I have been rolling over the events of the last several weeks since the theater shooting occurred. Like many (I assume), I was overcome with emotion that I couldn’t completely identify. I eventually settled on the idea that because I have two young sons, that I felt anger and vulnerability that was rooted in my need to protect them as a father. That is the only thing that I can logically identify that has differentiated this tragedy from the numerous other recent ones across the nation.
The next thought immediately ran to what I could realistically do to “prevent” the next incident. That is a huge question, and somewhat narcissistic to consider.
While I harbor no illusion that I can create a total solution, I do believe that the main problems that the theater shooting exposed have, as usual, been ignored by the media. Better to immediately engage in a 2nd Amendment debate, a pointless argument over an assault weapons ban, and to figure out who to blame, as if any of those things would make a difference in the lives of the families who were affected by this travesty.
Lost in that barrage of media “analysis” was this simple thought: What allowed this young man to fall so out of the social safety net that we all need so badly? It appears that, for the most part, these murderers set on a path at some point in their young adolescence that divorces them from their peers and allows this type of eventual psychosis.
I am not suggesting that everyone who is not part of the mainstream culture is slated to ultimately perform heinous acts. In fact, I was very much a person who was not in the mainstream as a teenager. The difference, as I observe it, is that I was plugged in to the niche that I enjoyed in high school. In fact, it was the same as this shooter: comic books, role playing games, movies, etc. But, I never seemed to fall out of society completely. I had good friends, great aunts and uncles, and other people who shared my passions.
Why is any of this relevant, or is it? I don’t know for certain. My conclusion is that, at some point along the way, these individuals are cut off from others. It may be by their peers, their teachers, their lack of a strong family, or any number of other factors. At its core, though, it is isolation and a feeling of being incomparably different from the rest of the world.
I want to either begin a system that goes into the schools and helps identify and support these children, either by connecting them with others who share their interests and then foster those appropriately, or by finding groups that undoubtedly exist who already serve this purpose.
I believe that, at some point, the young man who expressed a spirited interest in alternate realities as an 18 year old could have been cultivated to be a wonderful person. Instead, somewhere along the way, he was left to adopt one of those alternate realities as the “Joker”, and destroy many lives in the process.
I’d love to get some feedback from anyone on this. This is not a post regarding what I do for a living, although there is certainly some poor decision-making going on right now with respect to litigation against the theater, etc. I don’t personally support that, but it really isn’t the point of this post.
Please respond and give me other perspectives. I want to know what I can do with my energy on this issue.
Andrew M. Newcomb