The most recent tragedy in Louisiana has took front and center stage in the most recent chapter of the mass murder marathon that is the United States. Louisiana is no stranger to mass murder. The latest tragedy was the 10th episode of mass murder in Louisiana this year. In the first 204 days of 2015 there have been 204 episodes of mass murder in the United States. 204 mass murders in 204 days. If anything is insane that is. 204.
You will not hear much about 204. You will hear more about his family seeking an order of protection and a psychiatric commitment and a bipolar diagnosis than anything else. Many people will see that as the cut and dried truth and tell you this was a failure of the mental health system and that tougher laws are needed to avert tragedy. The only thing more predictable than tomorrow’s tragedy is that someone will tell you if we had just listened to them it wouldn’t have happened.
I don’t know if this man had bipolar disorder or not and the people who will confidently tell you he did and that was the cause of this tragedy don’t know either. What seems sure is he had a lot of hate. And I think the first case of hate and racism being cured might be the first.
The problem with the no fault mental illness hypothesis is that it ignores the context that people live in. It makes the things he believes in, the values he holds, his political positions irrelevant or even a symptom of some supposed disease. Not only does it in a real way let him off the hook, it leaves us, society and culture off the hook. And we don’t deserve that.
Before bigotry can have wide commerce it must be clothed as somehow common sense. There are perhaps millions of people, thousands and thousands for sure, that believe that what this man believed was just common sense for anyone who can see and had the courage to speak up. And the thing about hateful violent things is that when those sentiments achieve a degree of “common sense” the likelihood of the being acted on go way up.
When you combine the likelihood of action with the tools necessary for that action the recipe for tragedy is real. Guns don’t kill people. People don’t kill people. People with guns kill people. Angry, rageful people with what they see as righteous or justified anger with guns are even more likely to kill people. I understand he got the gun legally. He didn’t even have to break the law to commit mass murder. It is so sad.
204. By the time you read this 205 may be upon us. Unless you live nearby you may not even immediately hear about this. It is close to normal now and further away from news.
I don’t believe we can cure murder. The Bible somewhere says you will, “know them by their fruits.” We have made it easy and even likely that we will hate those different than us. The ways people can credibly address their differences with others are seen as ineffective. We prize strength and not letting others push us around. We have a cowboy culture with no Wyatt Earp to insist we check our guns. And guns… Easy and everywhere.
The problem is not that we made the Louisiana shooter. We didn’t. But neither did we make him less likely.
204. 205 is next.