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Sunday, December 16, 2012

Feeding the Evil Newtown Wolf

The unthinkable happens again. The shock, the outrage, the public outcry -- the media bombards us with images, descriptions, and stories of yet another mass murder. And, of course, the officials begin their relentless analysis of the tragedy and continue until they uncover every speck of evidence that answers every conceivable question about the massacre except one: WHY?

As humans, we all feel responsible for understanding what motivates the actions of the species, so we are left to ponder this question until we finally find an answer sufficient to allow us to continue living with unpredictable monsters within our society. Social pressures, violent video games, unspeakable family environments, mental illnesses, psychopathic genes -- we find what seems to be the logical fit for evil, and we fulfill our need to attach a MOTIVE.

As accustomed to we are to murder, we should know better than to think any one specific motive exists. My favorite television detective, retired police lieutenant Joe Kenda of the investigative series "Homicide Hunter," was involved in 387 homicide investigations (92% solved). He claims he taught his detectives that "humans are simple" and "only three motives exist for murder: money, sex, revenge (or a combination of these)."

Yet, Kenda also understands another twisted truth. When he was nine years old, his parents took him and his brother to the Pittsburgh Zoo. While there, he saw a sign that read "Around this corner is the most dangerous animal on earth." He said he excitedly rushed around the corner to see a crowd standing in front of a mirror ceiling to floor. He was struck by that. Joe explains:

"Animals kill for need; humans kill for pleasure."

Here is a fact: we live in a murderous society. These killings are simply the worst examples. Do you need proof about the violent nature of our nation?

The United States has the highest homicide rate of any advanced democracy, nearly four times that of France and the United Kingdom. Guns are freely available. We believe in punishment. In fact, we, almost alone among the nations of the world, cling to the death penalty. Though its use is declining, since 1976 more than a thousand people have been executed. We incarcerate a larger percentage of our citizens than any nation in the world. And, for the last 70 years we have been in a state of continual war.

I would like you to read a brief biography for Dr. Gordon Livingston. I think you need to view the entire entry to appreciate the experience, the education, and the wisdom of the man.

"Gordon Livingston, M.D., was born in Memphis, TN and raised in upstate New York. He attended the U.S. Military Academy and upon graduation as an infantry officer was trained as a parachutist and an Army Ranger. He served for two years in the 82nd Airborne Division before attending medical school at Johns Hopkins from which he graduated in 1967.

"He interned at Walter Reed General Hospital before volunteering for Vietnam where he served as the Regimental Surgeon for the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment. He was awarded the Bronze Star for valor.

"He trained in adult and child psychiatry at Johns Hopkins.

"He is a parent twice bereaved and his first book, Only Spring, described the death from leukemia of his six year old son. He is the author of the bestseller, Too Soon Old, Too Late Smart, which is now in its tenth printing and has been translated into 20 languages. He also wrote And Never Stop Dancing and How to Love. His latest book, The Thing you Think You Cannot Do, (April 12, 2012) has just been published.

"He has contributed to a variety of magazines and newspapers, including the Readers Digest, the San Francisco Examiner, the Washington Post, and the Baltimore Sun. He is on the part-time faculty of the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. He is the father of four grown children and lives with his wife Clare in Columbia, MD where he continues to practice psychiatry."

(Gordon S. Livingston, M.D., "A Murderous Society's Latest Outrage: Why Are
We Surprised by Yet Another Massacre?" Psychology Today, July 22 2012)

Livingston confirms that mass murder is not a uniquely American event, but this nation’s "long love affair with guns has allowed us to perfect it." Here is what Livingston says about mass murder after the events in Aurora, Colorado:

"We will be disappointed in our search for a moral to this awful story, an answer to the pointless question of 'Why?' that will allow us 'to make sure this does not happen again.' It will happen again. All manner of hatred is abroad in the land. Listen to the current political dialogue. All any of us can do in our own lives is to maintain respect and tolerance for those who disagree with us. The madmen and fanatics who populate the outer fringes of our world retain their random ability to hurt and horrify us.

"We are all hanging by a thread. Any of us could be a victim of inexplicable violence perpetrated by someone with a festering grievance who loves death more than life. We know that the current outpouring of shock and grief and concern for the victims is a temporary phenomenon. They will be soon forgotten as we move on to contemplate other horrors.

"We have not yet figured out how to construct a peaceful society or how to disarm the angry and alienated among us. Until we do, some of them will periodically kill as many of us as they can. The remarkable thing is not that these atrocities routinely occur but how little we appear to learn from them."

(Gordon S. Livingston, M.D., "A Murderous Society's Latest Outrage: Why Are
We Surprised by Yet Another Massacre?" Psychology Today, July 22 2012)

Why Do Humans Kill for Pleasure?

Do you understand the concept of evil? Can you fully explain how evil relates to conscious and deliberate wrongdoing? Of course, many people do not believe that evil implies powers of the supernatural or the workings of Satan. Yet, these same people freely use the term to describe someone who commits crimes so morally reprehensible that they cannot apply reason for the perpetrator's actions.

What is the true nature of someone who commits deeds beyond the scope of any humanitarian pity or sympathy? I believe the mass murderer does not kill out of bad character or bad conduct, but he kills because he is evil.

Whether the cause of evil is perceived by studying religious texts, psychiatric textbooks, or neurological studies, it never satisfies the curiosity of the human mind. Demon possession, mental health disorders, brain injuries -- all are called in question. Still, pure evil -- unconscionable, dark, psychopathic behavior -- is impossible to comprehend. I think, most of us believe that human nature is intrinsically good, so all we really understand about evil is that it is the opposite of good.

The famous Russian writer, dissident and activist Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn once said, “The line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being.” The Native American parable of "Two Wolves" confirms the belief that we all have the potential to become evil:

An old Cherokee chief was teaching his grandson about life...

"A fight is going on inside me," he said to the boy.
"It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves.

"One is evil - he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, self-doubt, and ego.

"The other is good - he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith.

"This same fight is going on inside you - and inside every other person, too."

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather,
"Which wolf will win?"

The old chief simply replied,
"The one you feed."

(Author unknown, Pearls of Wisdom,

What the Research Says

Some studies call Adam Lanza, the Sandy Hook Elementary School killer, a pseudocommando. This is a mass murderer who kills in public during the daytime, plans his offense well in advance, comes prepared with a powerful arsenal of weapons, has no escape planned, and expects to be killed during the incident.

Psychiatric research SUGGESTS a pseudocommando

* Is driven by strong feelings of anger and resentment flowing from beliefs about being persecuted or grossly mistreated,
* Views himself as carrying out a highly personal agenda of payback
* Usually takes special steps to send a final communication with little detail for actual analysis to the public or news media, and
* Usually uses language that may reveal important data about his state of mind, motivation, and psychopathology.

It is argued that revenge fantasies become the last refuge for the pseudocommando's mortally wounded self-esteem and ultimately enable him to commit mass murder-suicide.

(James L. Knoll IV,  "The 'Pseudocommando' Mass Murderer: Part I, The Psychology of Revenge and Obliteration," Journal of Am Acad Psychiatry Law 38, March 2010)

From a medical view, Michael Welner, founder and Chairman of The Forensic Panel as well as an associate professor of psychiatry at New York University,  says, "There has never been a neuro-anatomical localization of mass shooting behavior."

Mos of the findings reveal the obvious. The medical research SUGGESTS
* 95 percent of mass killers are men,
* They tend to be loners,
* They feel alienated, and
* They look normal on the outside and are really, really angry inside.

(Neely Tucker, "Dark Matter: The Psychology Of Mass Murder,"
Washington Post, April 17 2007)
Mass killers use guns to kill as many people as possible. They're not looking for highs -- they're depressed, angry and humiliated. They tend to be rejected in some romantic relationship, or are sexually incompetent, are paranoid, and their resentment builds. And, they develop shooting fantasies for months or years, stockpiling dreams and ammunition.

The event that finally sets them off, Welner says, is usually anticlimactic -- an argument, a small personal loss that magnifies a sense of catastrophic failure. "But they don't 'snap,' as you so often hear people say," Welner says. "It's more like a hinge swings open, and all this anger comes out."

They plan everything about the killings, he says, except how to get away.

"It's about suicide," Welner says. "It's about tying one's masculinity to destruction."

 (M. Welner and T. Mastellon, "Defining Evil Through the Depravity
Standard and the Clinicians Inventory for the Everyday
Extreme and Outrageous (CIEEO)," Jl Social Sciences 1, 2011)

My Take

No one who can reason denies we live in a violence American society with relatively easy access to weapons. I do not argue against the right of the people to own guns for hunting and for protection. Still, I steadfastly believe our murderous society has a gun obsession. Right or wrong, we must admit that the evil Adam Lanza's among us take advantage of this Constitutional right. They have done so and they will continue to do so.

I do not know what evil is, nor do I know what causes it; however, I do believe all of us have a little "dark wolf" within us. Still, I know Adam Lanza kept feeding his ravenous evil "beast" until it took control of his life. The same can be said for other American mass murderers. I have to believe this because I do adhere to the philosophy that humans are inherently good.

I agree with Dr. Livingston:"We haven't figured out how to construct a peaceful society or how to disarm the angry and alienated among us." In the meantime, the massacres continue to occur as evil American males choose to take the lives of innocent souls, as Welner says, while "tying their masculinity to destruction."

Mass murderers kill with guns, often with assault weapons and large stashes of deadly ammunition. I see no need for society to continue to suffer at the hands of pseudocommandos who can buy these items of mass destruction for evil intent.  If I cannot satisfactorily identify the evil person before he accesses these weapons, I must, in the meantime, do my best to control the weapons at hand and to control the purchase of these firearms. The alternative is suffering more terrible, deadly consequences.

And, I understand that even with tighter control, evil men will commit mass murder. I wish to stop that too, but I think much more research must be done.  I want to stop the scale of violence first. So, in addition, I honestly believe we need to dedicate ourselves as a nation to stop taking such liberties with our attitude on violence. Nothing that contributes to violence is good. We cannot deny this.

Guns will never put an end to violence. Only love has that power. I'm not an ultra-liberal: I just know that today too many people are more than willing to embrace violent actions and raise their little wolf pups by exposing them to everything that influences evil "wolves." Anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, self-doubt, and ego are overwhelming us. We must change or become savages.

Lieutenant Kenda did a lot of public speaking when he was working. He was often asked about the police department's position on gun control. His standard reply was: "The department doesn't have a position -- we enforce the law as it's written."

But during his public appearances, Kenda claims (and, these are his words) "some gun freak" would ask for his "personal opinion." Here Lieutenant Kenda gives his answer:

"So I said, ‘Picture yourself at Mile High [Stadium] in Denver during a Bronco game. You’re on the 50-yard line at halftime. You are surrounded by 74,000 emotional drunks. Behind you on a table are 74,000 guns. Would you give one to everybody there? Or would you try to be selective on who you gave one to?’

Then the crowd would laugh, and the guy who asked the question would sit down. Kenda continued...

"Nobody needs a gun. They all need a brain — but they don’t need a gun. We shouldn’t even let people drive, let alone people have guns. But they have cars, and they drive. But not guns — this society doesn’t need guns. But it’s too late. There are 150 million guns in private hands. I can’t tell you how many times I have investigated a death in a private home caused by a gun that was purchased to protect that same person — who is now dead from that gun, by accident; by suicide or by murder. So how did that purchase work out? Not very well."

I hope we can stop even one of those weapons of mass destruction from winding up in the hands of another evil individual. I pray we can learn from the latest atrocity. And, may God bless the souls of each Sandy Hook victim, their families, and their friends. Please, Father, keep them from further evil.

"Social justice cannot be attained by violence.
Violence kills what it intends to create."

-Pope John Paul II
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