To Lessen its Awful Power
He was broke and blamed himself for getting fired from his job.
So, he killed five people in Orlando, Florida, on June 5, 2017.
He was withdrawn and quiet, with no friends.
He killed nine people and injured eight in Roseburg, Oregon,
on October 1, 2015.
He had PTSD from fighting in Vietnam.
He killed four people and injured two in Chicago, Illinois, on
September. 22, 1988.
These are just three of the findings of Jillian Peterson, PhD, a professor of criminology at Hamline University, and James Densley, PhD, a professor of criminal justice at Metro State University, both in the Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota, metropolitan area, who profiled “signs of crisis” in 50 years of mass shootings across the United States. A summary of their findings was published in the New York Times, on January 29, 2023. Together they cofounded and lead the Violence Project, a nonpartisan, nonprofit research center dedicated to a strategic response to violence.
Their findings are a chilling and sobering reminder of some of the underlying causes of horrific violent behavior. They are not an excuse for the behavior. But they are a symptom leading to the behavior.
And this blog is not just about the horrors of mass shootings. But it is a cautionary look at what causes many kinds of violent and destructive behaviors. It is about what causes many people, especially males, many of them young, to die in violent ways, and in the midst of despair about their circumstances and their lives. It is about suicides, broken marriages and relationships, and abusive actions, and so much more.
It is about the epidemic of loneliness and disconnection that pervades our country and world, an epidemic that leads to broken dreams, loss of jobs, crimes, unhealthy responses to feeling so alone, and fears that lead so many to act in hurtful, hateful ways.
It is why Someone To Tell It To exists. It is why we listen to others. It is why we help the world to listen by training and educating others in what it means to listen compassionately, empathetically, and intentionally. It is why we use our voice to address issues such as these. We believe utterly and strongly that it is through listening that our world can change, that our lives can be less lonely, that despair can begin to lose its awful power over us.
He believed he was straying from his faith.
He killed eight people and injured one in Atlanta, Georgia,
on March 16, 2021.
He did not have many friends or a steady job.
He killed six people and injured two in Seattle, Washington,
on March 25, 2006.
His wife was leaving him and he attempted suicide three times.
He killed four people and injured four others in Gonzales, Louisiana,
on March 10, 1999.
There is so much more our culture can and needs to do to help reduce the devastating effects of loneliness and the hopelessness it creates. It will take continuing efforts to reduce social isolation, improve access to mental health care and substance abuse treatment, and make it okay to reach out for help. We can reduce the sense of alienation too many people feel. It won’t be easy. But we must address the underlying causes that feed violent and destructive actions. We can enact sensible, responsible gun safety reform. We must help people to have a sense of purpose and encourage one another to embrace our best gifts and selves, and not our worst inclinations and impulses.
Too many people get hurt – as well as die – because loneliness and alienation have far too much of an impact on our culture. It doesn’t need to be so. We can do something to begin to change that fact. It starts with listening, which begins to show people that Someone cares. It then leads to trust being built. Trust opens up hearts and minds and allows vulnerability – and truth – to be shared. It shines light into the dark corners of our lives and enables us to see things that we may have never seen before. That light can drive the darkness away and free us so many of the fears, misperceptions, and barriers we may never have realized were there before. The breaking down of those barriers can help us to connect more deeply and safely with others in brand new and, ultimately, healing ways.
We need that healing in this world. That healing can save us from ourselves, from the demons that overpower us and cause great harm.
She stopped working and was evicted from her condominium.
She killed four people and injured three in Jersey City, New Jersey,
on December 10, 2019.
He struggled to get a job for years and became isolated.
He killed four people and injured five more in Oxnard, California,
on December 2, 1993.
He felt cheated because another student had won a school prize.
He killed five people and injured another in Iowa City, Iowa
on November 1, 1991.
Together, we can change this world. Together, we can end this violence. Together, we can begin to recognize the healing power – the transformative power – that listening with compassion can bring to the world, to harness the violence, and begin to lessen its awful power in our culture and in our lives.
Photo by Claudio Schwarz on Unsplash