My Dallas Morning News Column On the Aurora Shooter
What Mass Killers Lack — Mark Davis
We send our prayers and good wishes for those killed or hurt, their families and that community.
Our faith in human nature takes a blow upon hearing of another mass murderer and then is buoyed by far more numerous stories of bravery, sacrifice and love.
But then the trouble begins. We try to figure it all out.
Part of human nature contains a desire for easy, tidy answers to even the most horrible, unfathomable things. When someone like James Holmes rises up from obscurity to infamy in one day — in one hour — we want to know why he did it, what motivated him and how we can prevent it. All understandable.
And all futile.
In murder cases, it is useful to the prosecution to know whether the killer wanted the victim’s wallet, joined a rival gang or didn’t like the victim’s religion, race or some other attribute.
The mass murderer rarely has an identifiable specific gripe against his victims. Randomness and senselessness are often his very intent, an effort to shock and wound a world he can not navigate.
There is often no motive in the strictest sense. From the Columbine killers in 1999 to the Virginia Tech shooter in 2007, the behavior is a burst of murderous rage born of some unknowable inner demons.
Initial headlines referred to a quest for why this gunman did what he did. This is an absurd question. There is no answer that would make us nod and think: “Oh, now I get it. I didn’t know that.”
Like previous mass murderers, Holmes is a twisted soul who chose to vent his frustrations by slaughtering the innocent. I could not possibly care less about identifying what stimulus was his own personal last straw.
I do care, and we all should, about what leads to the creation of such monsters in our midst.
It is not the mere presence of guns, as some on the left will tell you.
It is not the mere presence of darkly violent films, as some on the right will tell you.
In fact, it is not the presence of anything that will create the next James Holmes.
It is the absence of some vital things.
The common thread of mass killers is what they lack.
They lack the rudder that enables us to keep our direction when life gets hard.
They lack the strength and context to realize that perseverance and gratitude for blessings can insulate us against the toughest of times.
They lack the perspective and outward focus to realize that the world is not about them or their problems and that we do best when we make an effort to fit into our world by being good people — good kids, spouses, parents and citizens.
That will keep anyone busy enough to fend off the narcissism that sends the mass murderer into his basement to figure out how the world must pay because he was bullied or someone didn’t understand him or life was stacked against him.
Human nature is a blank slate, written upon by some innate characteristics, our upbringing and the choices we make as adults. There is such a thing as evil in the world. It searches for holes in the armor we have a daily responsibility to wear.
When we fail to do so, we shoplift a candy bar or cheat on our taxes, or cheat on our spouses, or we sometimes kill. The solution lies not in laws or any political realm, but in looking out for each other, to reinforce the value of faith, family, friends and personal rectitude in all of society. People surrounded by those things are far less likely to wind up in court with painted hair and a vacant expression, facing murder charges.
The Mark Davis Show airs from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. weekdays on 660AM The Answer. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.