen the video of a basketball game in which a gorilla walks through the scene and almost no one sees it… or other events. If not click on the link to see it.

In our cases in the military seeing those pink pieces had a life or death connotation to them so we were motivated to look for them, but most people go through life and never “see” them or the gorilla walking by or the broken branches or the tipped over rock… or the gun under a jacket or the heavy trench coat on a hot day.  In fact we DO see those things we just refuse to accept them through our brain’s filtering process. Sherlock Holmes said that we, “…look but do not see.” No?  Do this little experiment from YouTube.

I hate it; a civilized society ought not to ever have to learn those things.  But if I had kids I’d be training them now to see those pink pieces.  I’d be talking about it to friends and workshop participants, people I would not like to hear were victims of the next shooter.  If I were a CEO or Chancellor or President I’d be looking into inviting an expert like Gavin De Becker in to talk about it.  Bottom line, evil is always arrogant and assumes a position of self righteousness and often being smarter and better than others who deserve to be treated poorly.  And because of that it leaves very visible tracks as it moves.  We’ve got to learn to see them and act on them.

But… since we are not addressing the items in the bullet list above, there most certainly will be a next shooter.  Will you be ready? Probably not because you’ll be having too much fun blaming personalities on the other side of the political spectrum for inciting this.  What could be more divisive than that? Because when you accuse the politician you also accuse their followers and then you haven’t just created a one-person divide or one enemy, you’ve created many.

Sorry, that’s just dumb.

 

 

About ndking

Commercial Photographer and Professor of Photography at San Diego City College
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