Why does this keep happening?
Tuesday afternoon I was stopping in to a gun store to see a fellow instructor. As soon as I walked in the door he told me, “Another mass shooting. Elementary school, so far 14 kids.” I was instantly speechless. Unfortunately we are used to hearing this kind of news but hearing about it taking place at an elementary school hits harder.
I’m sick of hearing about this. Many people are tired of hearing about it too. But because of my role as firearms instructor I am steeped in news of violence far more than just mass shootings that make it to the headlines. I have a responsibility as an instructor to be a student of violence. It’s a dark place to hang out. I force myself to watch and read about the most heinous types of attacks in order to better understand how and why it happens.
The details of this latest shooting in Texas are unusual in a few ways that I don’t really need to go into here. The point of bringing it up here is to underscore the fact that as much as we try to group these events under the convenient umbrella of “crazy”, or “racist” or “evil”, at some point these reasons are not useful to us. Lots of people struggle with crippling mental illness without shooting up a school. Lot’s of people are sociopathic or psychopathic without being violent. If we continue to rely on these broad descriptors then we will never have a useful way to confront these issues.
This young man has a history of violent and anti social behavior according to friends, family and others. But we have many of these people in our society who never get close to shooting up a school. How do we stop this kind of tragedy when the target is so small and so concealed amongst the noise?
I have a controversial answer to this question. My answer is that is the wrong question. In my humble opinion, the right question is to ask is, “How prepared can you be for when horrific moments come to you?”
“Evil” has been with us since Cain killed his brother in a jealous rage. Mankind has always been murderous towards his fellow man. The motivations vary, but murder is in our hearts just like kindness and goodness is in our hearts. We blame whatever helps us make sense of the act, but essentially this is part of who we are. Just like Mother Nature will always give us food and at the same time threaten to kill us with heat, cold, storms, drought, even lightning.
How do we protect ourselves from Mother Nature? We build shelters, we plan for the worst, we plant in the spring and harvest before the cold. We understand that the world doesn’t owe us safety and we work extremely hard to guard against the inherent danger of the world. That’s what a responsible person does. And when the sun is warm and the wind is calm, we bask in the joy of Nature.
These killers will always be with us. Sometimes we will see them coming from a mile away, and sometimes they will cloak themselves until they are ready to destroy and no one will see it coming. The responsible thing to do is to accept this reality and be as prepared as possible.
How do we prepare? My belief is that the first step is Mindset. Mindset drives everything we do and understand, or fail to understand, about the world around us. In this case, I think a useful mindset is to acknowledge the reality of this world and not trick yourself into believing that you have a right to safety. You have a right to defend yourself, but not a single person on this planet can guarantee your safety. Developing and maintaining this mindset requires you to confront the reality of the potential for evil in the world around you. This shouldn’t make you cynical, it should make you aware.
The rest of your preparation will depend on you, your values, your priorities, etc. Are you the type of person who would fight this kind of evil should it come to your threshold? Then prepare by learning how to fight, whether with hands or weapons. That may not be the best answer for everyone, you will have to make these determinations for yourself.
We cannot wipe away the evil in the hearts of men, and trying to remove their means for evil will be an exercise in futility. I’m reminded of the line in Jurassic Park, “Life finds a way.” The sick but very real inverse of that line is, “Death finds a way.” Our job is to prepare for it.