Friday, February 15, 2008

NIU Shootings: The Real Outrage

The recent shootings at NIU, in which six people died, is more than just a mere tragedy.

My condolences and prayers go to the victims' families and to the NIU community. I almost went to college there and know several graduates, so this is much too close to home.

Once again we wring our hands after yet another mad gunman walks in and shoots strangers in school for some unknown reason. Are guns too plentiful in our society? Sure. You can still buy them at gun shows and through any number of outlets. They are not hard to get -- even if you're mentally ill.

Then the usual bromides get trotted out. Video games are too violent. Movies are too violent. You can even play nasty little shoot-em-ups on your cellphone. Canada doesn't have this kind of gun violence. Neither does Japan nor England. Is it our culture? Although these crimes are still relatively rare in our population, they happen far too frequently. This is not domestic violence. It's deranged people killing at random people they don't know. We don't even have a word for this kind of violence. It goes so far beyond the bounds of rationality, most just fall back on calling it "evil." The Russians have a name for it: "soul sickness."

The bitter irony is that our top researchers are able to plot out "pleasure centers" through neuroimaging of the brain, create and prolong virility and even erase those unwanted wrinkles that start to appear after 30. We're even tinkering with creating synthetic life by reassembling DNA strands.

What's the point of all of this unless we can identify, understand and treat the homocidal impulse? Is there a trigger in the brain that allows us to murder without some form of conscience guiding us? How do we turn this switch off? How do we find the people who are most prone to do this?

Question for our theologians: At what point do we lose our soul and start taking other lives indiscriminately? For our politicians: Have we created a culture of war through the various military actions we've taken in recent years that these madmen feel justified in some way? And how about the social ecology angle: Is this violence inspired by the mass destruction of our planet? More questions than answers, of course, and it's little consolation to the families whose lives have been wrecked by these maniacs.

I know these questions are difficult. Yet they tear at the fabric of our society. The more technology advances, the more our souls remain thorough mysteries. We should stop torturing ourselves with these queries and dedicate research to finding the answers. Our collective soul depends upon it.

1 comment:

Big Mike Glab said...

Researchers have discovered that juvenile chimpanzees go on murderous raids against other chimp groups. Evidently, murder is encoded in our genes. It may be some counter-productive mutation that for some reason has remained with us. War, too, seems to be part of our nature. Until we start looking at killing as a normal part of our psychological and physiological makeup, we won't be able to understand it. We insist on viewing killing as anathema to humanity when it just may be a necessary component of our human-ness. We weren't able to truly begin to control disease until we realized that disease was a part of us, not some divine or magical occurrence. We had to accept that our bodies were hosts for microbes. Maybe now we have to accept the fact that some part of our brain is designed to drive us to kill. It's in all of us. The reason most of us haven't murdered is some weird confluence of luck, circumstance, opportunity and perhaps a tad of moral discipline thrown in.