This week, I won't be posting another comparison of east versus west. Though I have at least two more such articles to write, it shall have to wait. In light of last week's shooting, there are more important things to discuss.
How to recognize an extremist ... and what you can do
I was motivated to write the rather dark and insane verses in Gospels of Rage by social ignorance and our culture that perpetuates it. Of the several symptoms I can identify, none could demonstrate it better than the media reaction to the Batman movie slayings that happened last week. One commentator on KGO radio last night said, "I won't even mention the evil, we're just going to talk about the victims."
And it is tragic that such a thing should happen. We share in the grief, as we share it every time another very disturbed individual does something similar. Once, it could be relegated to another place, another time, but it is not "over there" anymore, and it is not "in a less civilized time" anymore either. It is in Colorado, and in New Mexico, and in New York, and in Norway, and in Oman, and on the Japanese subway, and in the cartel-besieged streets of Mexico, and everywhere else you can name. It is our problem, and it is up to us to help fix it, or we may expect more of the same.
So I say unto the commentator, unto my neighbors, my friends, and everyone else who gives a damn about people getting killed somewhere for no good reason, it's time we started talking about the evil. The evil is the problem, not the victims, so that is what we should focus on.
But how do we start? For too long, the media has shunned the idea of humanizing criminals, extremists, junkies, the poor, the insane, heretics, politicians, pundits, terrorists, minorities, foreigners or anyone else who is more conveniently a symbol, rather than a person. But the "evil-doers" here are people, and we should stop thinking about them like they aren't. Beyond any political agenda, beyond even justice, each one of them has a family, a life that led them to where they are now, and a future that we must reckon with. There was a time in each of their lives, sometimes hundreds of times, when someone wasn't paying attention. They ignored that a problem was forming, and instead reported nothing, said nothing, offered no help or advice, made no move to involve themselves in someone else's troubles, and even shirked their responsibilities to handle their children, the people in their care, or someone else's welfare. We have all been in this place before or shall be someday, and someone usually does the right thing, but there are far too many instances of abuse and stubborn neglect like we saw at Penn State to expect people not to react violently.
When you see something like this, you are looking at something that can motivate someone to do some crazy shit.
It maybe difficult to identify a killer as a person, but they are not fundamentally different from any of us. They are not impossible to understand, not impossible to stop, to circumvent, or to help. That is the first problem, seeing and showing human beings as being human. They are not symbols, their acts are, and what those acts symbolize is our reluctance to deal with them until they bring these atrocities to our attention with violence.
It is our fear to show them our compassion that allows these things to happen. The reality is that we are strong enough to fix these and many other ills, but we are taught to fear our strength, not just to hesitate to involve ourselves in another's problems, but to refuse to do so under any circumstances. Often, we are shown only how to hate our enemies, hate other people, hate the people who lose it and kill a lot of people. Yet it is we who can change this, but we must not be so foolish as to think of others as unlike us, and to have the courage to simply offer a hand when it is within our power to do so.
Stop being weak. And stop letting others be weak around you.
Hymn of the Fellow Sinner I know you want as I do, thirst as I do, grieve as I do. These precious things we share as strangers, for we all must hope. Our hearts and larders may be bare and this is how we cope. But do you fear as I do, regret as I do, hate as I do? Do you think poorly of this life, and bicker over fortune’s price? Do you contend with strife and storm for a glimpse of paradise? I beg you rue as I do, cower as I do, repent as I do. Your pride is a false companion, the messenger of our destruction. Take my hand, I am your champion. I’ll not deny you perdition. For if you have tried and lost, as I have, then you understand the cost.
-Forest F. White