It's been weeks now since the killings in Las Vegas. Once again, I saw reporting of the killer as a person who just "snapped," in interviews with shooter's brother. I've seen this scenario again and again, not only in the recent news of these rash of senseless killings, but in other scenarios.
News stories seemingly always show us how "normal" someone was, and then, seemingly out of nowhere, they commit a massive shooting, kill their spouse, kill their children.
That headline or news tease makes you want to read, listen or watch though, right?
We are all transfixed by the idea that any of us could simply face enough stressful pressure and then...
I don't believe it, though.
Whether or not you like to watch murder movies, go to slaughter-house style haunted venues or you think you could imagine what might go on inside the mind of a killer...we just don't do that. By we, I mean those of us thrown life's tremendous difficulties who don't decide it's time to kill.
We also do not live a pretty normal life of regular stresses, do well in school, have good friends, be active in the community and have a sound mind, and then just take a knife from the kitchen and go into our sleeping family member's room and kill them.
No, my experience shows me that there are "signs."
As it turns out, the Vegas shooter's brother didn't know he was a compulsive gambler and was doing erratic things with that money.
The surgical nurse many years back from my hometown didn't live a happily married life and then suddenly decide to give her kids peanut butter laced with a drug and smother them out of nowhere.
Many kids are picked on, and few group up to "teach others a lesson" and kill them because they were emotionally or physically abused.
Many people deal with difficult life stresses – some of them seem impossible to bear. And they don't murder.
What stops one person - even if they do things like drink too much or cry a lot as a way to attempt to cope with their difficulties – NOT kill someone?
I think it does have to do with the state of their overall mental well-being. Some people simply cope and don't go over that limit.
I personally believe there are "signs" that a person who ultimately kills others and/or themselves is a person who isn't able to cope. I think they may say or do things that could very much make you wonder if they would do something to hurt others.
In this world where we can see the news of what's going on elsewhere in the blink of an eye with cell phone technology, should there ever be reports of someone simply "snapping"?
I say, no. The headlines should NEVER be worded this way.
That kind of reporting hasn't investigated the full story yet.
I believe it feeds into the culture we have now of immediate gratification without thinking through consequences of one's actions.
And I think it contributes to the mindset of young people that acting on your most irrational thoughts are just what people do.
And the young minds soaking in these stories, seeing it overplayed, struggling with how to cope, think acting on an unreasonable thought is a way to relieve pain.
You cannot go into school and "show them all" by shooting your classmates. You cannot "show them all" by killing yourself.
You cannot get back at your boyfriend or girlfriend by taking your own life, or those of others.
Yes, I am making a huge leap saying that by soaking young people's minds in news and stories of erratic behavior that we are, as a society, teaching our teens and young adults that others act impulsively, and it's what people do.
They think that some people just "snap," and they do not, in my opinion.
These actions, by and large, are premeditated. They are planned and thought about for some time. There is much evidence to back up this claim.
If they do "snap" – ever – I think it is extremely rare, and there is probably brain evidence to support this dysfunction in that person's mind.
There simply cannot be so many people "snapping" these days to justify the rise of suicide in the U.S. and the amount of murders occurring in places like concerts, shopping malls, movie theaters and schools.
We as a society are struggling with coping.
I don't know why.
I had parents who were from "The Greatest Generation." I love that moniker (thank you, Tom Brokaw).
This group was the most recent who faced difficulty, yet time and time again, showed their life satisfaction was much better than succeeding generations who had things much easier.
People born in The Greatest Generation lived through the Great Depression, fought in World War II (or supported it by making sacrifices). They built modern America. They learned to be happy, overall, in ways generations that followed weren't satisfied with.
I'm not going to get into my thoughts on these generations – Boomers, Xers, Millenials – they all have their good points, too.
But I do believe those in the Greatest Generation had the best coping skills overall.
Yes, you can argue that many a young man went over and killed (so were they releasing their "murderous tendencies" during war?) and suffered some emotional damage from what they witnessed.
How many of them came back and shot up the neighborhood or killed their families? Not too many.
I know about this ability to cope because my Dad was a living example.
I recall him saying that when the news of the stock market crash broke, he was just a little kid. But he recalled hearing the stories on the radio of people in nearby New York City committing suicide when they lost all their money. They were jumping out of buildings.
All he could say was "Why would you kill yourself over money???"
He didn't have any, and life was hard. His father died when he was 14, so he went to work to support the family. Then he went to war in the Navy from 1941-1945. Then he got married and supported a family.
He was one of the happiest, most appreciative people I've ever met.
To be sure, some of that simply comes from within. His DNA probably did code him that way.
But he also couldn't ever imagine putting anything over the value of human life.
He didn't understand how people couldn't cope. There was ALWAYS something to live for. There was always a need to respect life.
I don't mean to deride anyone suffering from mental illness. That's not my point. There certainly are folks who need our love and support (heck, we all need that sometimes!).
But somehow I think we also live in a culture that doesn't cope. It gives up, lashes out, and causes irreparable damage.
We have to stop this cycle. And we can't pretend it's "normal."
It's not just someone "snapping" a lot of the time.
Hug your kids. Tell them you'll help them cope. Come up with good strategies. Enjoy your life. See the good.
I might sound feeble and ridiculous saying this. But, then again, maybe what I'm saying is just the medicine we all need.
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