In the wake of the mass murder in Santa Barbara, CA on May 23, 2014, Americans are struggling to pinpoint the cause(s) of Elliot Rodgers’ senseless rampage. I’ve noticed that people tend to focus on a single cause of human behavior, saying “This is the reason.” In reality, human behavior often has multiple causes: it’s due to a combination of “this reason” and “that reason” and “that reason” and “that reason.” Nevertheless, single-cause theories for Rodgers’ murderous behavior abound and range from at least semi-sensible to bizarre. Blame the privileged, spoiled killer. Blame his parents. Blame the ability of mentally ill people to buy guns. Blame the ability to buy too much ammunition. Blame the police. Blame the lack of a psychiatric specialist on police “wellness” calls. Blame America’s treatment of the mentally ill. Blame the lack of weapons for the victims. Blame fear. Blame a lack of religion. Blame white privilege. Blame misfits with money. Blame the American psyche. Blame the lack of smart technology. Blame the judicial system. Blame the media. Blame the GOP. Blame liberals. Blame Congress. Blame racism. Blame the illegality of prostitution. Blame his neighbors. Blame the lack of dating/sexual coaching. Blame whoever didn’t have the guts to commit him. Blame America’s “everyone’s a winner” syndrome. Blame bullying. Blame freedom. Blame men. Blame society. Blame humanity. Blame the world. Blame nobody. I have read all those opinions about Elliot Rodgers’ deadly “Day of Retribution.”
While “shouting” our opinions at each other verbally or in print, we are all pretty sure of one fact: if nothing changes, another American mass murder will occur soon; and then another; and then another; and then another; and on and on. Rather than simply throwing up our hands in despair and hoping we and our loved ones aren’t killed by being “in the wrong place at the wrong time,” let’s change our approach. Let’s pool our collective intelligence, education and experience and work together to answer a threshold question: what are all the factors causing mass murder to occur so often in America?
Since I’m the only one sitting here at the moment, I’ll start the discussion. Reviewing all the single-cause theories, I believe there is at least a grain of truth in nearly every one of them. Take “Blame the American psyche,” for example. At least some psychiatric experts focusing on criminal law believe that America has violence in its core values and fiber; consequently, violence is deemed legitimate. In fact, according to historian Richard Maxwell Brown, “repeated episodes of violence going far back into our colonial past, have imprinted upon our citizens a propensity to violence.” Is it any wonder, then, that violence is sometimes used as a “solution” by enculturated Americans, whether they’re sane, insane, criminal or law-abiding? It appears that our culture of violence is one piece of the puzzle; not the only answer but part of the answer.
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