Church Massacre After Massacre After Burning: Learn the Hard Lessons

Last edited on November 9th, 2017

After a homicidal and/or suicidal person kills and dies, people ask, "Why??? Why did they do it???" As it turns out, dead people don't speak; so, we oftentimes don't get a clear answer. Other times the person left strong hints as to their reasoning. But, even in cases where either question -- "Why suicide???" or "Why homicide???" -- is left largely unanswered, it would seem that the killer may have tried to talk with people about things that these others just didn't want to discuss. This may have left the homicidal and/or suicidal person with the strong impression that death to others and/or themselves was the only way to communicate their concerns. (I can definitely relate to that concern.)

Now, let's imagine that, instead of asking "Why???" after the deadly incident, all people were to open themselves up to any and all topics of conversation -- even the uncomfortable ones beforehand. Then, instead of asking why senseless deaths occurred, we'd be asking the would-be killer what's pushing them toward the brink and we'd be more able to pull them back from the brink. That is, if once we've heard their concerns, we don't dismiss them as petty or crazy.

The issue then becomes that people don't want to have the hard conversations as a way of keeping from unleashing the monster. They don't want the would-be aggressor to feel that holding a threat over people's heads was what got these people to listen. That seems too much like rewarding wrongdoing -- even if it's a wrongdoing that hasn't yet been carried out and which might not be carried out now that the desired conversation has taken place. So, brace yourself for the next mass shooting, as your own feelings might prevent you from having a preventive conversation.

The good news here is that you can make it a point to hear anyone out without them having to threaten homicide or suicide first. Just make it standard fare and par for the course of life. When you prove not to be receptive to a topic, only to change your mind once a threat is made, you will have created the circumstances that make the killer-to-be feel as though violence or a threat thereof is the only way to make his point or at least to open the door so that he can make his point. Even though you would have now decided to hear them out, it would be too late to convince them that violence and threats aren't necessary. It's also too late when someone is on the radar of any policing agency; as, this means that the person has begun to manifest signs of terroristic thinking that may have been seething for years, those thoughts being unwittingly reinforced and validated by the failures of others around this person to proactively reach out to them and show them love. So, just get in the habit of talking with anyone about anything. Problem solved. Maybe.

Let's take it a step further. The would-be killer doesn't want to disclose their intentions; as, they might be jailed or placed in a psyche ward. So, if they're as smart as Steve Paddock, they're more likely to test the waters of conversation by raising what may be very legitimate and understandable concerns -- the concerns which are so important to them that they are willing to kill and die if those matters are not discussed. Then, when these concerns that were raised in a civil manner sans threats are not entertained by others, the homicidal genius is likely to quiet down and just carry out the carnage. More sadly than that, the people to whom the killer tried to express his concerns will be among those asking "Why???" or among the dead -- needlessly, after having missed a golden opportunity to just treat the would-be-killer like a person. You never know how many lives you might be saving just by entertaining the topics that a person of a different stripe chooses to discuss. What's better is that you don't even need to know. If you follow that simple rule, there's no need to distinguish between those who were on the verge of killing themselves and/or others before you heard them out -- thereby averting tragedy -- and those who lacked any such tendency.

If that logic doesn't work for you, then the logic of war might. (After all, we've yet to win the War on Terror which we're 16 years into at this point.) Simply bear in mind what may be the wisest bit of advice ever used by a warrior: "Know thy enemy". (Taking steps to get to know thy enemy is a prerequisite to "loving thy enemy", as Jesus commanded you to do.) It's also been said that you should "keep your friends close and your enemies closer". Either adage lends itself to the notion that you should talk to those whom you don't like, don't understand or altogether disagree with. And, if "ignorance breeds fear", then by getting to know your enemy (the would-be-killer), you lessen your reasons to fear him. But, as the Northeast United States has learned during its 10 years thus far fighting the "War on Bedbugs", eradication of these little enemies in just one room of the house doesn't prevent the critters from migrating from other rooms into the one that was freed of the pests. In like manner, getting to know "the enemy among us" must be done in blanket form as a nationwide (or even a worldwide) effort. Can we, as a nation, ever get there???
Of course, at least in the case of suicide, it's easier for people to say what they "would have done" for the "suicide victim" AFTER the person is deceased than it is to "actually do" any of those things BEFORE the person dies.
(Should'a, would'a and could'a ain't ne'er done nuttin' gooda.)

Devon Patrick Kelley is one of those who left a trail of answers before his killing spree. It's almost certain that this man who had a troubled and violent past wanted to kill his mother-in-law who wasn't even present at the church when he killed 26 others (and left the possibility that some of the 20 wounded might die soon too -- and too soon). Though there were reasons as to why he should not have been allowed to purchase one gun, let alone four, I'm not inclined to believe that expressing a willingness to hear him out would have done anymore to avert the tragedy of Sutherland Springs, TX on November 5th, 2017 than what might have already been done. Dylan Roof was a staunch racist who, given that fact alone, likely lacked any strong sense of reason. So, talking to him might not have convinced him that killing nine Black parishioners at a South Carolina church was the wrong thing to do. Patrick Lee Frank was a mentally ill homeless man when he was charged with burning 16 of the 50 churches that were burned in North Florida in 1990 and 91 (when I lived in Gainesville, FL). He was also charged with four church fires in Tennessee. He too might have been beyond reason. (If he DID set even 20 church fires, let alone 54 before being caught, that speaks volumes to his intelligence and/or the ineptitude of our policing agencies -- the ones you count on to protect you and to prevent the next act of domestic terror.) It would seem that I just killed my own argument -- after making it so well and convincingly, if I should say so myself. I would argue that I actually haven't.

It stands to reason that immediately prior to any of the aforementioned instances, the perpetrator's thinking had reached the point of no return. I'll grant that much. However, had people of good conscience who were in the lives of any of these killers or the arsonist been in the habit of discussing anything and everything, even the hard topics.....err especially the hard topics, then there's a good chance that all but the arsonist would have developed much different thinking. It would have to have been a life-long effort that was masked in the guise of just hearing anyone out -- not a therapeutic session designed to treat the special issues of a disturbed person. I can't over-emphasize the importance of our society developing this habit.

Though I don't have any manifest homicidal tendencies, I personally have been bothered by the things that people won't talk about and by how they only make token efforts to discuss hard topics -- often mentioning some weak logic which is clearly intended to be more of a conversation stopper than a full-on conversation and which gives them the space to say that they "talked about it", how ever briefly that may have been. I often wonder if the unlikeliness of me committing such a horrific act as a mass shooting is, in fact, the main reason that I am unable to force certain topics. Then I remind myself of the tragedies that have occurred quite possibly because someone couldn't be heard. Then I conclude that, even with the lingering threat of yet another mass shooting, people aren't very likely to have the hard conversations; but rather, they're likely to mourn the next tragedy and to ask a question that could have been answered by the shooter, if only he were still alive. People value emotion after the fact over solutions and prevention. I understand. Prevention just gets in the way and takes so much effort -- yea, even a "labor of love".

There is evidence that the 64-year old Las Vegas shooter came from a broken childhood home and coped with it by becoming an introvert -- and going on a rampage a full 46 years after that troubled childhood ended. There may have been a lot of missed opportunities to have the hard but important conversations that might have pulled him back from the brink. (And it shouldn't have taken him seeing a shrink.)

There is evidence that suggests that the Texas shooter was a recent convert to Islam. I recall a news piece from about 20 years ago that said that many men were converting from Christianity to Islam because they felt that Islam had more of the answers to life's hardest questions. That may offer a way to segway into conversation with someone who seems to be on the path to radicalization. More recent studies have suggested that young people get radicalized by a desire to belong to something -- a conclusion which is strikingly similar to the reason I heard stated some 30 years ago as to why many young people were joining gangs. (I'm guessing that these youngsters who want something to belong to don't themselves belong to functional families or youth groups.) One distinct difference is that, in the case of gangs, it's the young gang leaders who are giving other young people "something to belong to" -- even if they must get "jumped in". These young gang leaders are showing some ability to lead, despite the delinquency of the organization. The blind are leading the blind; but, at least they're leading. Wanting to belong to something is a very legitimate and normal desire. It's the few who demonstrate an ability to create something for others to belong to who are the abnormal ones -- and the complement to that desire (the ying for that yang).

 While there might not be an easy way to deal with someone after they've become radicalized, dealing with an introvert might be as simple as letting them know that their thoughts are important and insisting that those thoughts be shared -- whatever they are.....whatever. If you know someone who's an introvert, you might want to try out my theory, especially if they weren't always an introvert. Shutting down might be a response to the sense that their formerly expressed thoughts aren't important to anyone else in their circles. 

This post has already gotten lengthy and I don't want to give the impression that there is a finite list of concerns that you should be ready to discuss -- both reasons for me only giving a couple of examples of things that are important for me to be able to discuss. You must be ready to discuss anything; and, "anything" is not finite. It's infinite.

As a life-long churchgoer, I still find it hard to get my fellow congregants to have LOGICAL conversation about the grim realities set forth in the Bible. They are dismissive of scriptures that clearly state that God is a harsh being who does evil -- scriptures like Isaiah 45:7 and Revelation 19:15. It's also hard to get those who are paid well to end DC homelessness to engage in meaningful conversation about their colossal failures and a better path forward -- though they'll gladly discuss detailed plans for continuing down the course they've already set and which -- for all we know -- may be leading to the same failures that we've already seen.
All roads lead to "Roam" -- the homeless roaming the streets indefinitely and in greater numbers (though the names and faces do change).
I figured at one time that these were matters which the respective groups would be more than willing to discuss at length, unemotionally, intelligently and objectively. Sadly, I've learned otherwise. So, I find myself thinking many deep thoughts to myself; because, others don't want to think critically about difficult topics -- even when they are paid to do so or they "practice" the faith set forth in a Book which is chock full of grim realities. I'm convinced that the world is mad and logic is not valued. So, I continue down the path toward introversion -- which begins to explain why I write so much: Maybe when I'm gone, those who ask "why???" will read what I've written and gain a better understanding of who was among them -- after the fact.

This is where my penchant for fairness kicks in. As I promote more, greater and deeper conversation about hard topics and grim realities, it's only fair -- and Christ-like -- for me to let people know what they'd be getting into. I don't want them to be left saying, "This is more than I bargained for". With that in mind, it's important for me to emphasize that I see America's over-emphasis on emotion as a major problem in our society. (Behold the demagoguery of our electoral politics and 45's unbalanced populism sans real leadership. Consider what type of unbalanced thinking 62.9M Americans exhibited as they voted for Trump in 2016.) My penchant for fairness won't cause me to have the emotional conversations that others want me to have in exchange for them having the rational conversations that I want to have. (I offer a "fair warning", not a "fair exchange".) Instead my penchant will cause me to let them know that I insist on having long and logical conversations about grim realities and difficult truths, lest something drastic be done to them.

Make no mistake: I have no current plans to carry out a mass shooting. However, this writing might prove to be one of the most dangerous things to ever happen to Americans insomuch as it may be seen by the next mass shooter who is currently waiting in the wings as being an adequate articulation of his hereto now unheard concerns. Ignoring or disagreeing with its contents after being made aware of them might convince the next shooter that further efforts at conversation won't do any good and that he just needs to carry out his heinous act. What's more is that dozens of shooters-in-waiting can read this and draw the self-same conclusion simultaneously. That said, someone's referencing of this blog post might be their last ditch effort to force the conversation before resigning themselves to the conclusion that violence or suicide is the only way. Then again, referencing this blog post might be due to the presenter's unfounded concern that I'm promoting terror -- which I'm not. Even so, there's no need to differentiate between the "possible motives" for presenting this writing. However, there is a need to follow it's very simple but profound prime directive: Talk with anyone about anything that they choose to discuss -- listening more than you speak (especially if you want to get to "know ((and grow to love)) your enemy"). It's also important to follow the secondary directive: Encourage introverts to speak -- especially if they weren't always introverted. In so doing, you might be saving lives -- literally. FULL STOP.

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