Each time a new crisis unfolds on the evening news we focus on the why and the how of it, especially if it was an intentional act by a human being who supposedly had a brain and was capable of making decisions. I guess the rationale is that if we know the reason for an act of violence, and we know how the person managed to achieve his goal, we might be able to prevent another person from doing the same thing. We really are naive aren’t we? And so hopeful.
I’ve been reading and researching Caddo history for about fifteen years and one of the things I’ve learned is that people have been killing other people for a long, long time. Many of the early accounts of shootings and stabbings read like today’s news, complete with the same reasons given for today’s violent crimes- greed, lust, insanity, rage. The only thing that seems to have changed is the number of people killed at one time, and of course that is due to “improved” weaponry. We now have killers armed with weapons that can fire until the shooter gets tired.
The experts will tell you that equipped with “profiles” and patterns of behavior we might prevent some of the violence in our society. But wouldn’t that require identifying and labeling and monitoring some people? Wouldn’t that require us to have more stringent rules about buying guns? Wouldn’t we need to prevent some people with known anger issues from working for the military or government? Wouldn’t we need to lock up some people simply for the safety of others? Wouldn’t we be protesting from here to forever about our privacy and our rights if prevention truly became the focus of law enforcement?
I don’t have to wait for the analysts and psychologists and psychiatrists to tell me why people go on shooting rampages. They do it because humans are sinful, self-centered, greedy, emotional, lustful, flawed creatures who too often become so immersed in their own concerns, problems and desires that they lose sight of the needs and rights of others. It has been so since Cain and Abel and will continue to be so. To think that we can prevent any or all of it because we know “why” or “how” is to believe that we have much more power and control than we really do. The next violent person will most likely behave in a totally different way for a totally different reason.
I try to have a positive attitude about life, but at the same time I try to be realistic.
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot
The courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference.
I can try to understand other people. I can help them. I can pray for them.
But the only thing I can truly control is my own thoughts and actions and sometimes I don’t do a great job of that.