This essay hasn’t received my usual amount of “polish,” so please have mercy on the grammar, punctuation, works-cited, etc. Here it is:
I recently read a portion of “Animals in Translation” by Temple Grandin, a renowned animal science expert. One case she mentioned was that of a large-scale problem of roosters who were somehow predisposed to murder chickens while attempting to mate with them. The farmers had grown used to this, but to an outsider, it came as a shock. “Why would you ever think this is ‘normal,'” was the key question (paraphrased) from Grandin to the farmers. Nature would NEVER produce roosters like this–but humans did.
So, let me rephrase this in terms of school shootings and other acts of unexpected-yet-horrible violence in developed nations, committed by people whom we’d never expect capable of such things. Clearly, this is a trend. It’s been going on since at least the 1990s. When I was in high school, some of us found the causes of the Columbine shooting so obvious that we painted shirts with bulls-eyes and the date of that then-recent shooting–which we wore to school the next day (except for those of us who got caught by our parents). Our rebuttal to the media frenzy–that has never changed its tenor since–was, “what made anyone think that this wasn’t going to happen somewhere, at some point?” My further question, nearly 15 years later, is, “why are we still scratching our heads when a heart-to-heart with many of our local high school students would tell us the reasons?”
Let’s look at the “profile” of those who have, so far, committed these acts. Common threads include:
1) Being socially ostracized or otherwise isolated–whether via having unusual apparel, being exceptionally quiet, etc.
2) Exceptionally-high intellect. If you take those people described in #1 and weed out anyone whose IQ is less than, say, 130, you’ll have a much more specific–and accurate–demographic.
3) Under-appreciated. These kids (and some adults) have been of the kind who are marginalized in society–economically, socially, etc. They’re much too unique (in terms of personality and such) and too smart to find a place amongst normal folks. They’ve struggled to somehow “make it work,” anyway, so instead of becoming the leaders of the local academic scene, they’ve become the American equivalent of “pariahs.”
4) Many have had bad home lives–but not all. Broken families seem to be a common theme, but since about 1/2 of all families in the USA are now “broken,” this isn’t much to go on. More aptly, one might say that they don’t find relief from the pains of school and/or work by coming home. Thus, their internal “pressure tanks” have had a dearth of opportunities to vent. Anger, resentment, feelings of being unloved, feelings of being under-appreciated, unwanted, etc. have built-up for years–and probably even decades.
5) Soft-spoken, submissive, or otherwise amiable personalities (at least, outwardly). These people don’t tend to lash out at others when they’re feeling bad, as most people do. Sure, they might get snippy once in a while, but most of their acquaintances will remark at their being generally unremarkable. (The Columbine shooters were remarkable for their dress and some threats they made just before their shooting, but their personalities before that were often described as being “quiet” and “withdrawn.”) Having no tendency toward “venting,” these people continued to build toward and “explosion.”
If you combine these factors (and perhaps some others that aren’t immediately coming to mind) in sufficient amplitude, you’ll have the “formula” for an explosive outburst of random violence–probably followed by suicide. Why suicide? The world has been hateful to these people (intentionally or not), and once they’ve said their piece (i.e. killing some people), they decide that there’s no way they’ll let law enforcement, psychologists/psychiatrists, the public, etc. any more opportunity to make their lives miserable. Obviously, death is the only “escape route” when seen from this perspective.
So, getting back to my initial point, the problem of school shootings, random bombings (by American nationals), and so on isn’t AT ALL about what weapons such people have at their disposal. Sure, they’ll use the best weapons they can get–but a chemical or fertilizer bomb is both impossible to prevent the creation of (by someone not on a “watch list” of some kind), and impossible to outlaw (since that would mean outlawing farming and/or cleaning products). Therefore, there’s only ONE way to stop these random, horrific acts of violence: fix the underlying problems.
Let me ask, then, why so many literal geniuses drop out of school (K12, college, etc.)? Out of the roughly dozen geniuses I’ve met, very few have ever gotten a chance to “shine” in society. Those who are able to be gainfully employed at all do so in whatever trade they’ve fallen into–which is almost never something they’d wanted to do. One works at data entry, cropping newspaper ads to be put online. Several are disabled with mental illness–doubtlessly brought on by how others have treated them throughout their lives. A few work in minimum-wage jobs (some of which are in the computer repair industry). Not many have ever been able to use their vast mental prowess to “make something of themselves,” since our system of labor and schooling is exactly wrong for geniuses to do well with. So, instead, they become jaded and bitter.
If you want to stop the school shootings, you (that is, all of us in our society) need to find a way to value–to TREASURE–the gifted among us, instead of making their lives a living hell. Do you have a teenage child? Ask him or her to introduce you to all the people he/she knows, who are considered “unpopular,” and too smart for their own good. You might just find yourself a future killer–or, if you’re willing, an opportunity to change such a person’s life for the better, before something terrible happens. That is, assuming they’re not too jaded to even speak with you by now.
Of course, most gifted kids (like I was) slink off into ignominity and never do anything nasty to anyone–but there are always a few who dream of something more…”poignant.”