March 13, 2009

They kill because YOU leave them no choice

We'll Never Know Why They Kill, by Bob Greene
Loners, Losers, -- and Killers, by James Alan Fox
Culture and Crime, by me!

In the article above, James Alan Fox has this to say:

First, the perpetrators tend to have experienced a long history of frustration and failure, resulting in a diminished ability to cope with life's disappointments. Second, they typically externalize blame, frequently complaining that others didn't give them a decent chance. Without this, their destructiveness would instead be directed inward.

In addition, these killers generally lack emotional support from friends or family. They are loners as well as losers. Lacking this support system and reality check, they come to perceive some precipitating event as being absolutely catastrophic.

I recently completed the application procedure for Ashland Theological Seminary. I am 47 years old and my life has been about as far from "normal" as one can get and still stay out of jail. When I was nineteen I was living in Denver, Colorado and attending Denver Automotive and Diesel College. As fate would have it, for about eight months of my stay in Denver I wound up living three blocks from the most profitable prostitution strip in the entire city, the corner of Colfax and Broadway. One of the girls lived in my apartment building, just two doors down from me.

Let me say this as clearly and plainly as I can, I have never paid for sex and I never will! When push comes to shove, I'm paranoid. Sex with prostitutes, even when using a condom, ranks right up there with being in the first rifle squad on the beach on D-Day or in the lead platoon charging up San Juan hill. There are too many really nasty STDs floating around and some of them treat the "impenetrable" surface of a Trojan condom like a Sunday picnic.

Nonetheless, those women were (and still are!) real people with real needs, both material and spiritual. Since I lived down the hall from one, and had to walk past her every time I went to dinner at the local Whitespot restaurant, she knew me on sight and sometimes we would exchange pleasantries. It went beyond small-talk the first time she asked to borrow some ordinary commodity, I don't remember just what, probably butter or sugar or something like that. (She was overly fond of hashish enhanced brownies; and no, I never tried one.) A few hours later she brought a bleeding friend to my door and asked me to drive them to the county hospital, so I did. That led to me becoming more and more involved with she and her friends until it seemed like every other day I was driving them to the hospital, picking them up when a john abandoned them halfway across town, cooking for them when they were sick, and countless other mundane tasks that made their lives just a tiny bit easier. Naturally, I also spent time reading the Bible to them and talking to them about Jesus, but the foundation of my relationship with the "girls of Broadway" was ministering to more worldly needs than spiritual ones.

I never received a single penny in compensation, and my "ministry" was never officially recognized by any local church. Not even when I went around to several churches begging for blankets and winter coats. All in all it was not the kind of thing you write home about, but it was a very real part of my life.

So one of the things I have to do to apply for Ashland is write an essay about a "ministry" I have been directly involved in. Naive and trusting as I am, I wrote about the girls of Broadway. They also asked me to write an essay about "the darkest moment of your life and how Christ helped you through it", so I wrote about the time I saved another street girl (not a prostitute, just a girl who needed help) from a potential rapist and in the ensuing struggle, the rapist wound up dead.

I suppose, on one level, my youth is the stuff Hollywood movies are made of. I promise you this, there was nothing glamorous about it. I did what I had to do to meet the needs of people who were suffering. Nothing more.

Ashland Theological Seminary seems to have been unimpressed. They wrote me back saying, "we are unable to meet your needs at this time." Now just what the blazes is that supposed to mean? My wife thinks I was too honest in my essays and it threw the admissions committee for a loop. The more I think on it, and the more Ashland refuses to explain themselves realistically, the more I think she might be right.

What do the girls of Broadway have to do with the mass killings that have filled the headlines with such shocking regularity over the past few years? It's simple really, I could easily be one of those mass murderers! The real question is not, "Why do they go on killing sprees?" No, the real question is, "What stops me from doing the same?"

Those two men, one in Germany and one in Alabama, were victims of a society that has become brutally competitive. I'm a firm believer in hard work, but far too often hard work in today's world produces no reward whatsoever. The Alabama killer wanted to be a Marine. When that didn't work out, he tried to be a cop. Here was a man heart-set on helping people and defending the principles that have made our nation great but he was rejected at every turn. Someone, somewhere probably labeled him "emotionally unstable" on the basis of a pointless paper test with hundreds upon hundreds of contradictory questions that somehow magically produce a number which, when compared to a scale, determines how sane you are. Or maybe he was just too sullen for the slap-happy, narcotically deluded optimists who always seem to wind up in leadership positions in both the military and law enforcement. If the leaders are not slap-happy, they are often dark, sullen men in their own right who manage to keep their own insanity in check just long enough to become heroes. Neither group would be fond of a "loser and a loner" who found his way into their midst.

Now, of course, lots of you will comment that "obviously" the evaluators where right! After all, "just look what he wound up doing!"

That attitude will not help the next Harris, Klebold, Cho, McLendon, or Kretschmer make the leap from "distraught beyond recovery" to "madly sailing along without actually hurting anyone".

Continual rejection by "normal" people only insures that the rejected will eventually reach the point of lashing out. There are two reasons why I wound up different: my time in the military and my faith in Christ.

While I was in the military I had the misfortune to fall under the command of a Colonel named Texiera. He was old-school as old-school can get and believed every soldier was first and foremost a grunt. Those of us with additional training and responsibilities might be talented grunts, but we were still just grunts. Forced road marches, weekly visits to the rifle range, exposure to our enemy's weapons of choice every 180 days, and twice monthly infantry drills (sometimes bayonet practice, sometimes squad-level tactics, etc.). First and foremost we were soldiers and he saw to it that we learned what it meant to be a soldier.

When he first took over this did not set well with me at all. After enduring our grumbling for a few months, he gathered up me and half a dozen other stubborn rejectors of his "infantryman first" doctrine and set us on a ten-mile forced march in full bio-gear with fully loaded packs. We even had to wear our gas masks the entire time. Have you ever tried to jog ten miles in a gas mask? Let alone while wearing clothes specifically designed to insulate against every known biological, chemical, and radiological hazard a person is likely to encounter on a modern battlefield. Oh, and don't forget the backpack. Since I was a Forward Observer, I got to carry the radio, giving me about 15 pounds of extra burden above and beyond what everyone else was carrying. Oh, did I mention this was in Hawaii in July?

And, least I forget, we had an MP escort to guide traffic around us.

On mile five I collapsed and refused to get back up again. This was beyond inhumane and I was not going to stand for it. He called over the MP and the MP read for me line for line from the regulations why this "punishment" was not only "humane", it was well within Army training guidelines. Colonel Texiera made it very simple, I could complete the march or be escorted to jail. My choice.

I completed the march. Not only did I complete it, I completed it five or ten steps ahead of everyone else.

After that Col. "T" sort of adopted me. He would beam with pleasure every time he saw me. (Also worth mentioning, a few months later my wife called him directly to demand to know why we had to work on a Sunday he had promised the wives and families would be an off-day. He gave the whole battalion two days off the following week. Then he called her and asked her if that was satisfactory.)

What separates me from those who kill? When I was down as low as I could go, someone gave me a simple choice. By giving me the choice, by putting the power of my future directly into my hands, they taught me that no matter how bad it got, I was always in charge of my life. No one took the time to help Harris, Klebold, Cho, McLendon, Kretschmer, or any of the other mass murders we have seen. No one stepped back and let them choose the direction their life would go. They were never given the choice to become something other than "losers and loners". Instead, they were continually marginalized, rejected, ridiculed, humiliated, and cast aside. If they complained about their ill-treatment, everyone around them said, "Get over it, already!"

Well, they got over it the only way they could, by killing themselves and carrying an honor guard to hell right alongside them!

Their actions are reprehensible. Absolutely. But those actions are not impossible to understand. We create these monsters by continuously ridiculing them and "keeping them in their place". No one ever takes the time to say, "Look, you can lay there in your self-pity or you can get back on your feet and try again. If you try again, I'll help you to the best of my ability, but as long as you lay there, there's nothing I can do."

And when they climb back up to their feet, help them! Take the time to encourage them without patronizing them. Patronizing someone, which means talking down to them because you know they are beneath you, is even worse than outright rejection. Don't reject them. Don't patronize them. Remind them that their life is the product of their choices. Then respect whatever choice they make, even if you don't agree with it.

The best way to prevent mass killings is to help people get back on their feet instead of putting your knee on their back and telling them they deserve to lie in the dirt. The more you lean on them, the angrier they will become, until finally one day they bring the fight to you in a way you never expected a "loser" to achieve.