Are these monsters a product of our violent culture? (REFLECTIONS ON NEWTOWN)

A frank, yet holistic, assessment of the recent madness that unfolded in Newtown, CT.


By Ian C. Thomas

    So, for the past many days we have witnessed an all-too-familiar script playing out. We have posts going up on Facebook that are fairly indicative and representative of the dialectic occurring nationally.

    On the TV, we have football commentators fumbling awkwardly for segues between a game based on violence, promoting the latest Tom Cruise movie with a staggering body count and brutal methods of dispatch -- all while lamenting how anyone could commit such a horrendous act as what occurred in Newtown.

    We have a president on a tearful let-this-tragedy-start-a-national-conversation tour invoking all the properly politically studied phrases for what has become an all too frequent occurrence in this country.

    While what happened in Newtown was made all the more horrific and savage by the victims being primarily children, this pattern of behavior is nothing new.

    As far as the question of sociopathic and psychotic behavior goes, there are schools of thought out there that observe and conclude that it is a function of our culture at large that not only creates such strange and savage beasts, but also rewards them with attention and earthly treasure for exercising their brutality among others.

    Just take a look high-ranking elected officials and CEOs of many Fortune 500 companies. Sociopathic manipulations and psychotic deliveries of pain and misery abound in these arenas -- and are applauded.

    The more we read about this latest killer, his family situation and demeanor in public places, I am reminded of James Holmes, the Dark Knight gunman, and many others over the span of the past couple of generations. The recurring quotes in these mass killings all strike similar tones. The comments refer to how the soon-to-be assailant seemed withdrawn, isolated, socially awkward. Yet, what no article or commentary that I have heard or seen has discussed is how these monsters are created by our own culture.

    Focusing on the perpetrator and their family alone is a dodge, a technique used in the game of blame evasion -- and it will lead us nowhere closer to learning a lesson we seem unable to grasp.

    The responsibility for this horrific event -- along with all the others that have been happening with an alarming frequency -- falls upon not just the assailant themselves, but also upon their family and close friends of the family. This sphere includes all the teachers, colleagues, casual acquaintances and neighbors who chose to look the other way, to murmur and point, snicker or just simply never notice, never listen, never say something as simple as, “Hello. How are you?” — and really mean it.

    The responsibility lies with all those who did not ask that question and wait patiently, and without judgment, for an answer to which they could respond. By most descriptions I have heard so far, the alleged assailant, Adam Lanza, sounds like  he was a lonely and frightened soul, either ostracized or, even worse, just merely ignored -- disregarded as inconsequential and therefore undeserving of attention or love by his peers. In some ways, being mocked or derided would be a preferable fate. At least one would know they’ve been seen and noticed.

    As it was, it seems he was either cast out or just cast off, left to drift on his own into the nether-regions of his mind. Our culture is one of clique-ridden exclusivity. There is little incentive, instruction or encouragement given on how to include those who don’t, or can’t, fit within the socially prescribed patterns and molds of behavior. The problem is that these are real people who are cast out or cast off...and sometimes they come back.

    We live in a culture of isolation, fear, loathing, cognitive dissonance and double standards. On a regular basis, politicians and CEO’s walk away scot-free from billion dollar debacles that cost average citizens their life savings, livings, or lives while the poor are imprisoned for petty charges with long-lasting effects and the middle class are shackled to a system of debt-driven credit slavery.

    We allow our government to persist with illogically rationalized bloodshed both inside and outside our borders that seems to benefit only the multi-national corporations’ profit margin. And, in the evening, we immerse ourselves into violence for entertainment in movies, video games and TV. When is the last time you saw a movie where the character did not resolve their issues with some sort of gunplay or ferocious fistfight?

    There is a tacit endorsement of violence in our continued election of leaders who advocate for military action with little concern for the actual reasons for or the consequences of these actions. There is a tacit endorsement of the CEO’s remorseless manipulations of other humans for their own perverse pleasure or personal gain.

     It is my belief that the alleged assailant, Adam Lanza, is the latest in a long line of maladjusted, disaffected individuals who chose to exact a terrible, savage and brutal revenge upon a culture that left them out in the cold. And, I have to wonder, is their logic so flawed? Are they not just trying to fit into the grand scheme at hand? Horrific events like these shootings over the past 30-40 years are a direct reflection of the violence we visit upon our own citizens, soldiers and the peoples of foreign lands as we engage in thinly veiled market manipulations and wars of aggression for the sake of profit for the multinational corporations that have hijacked our government.
    We’ve made monsters out of ourselves. We bring hostility and violence to the world at large while casting ourselves as both the victims and righteous victors at the same time. This is the essence of the cognitive dissonance that is driving us crazy as a people. Some just go farther than others.

    We have every right to be saddened and horrified when these shootings happen -- but we should not be surprised or shocked. These lost souls visiting violence upon the innocent are this country’s chickens coming home to roost. No law regarding weaponry or the institutionalization of our mentally ill can cure our culture. Whether they use a gun, machete or a homemade mustard gas bomb does not matter. What matters is that yet another marginal-but-at-one-time-functional individual either went or was driven mad. What matters is yet another soul went dark and was lost. And, in that terrible moment, took so many innocents with it.

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Preliator December 22, 2012 at 01:24 PM
Well liberals are working on the "Human Ban'....we all ready have state supported and legal murder of the unborn. Small steps, small steps....
Daniella Ruiz December 22, 2012 at 10:07 PM
how quickly we are immersed in a sea of shared loss, offended by the very act of murder, multiple times, and the complex social affect among the millions who know of it. the concept of not taking another's life is one of the prime rules we teach our young from the very first moment of communication, as parents fear the loss of their own and know the child will ultimately be subject to each other's learning and teachings, good or bad. so we teach them to protect other lives, as well as their own, in hopes of a future for all. as this tragedy unfolded, one did breach that rule, and suffered a similar fate. it is an unusual event, quite unusual in fact, and that alone raises our individual curiosity, as it is 'new and unique', but we never expect it 'here', so close to home, as alien as it was. we fear most, that which we do not comprehend, as it leaves us no defense, no means of escape or solution. except other than a similar direct and often similar reaction. but this was attended with additional social content, that the person responsible was 'unusual' in ways many already decry as a social imperfection, something to be 'treated, attended, solved, suppressed' or other wise rendered 'safe for social consumption'. beware the political and social devices that spring from these events, they may be less objective than they appear.
Max December 23, 2012 at 05:37 PM
Succinctly stated, mr. Cornick, and with just the right touch of (tragic) irony. One need only look to the 250 years that brings us to this point. It is one of massive, genocidal murder, of wars without end - the US has been at some level of war since the end of WW II. And of course nuclear submarines are weapons of mass destruction. I think of Robert Kennedy's remarks to a crowd upon hearing of the assassination of Martin Luther King (and don't think for a minutes that this murder is not the lineage of today's carnage): "My favorite poet was Aeschylus. And he once wrote, 'Even in our sleep, pain which cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart until, in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom through the awful grace of God.' Then Kennedy concludes: "Let us dedicate ourselves to what the Greeks wrote so many years ago: to tame the savageness of man and make gentle the life of this world."
Max December 23, 2012 at 06:32 PM
Actually I must disagree about what we "teach" our children. Children don't simply learn by what they hear/read in school or even what might be mentioned at home (not so sure that the commandment "thou shall not kill" is a regular home-based lesson). There is a culture of violence; and I don't mean movies that can actually undermine the acting out of real violence; nor do I buy the notion that mental illness is at play with these cases (let alone the thousands who die annually in the streets of our cities and towns), nor even the access to guns. The very underpinning of this society, of it's history, its birth is one of massive slayings sustained by wars and intervention to this very moment. When a Secretary of State can say the killing of 1/2 million children in Iraq due to US embargo and periodic air raids, is worth the price then you have a sense of the depth of this issue. Personally, until we get that connection we are lost.
Daniella Ruiz December 24, 2012 at 04:17 AM
points noted. i was referring to the teachings of most parents, who lovingly want their children to further the lives of others, as it is a natural drive in most creatures to sustain life, rather than deprive others. (at least within our own species) agreed on the scale of conflict and subsequent deaths, but that was/is mass killings by masses of people, a sign of (ahem) something called 'civilization'? this aberrant of behavior by single persons is without a doubt, a result of the virtual immersion in the violence we learn of 'in a flash' with our newfangled internet and tablet videos (in stark vivid colors as well!)


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