Gun Violence

by Ross Bishop

The facts are that wherever guns have been banned the number of homicides and suicides drop markedly. Where guns are legal, homicide and suicide rates are higher – a lot higher, supporting the premise that although guns do not kill people, they do make it a great deal easier.

In 1996, after a mass shooting in Australia, lawmakers tightened gun laws. From “The Journal of Public Health Policy”: “The firearm suicide rate dropped by half in Australia over the next seven years, and the firearm homicide rate was almost halved,” (from a column in the NY Times by Nicholas Kristof).

Although they receive publicity because they are sensationalistic, there are about 20 mass killings every year in this country, and that has been true for decades. Every year there are about 100 to 150 victims of mass murder. And that is not to take anything away from how terrible and tragic these events are, but those numbers pale in comparison to the 11,000 homicides and 21,000 gun suicides every year. And added to those totals should also be the 84,000 non-fatal injuries that occur from guns. That’s where the real gun problem is.

In his NY Times column, Nicholas Kristof went on to point out that, “More Americans have died from guns in the United States since 1968 than on the battlefields of all the wars in American history.


Regarding homicides, the problem is that a gun is the great equalizer. A gun in the hands of a dwarf makes him a giant. It gives him great power. And, if that dwarf happens to be extremely angry, a little mentally imbalanced, holding a grudge or is a drug dealer fighting a turf war, people are likely to die. Last year, eleven thousand people to be exact. In countries that ban guns, that is a rare occurrence.

Regarding suicide, a gun just makes it too easy. Slitting your wrists is painful and messy, jumping off a bridge is too public and pills make you sick. With a gun, it’s pull the trigger and you’re dead – 21,000 times last year. Where there guns are banned it isn’t that people find other ways, it’s that those suicides simply don’t happen.

In defense of of gun owners, the vast majority – like 99% of them – aren’t going to do anything stupid. That’s why they resent calls for the abolition of firearms. The situation is analogous to Richard Reid trying board a plane with a bomb in his shoe. Because of that one guy, now everybody has to take their shoes off at the airport.

But, until it happens to their family, gun owners live in denial about the combination of depression, guns and the likelihood that anything will happen to them. They simply refuse to accept that they or a spouse or one of their children may be driven over the edge to commit suicide. But it happens, 21,000 times a year! What’s interesting as I said, is that where guns have been banned, suicide rates decline precipitously.

The profile of gun owners differs quite a bit from the general public. Although they comprise only 32% of the population, white males are 61% of gun owners. Roughly three-in-ten (31%) whites own a gun, which is much greater than the rates of gun ownership among blacks (15%) or Hispanics (11%).

Gun ownership is a Republican thing. Republicans are far more likely than Democrats to own guns. The third of Republicans who own guns compares with just 16% of Democrats. While 37% of all adults identify with or lean toward the Republican Party, that proportion jumps to 51% among gun owners. This would fit with the somewhat more paranoid profile of Republicans generally.

And this is a very important point, because half of gun owners say the reason they own a gun is for protection. Although research does not support this belief, in fact, having a gun in the home makes the household a far more dangerous place, the belief, no matter how irrational, must be recognized. It makes gun owners feel safer.

Homicides opens another can of worms. Many homicides are connected to the violence of ghetto life and gang (drug war) conflicts. So, again most gun owners feel unfairly singled out. But then we come to the issue of domestic violence. Regarding homicides against women, 93% were committed with a gun and the overwhelming percentage of those were committed by someone known to the victim. You can draw you own conclusion from this, but the states with the highest rates of domestic violence were: Alaska, So. Carolina, Oklahoma, Luisiana, Mississippi, Nevada and Missouri.

In addition to all this, there is a small, lunatic fringe of gun owners who wave guns around to emphasize political ends. Guns feed the machismo and feelings of powerlessness of para-military, white supremacist, Promise Keeping, Nazi, Ku KLux Klan, Tea Party types; some of whom are dangerous, but also fairly identifiable.

A member of the Oath Keepers walks with his personal weapon on the street during protests in Ferguson, Missouri on August 10, 2015. The Oath Keepers organization says its members all former military, police and first responders pledge to "defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic." The night ended with over 10 arrests for disorderly conduct. St. Louis County declared a state of emergency Monday following a night of unrest in Ferguson, after a teenager was charged with shooting at police officers. The order was issued as an 18-year-old was charged in connection with a shootout in Ferguson August 9th after a day of peaceful protests marking the first anniversary of the police shooting of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown. AFP PHOTO / MICHAEL B. THOMAS (Photo credit should read Michael B. Thomas/AFP/Getty Images)

Then there are the mass shooters. There will be few in number – maybe 20 of them this year. But confounding researchers, it is maddeningly difficult to separate one person from the millions of other disaffected souls who fit the profile perfectly, but never go on to kill.

“There are certainly a lot of people who have a lot of things go wrong, and they’re not committing mass murders,” said Mary Muscari, a forensic nurse at Binghamton University in New York who has researched mass killers. But when it comes to most mass killings, psychosis is not an issue. “Even when you look at mental illness, most people with mental illness are not violent,” she went on to say.

Many mass shootings are motivated by revenge or envy. Most mass killers have suffered some kind of chronic depression and frustration. That’s why many take place at a school or a workplace where the shooter felt rejected.

They externalize responsibility, blaming everybody but themselves for their failings. There are cases of psychosis, especially schizophrenia where the victims are indiscriminately targeted because the killer believes that everyone is against him. The shooter seeks revenge against everybody.

There may be personality problems involved. But for the most part, the pathology is situational, something just horrendous happens; catastrophic, as viewed by the killer, and he decides to get even. However, very few mass killers, including school shooters, actually snap. They don’t go berserk. Most of them are methodical. They plan this event, sometimes for months. They’ll take time to gather the weapons and the ammunition. At Columbine, for example, the planning took 13 months. And that’s not unusual.

These killers often exhibit risk factors that are generally tied to criminal behavior rather than mental illness – a history of abuse or ineffective parenting, a tendency to set fires or hurt animals, a sadistic streak, and self-centeredness and a lack of compassion. In most cases the killer lacks any compassion or empathy for his victims, instead seeing them as symbols of something he wants to obliterate.

Overwhelmingly, mass shooters are men. Our culture and media through violent movies and video games and stories of Wall Street banksters, reinforces the notion that manhood is about attaining power, social and sexual status. Violence is glorified as a way to get that power. Kids, especially ghetto kids, feel very powerless to begin with. The one way they can feel like they’re somebody, that they’re a man, is to get a gun and make money selling drugs. We offer few alternative models that are as appealing.

Mass shootings also hold the potential to spawn copy-cat murders as other would-be shooters see stories about the crimes in the media, and want to emulate them.

What to do? We really are dealing with three problems: homicides, suicides and mass shootings.

The best first step would be to ban guns. In America that is not likely in my lifetime, but it needs to happen. We could help the situation (a bit) by banning the sale and manufacture of military style assault weapons, large ammunition clips and “cop killer” ammunition.

Since it is almost impossible to identify the shooters in most of these situations for a host of reasons, a wise approach would be to become proactive and cast a wide net to identify troubled people generally and offer them help. They could be provided assistance, counseling, group therapy – whatever was needed to help them reduce their level of anger, depression and frustration. Could we get everyone? No. But we could significantly reduce the boiling point of society, save some lives and probably deal with a host of related problems along the way.

Would it be expensive? Yes. It would require a re-ordering of social priorities, to the tune of about one new aircraft carrier. Would it be worth it? That depends on the value you place on 33,000 lost lives and the monumental first responder expense, cost of courts, prisons, etc. Another way to look at this is to consider how much these people – not just the fatalities and their families, but the millions of other troubled souls we could also help, cost the society every year already? Prevention is always cheaper.

Our educational system cold also do a great deal to help the situation. Instead of being stuck in a 17th century model of teaching math and science, schools could teach young people social skills like having a relationship, raising children, conflict resolution, dealing with depression, money management, non-violence, dealing with disappointment, anger management and self-esteem, to name just a few. But that’s not likely to happen either.

Regarding the overall cost of these efforts, there’s a false economy at work here. When you scrimp on inner city schools, cut back social services or medical care for the underprivileged, reduce outlays for food stamps, cut drug counseling, provide no job training or job opportunities, and send what few decent jobs there are overseas, you save in one budget but the cost simply gets transferred elsewhere – like to the police or prisons – where costs are much higher. But what may be even more important is that you take away any hope for the future or any pathway out of the personal darkness that the underprivledged acutely feel. You imprison them in a maze with no hope of escape. Doing this virtually guarantees socially deviant behavior, a high crime rate and an illegal drug trade with all of their attendant costs to the larger society.

(See: Gun Ownership Trends and Demographics, Pew Research Center, 2013)

copyright©Blue Lotus Press 2015

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Gun Violence

by Ross Bishop

Glycerne is pretty harmless stuff. But, combined with nitric and sulfuric acids it becomes an incredibly dangerous explosive – nitroglycerine. The same thing is true for the set of issues that lead to gun violence. By themselves each is tolerable, but when combined, the mixture can be  absolutely devastating. Unfortunately  the whole issue is being obscured by the smoke of an incredibly politicized debate, as each sub-part seeks to either escape blame or shift blame to the other parts. Anger and violence in our society are vitally important issues that desperately need to be addressed, but adding guns to the mix, as with nitroglycerine, makes the whole issue (pardon the pun) explosive.  Underlying the discussion are two significant and fundamental considerations:

First and foremost, a gun is an instrument of violence. It serves no other purpose. You can use a knife to prepare your dinner, skin a goat or open a bag of Cheetos, but a gun is made for one thing – to kill.

Secondly, putting that much power into the hands of an individual is like giving them lightning in a bottle. A gun, unlike any other weapon, requires no particular skill to use, making it an incredible equalizer, and this is especially true for people who feel disenfranchised and powerless. It can make a dwarf feel like a giant.

In regard to specific considerations:

Third, guns are a guy thing. The number of women who use guns are small.

Fourth, homicides – about 6,000 a year – are tightly concentrated in poor urban minority neighborhoods. Most homicides occur between people who know each other, are doing business together (often drugs) or live together. They’re not stranger-on-stranger shootings and they are not generally home intrusions.

Homicide victims are mostly minority young men. Blacks are six times more likely than whites to be victims of a homicide. Blacks are seven times more likely to commit a homicide. The homicide rate among black victims in the United States is 18 per 100,000. For whites, the national homicide rate is 3 per 100,000.

The Baton Rouge Advocate newspaper published an analysis of 2012 murders in their city. Last year, 83 people died by homicide in Baton Rouge. Of that number, 87% were black and 87% were male. Two-thirds had been in trouble with the law before, and one-third had been in trouble with the law for drugs. The median age of the victims was 26.

The median age of the perpetrators was 22. Ninety six percent of them were black, and 90% were male. Almost two-thirds had previous arrests. One out of four had a drug record. Most of the murders took place in the poorest parts of the city.

These are populations who have been raised by violence and who turn to it for problem solving as gangs feud over territory and dominance in the illegal drug trade. An assault weapon is their tool of choice. The rates of domestic violence are also extremely high in this group. Their plight receives little attention from either politicians or the media.

Fifth, more than 38,000 Americans die by suicide every year, and more than half of them use firearms. This is six times the homicide rate. When a white man wants to commit suicide, he shoots himself. Eighty percent of those who commit suicide with guns are white males. It is likely that a gun is simply the most convenient method, but the gun’s ready availability makes it an all too easy choice. It seems that no one wants to discuss the issue of depression and the social shame associated with it for white males. Statistically,  the risk of suicide goes up five-fold if there is a gun in the home.

Sixth, as a group, gun owners may have issues, they may be chauvinistic and cling to unrealistically old fashioned ideals, but the great majority of them are law abiding citizens. As a group, they feel powerless, and being amongst the most paranoid in society, are overly concerned for their personal safety. This also leads them to have issues about governmental intrusion. But, in any case, their guns will remain safely at home.

However, research has clearly shown that not only does having a firearm not protect the family,  it significantly increases the risk (by 300 percent!) that someone in the family will die from a firearm homicide. A study by Boston Children’s Hospital found that tougher laws on guns does have an effect on homicide and suicide rates. States with stiffer gun laws have fewer gun-related deaths.

Many gun owners are fascinated by the development of weapons technology, and whether we like it or not, over the course of history, guns have represented humankind’s most sophisticated technological advancements. This is largely what motivates collectors.

There is a fringe element of paranoid nut cases in the gun world, but their numbers are small. However as we have seen, a powerful assault weapon with extended magazines in the hands of a single troubled individual can wreak absolute havoc, and we cannot ignore that reality.

The NRA reflects the views of the most radical gun owners. It is a knee-jerk radical conservative organization, run by the gun manufacturing industry that profits immensely from social anarchy. The organization has an investment in fostering paranoia. Its function is not to solve problems but to obstruct them and sell guns.

Seven, the typical criminal rationalized away the ideals of fairness and social justice when he was a child. The criminal doesn’t give a damn about rules or laws and sometimes even punishment. He’s angry to the point of violence and little else matters except building his reputation in the criminal community or the “hood.” He was raised in an alien culture with rules and values very different from the one you grew up in. In the world he lives in, violence not only insures survival, it is also a talisman of manhood. He was abused as a child and is willing to abuse without conscience when he is angry or to get what he wants.

Eight, although violence is typical of a few mental illnesses, violence per. se. is not. According to The American Psychiatric Association, “The vast majority of violence in our society is not perpetuated by persons with serious mental illness.” There is a small percentage of mentally ill people, and to repeat, we are not talking about large numbers here – specifically those with severe and untreated symptoms of schizophrenia with psychosis, major depression or bi-polar disorder, who are about twice as likely as the general population to be violent. People who combine schizophrenia and substance-use issues have a nine times higher risk of becoming violent. But these are small numbers even compared to the population of the mentally ill.

The real tragedy, and it’s not just about guns, is our criminal neglect of those amongst us who are troubled – mentally ill or sane but violently angry. Given proper care, many of these people could be helped and a number of mass tragedies could be avoided, but the real conundrum of this whole discussion is that it only takes one person to create terrible mayhem. About 60% of mass murders are committed by violent, mentally ill people, but we are talking about fewer than 30 people (I am setting aside homicides).

The resource commitment to identify and help these people would be substantial. We can afford to do it, but at the present time, trillion dollar B1 bombers and nuclear submarines are more important. Over the past three years, conservatives in Congress have cut $4.3 billion from the already stripped federal mental health budget and state legislatures have cut even more. Considering that violent anger is behavior that is learned and culturally passed on, it would seem sensible to do what we could to intervene in order to at least limit it’s contagious spread. Mental illness is another matter, but we could at a minimum, try to help those who are troubled.

Ninth, and possibly most important and most overlooked in the discussion to date, is the roll played in gun violence by violently angry, but otherwise sane men in homicides, mass murders and domestic violence.

The psychological profession does not consider violent behavior a mental illness. Otherwise what would we do with the military, bank robbers, drug dealers and the police? Violence is neither a diagnosis nor is it a disease, and ours remains a violent society. If you read the news, people kill each other every day by the hundreds – in Iraq, Afghanistan, New York and Chicago, and few of these people are mentally ill. A military officer who kills masses of people with a Predator drone may be many things, but he is not mentally ill. A drug dealer seeking to avenge a bad deal is little different from the sane mass shooter who seeks revenge for the abuses he feels have been done to him.

Violence driven by anger falls into two general categories, crimes of passion (largely homicides) and acts of calculated violence (revenge). The propensity for violent behavior is both detectable and treatable, but it is also so widespread through the culture, and addressing it represents a significant intrusion into civil rights, that at least today, no one with a major public platform has been willing to address it.

Forty percent of mass murders are committed by young men who are violently angry, who are calculating and delusional, but sane. If you met one, you’d think they were odd, but their behavior would not alert you to what they were planning. They can be episodic, so people who spend time with them such as parents, friends and teachers will know that something is wrong, but that can be said for many people, and trying to pick out a potential mass shooter from the millions of troubled, frustrated and disenfranchised people in society would be a daunting task, to say the least.

Unable to effectively sort out potential terrorists, the TSA searches every bag, every pair of shoes. The society would not tolerate similar gun searches at every public building, school, supermarket or movie theater. But, if we could begin to identify at least the most troubled amongst us, we could prevent some tragedies. Violently angry mass killers have been profiled by Paul Mullen, an esteemed Australian forensic psychologist:

They’re almost all male, there is one exception. They’re young. They tend to be in their 20s. They are typically social isolates. They very rarely have close friends or confidants. They almost never have an intimate relationship, although they sometimes have had brief relationships, which have usually failed.

Interestingly, they’re not like many offenders, they don’t tend to have problems with alcohol and drugs. They’re certainly not impulsive, quite the reverse. These are rather rigid, obsessional individuals who plan everything extremely carefully. And most of these massacres have been planned for days, weeks, sometimes months ahead.

The other thing about them is that they are angry and resentful at the world, they blame the world for not having recognised their qualities, for having mistreated them and misused them. Resentment is central to their personalities.

They spend their time ruminating on all those past slights and offences. And they begin to develop a hatred for the whole world.

Perhaps most important of all, these people are on a project to suicide. They go out there to die, and they go out to die literally in what they see as a blaze of glory. They are seeking a sort of personal vindication through fame or, more precisely, infamy.

So the challenge is what should we do? Because of the multi-faceted nature of the problem, there will not be one solution, but taking a number of interlocking steps can greatly help. However, there are massive political roadblocks to every reasonable solution, and we must therefore conclude that we are going to be burying many more school children and drive-by shooting victims.

The most obvious step would be to get rid of assault weapons and large capacity magazines. These things have no place in civil society and getting rid of them would greatly reduce the potential damage done by drug gangs and mass murderers.

One measure that might bear meaningful results would be to test all 14 year-old young men to profile them for potentially violent behavior or violent mental illness. Limiting their access to weapons will only be effective if there is a registry of not only potentially dangerous mentally ill people but potentially violent individuals as well. However, once we have that information, unless we are willing to provide help, denying these people legal access to weapons might slow them down, but ultimately would accomplish little. With so many weapons available, it is unrealistic to assume that procedural rules would offer more than a temporary roadblock to those who seek to do harm, whether criminals, the violently angry or those who are violently mentally ill.

It might be possible to declare weapons free zones in urban areas of high homicide and domestic violence, but enforcement and civil rights issues would present daunting challenges. But, those considerations should not preclude at least trying it.

There are several popular gun myths that need to be discounted. Chief amongst them is the idea that a gun in the home offers protection for the family. Research clearly shows that this is not the case and that having a weapon actually puts the family at a far greater risk for both fatal accidents and suicide.

Another “myth” that needs to be dispelled is that the Second Amendment to the Constitution guarantees citizens the right to own firearms. It does not, and at some point, the Supreme Court or the Congress is going to need to clarify this. The opposition to this will be historic. But, having said that, it still might be worth doing as it does send a message and does offer a certain amount of deterrence.

Related to the above, at some point in the future, America needs to mature from its dysfunctional cowboy mentality and join the rest of the civilized world and solve many of these issues by simply banning guns. The rest of the civilized world seems to get along quite nicely without its citizens killing each other by the thousands. But, in addition to enormous resistance from gun owners, America is the world’s armaments maker. We supply an inordinate portion of the world’s weaponry, and there are many jobs and literally trillions of dollars in taxes and political “contributions” seeking to prevent any limitation on the country’s weapons industry.

 Copyright 2013, Blue Lotus Press

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There Will Be More School Shootings

by Ross Bishop

The Intersection of Social Failure

Sandy hook

Airplanes they say, crash because of multiple systems failures. Columbine, Sandy Hook, Aurora and Virginia Tech all represent significant multiple failures in the ways we regulate weapons and in our approaches to troubled people. The sad thing is that these tragedies are only the tip of a rather large iceberg. These problems have been screaming for resolution for a long time, and as is so often the case in America, it takes a catastrophe to bring them to our attention.

Limiting the availability of assault weapons and high capacity magazines is an essential part of the solution, but it is not the total answer. There are actually five important areas that intersect to create mass shooting tragedies, and each adds an element that ultimately together leads to disaster. These areas are: the way we view and treat troubled people, the sad failure of our mental health system, restrictions in the law, the availability of assault weapons and the nature of the dysfunction that drives mass killers.

There are answers to each of these aspects. Some will be expensive and others will require changes in our way of thinking. But since most of the changes will have to come through the political process, we can expect the special interests to be busy protecting their private agendas. However, one thing is absolutely assured – unless we do something substantial and soon, we’ll be having funerals for more a lot more innocent schoolchildren.

This is a complicated matter that touches on personal privacy issues, the right to own firearms, the power of the state vs individual freedom – especially as it relates to the confinement of angry, but not mentally ill people, the limits of police power, unlawful search and seizure and of course, the right of children to go to school or the mall without the threat of being killed.

The underlying fabric to this dilemma is the way we view and treat troubled people. We shun them, we fear them. They are the pariahs of society and we treat them like they used to treat the lepers in the Old Testament. Even with our enlightened modern perspective, we still try to sweep troubled people under the rug – or into alleys and freeway underpasses. A big part of our resolving this issue will have to do with us finding compassion in our hearts for these suffering people.

When it comes to the allocation of social resources, the emotionally troubled are always at the bottom of the barrel and the first to have funding cut when money gets tight. Over the past three years, conservatives in Congress have cut $4.3 billion from the federal mental health budget.

Our present mental health system has failed for two primary reasons – a lack of funding for facilities and resources and the inability of psychology to meaningfully help troubled people.

There was a time when we had large state mental hospitals. They were truly awful places, expensive warehouses for the mentally ill that offered little prospect for patients to ever get better. It was found that smaller, community-based mental health facilities could produce some results, so Congress shut off funding for big state hospitals – and then never bothered to provide money for community based health care. Also, people didn’t want mental health clinics in their neighborhoods, so faced with tight budgets and local opposition, the politicians folded.

Troubled people were simply turned out into the street to fend for themselves. In the public brouhaha after the horrible Virginia Tech shootings, gaping holes were exposed in the state of Virginia’s mental health system. The conservative Virginia legislature, traditionally opposed to any public funding for health care, allocated $43 million toward the state’s mental health system. A year later, when the media had gone away, the same legislature cut the state’s mental health budget by $50 million.

Troubled people don’t have a political lobby. There is no one to protest when mental health budgets are slashed and resources are eliminated. Plus, as I said, mental health care is always one of the first targets of budget cutting conservatives who are concerned about the expansion of socialized medicine. Political conservatives seem to possess antipathy towards the treatment of troubled people. Psychologists are typically viewed as fuzzy thinking liberals who want to help troubled people by providing socialized medicine.

When you read expert opinions and media accounts of shooters, keep a few things in mind: Mental illness has fairly specific diagnoses. And taken as a group, mentally ill people are no more violent than you are. There are a lot of people walking around who you might call “nuts” in street vernacular, who do not fit into the defined categories of mental illness.

There is a small percentage of mentally ill people, and we are not talking about large numbers here – specifically those with severe and untreated symptoms of schizophrenia with psychosis, major depression or bi-polar disorder, who are about twice as likely to be violent. Psychiatrists have created a category of illness called Antisocial Personality Disorder, which is sort of a catch-all for antisocial behavior.

People who have schizophrenia and substance-use issues do pose an even greater risk. They have a nine times higher risk of being violent. The association is especially marked in regards to homicide. People with schizophrenia are nearly 20 times as likely to kill as people unaffected by the disease. But, these are largely individual killings. Mass shooters are rarely substance abusers. And we should carefully distinguish between typical murderers, (remembering that any murder is a horrible thing!) and the special category of mass killers, because there are important differences.

We make a serious error when we categorically label mass killers as mentally ill. Mental illness is certainly an important consideration, but the mentally ill account for less than half of all multiple victim shootings. Of the 60 most recent mass shooters, acute paranoia, delusions, and depression were rampant among them, but only 38 of them displayed signs of mental health problems (not necessarily mental illness), prior to the killings.

Actually, there are even far fewer mentally ill involved if we only consider the “big” events. The large group of shooters, and we are only talking about 60 men out of a population of 35,000,000 young men, consists of troubled people who are not technically mentally ill, but who pose a serious threat because of their towering rage. Of the three major and many smaller gun tragedies in the nation in 2012, only one of the perpetrators seems to have been mentally ill. The others were just angry, feeling that they were right and everybody else was wrong. They see other people as responsible for their problems. They externalize blame, scapegoating groups or individuals – family, co-workers, neighbors — for whatever is wrong in their lives.

Violence is neither a diagnosis nor is it a disease, and ours remains a violent society. If you read the news, people kill each other every day, by the hundreds – in Afghanistan, New York and East LA, and very few of these people are mentally ill. A military officer who kills masses of people with a Predator drone may be many things, but he is not mentally ill. A drug dealer seeking to avenge a bad drug deal is little different from the mass shooter who seeks revenge for the abuses he feels have been done to him. These killers have been profiled by Paul Mullen, an esteemed Australian forensic psychologist:

They’re almost all male, there is one exception. They’re young. They tend to be in their 20s. They are typically social isolates. They very rarely have close friends or confidants. They almost never have an intimate relationship, although they sometimes have had brief relationships, which have usually failed.(1)

Interestingly, they’re not like many offenders, they don’t tend to have problems with alcohol and drugs. They’re certainly not impulsive, quite the reverse. These are rather rigid, obsessional individuals who plan everything extremely carefully. And most of these massacres have been planned for days, weeks, sometimes months ahead.

The other thing about them is that they are angry and resentful at the world, they blame the world for not having recognised their qualities, for having mistreated them and misused them. Resentment is central to their personalities.

They spend their time ruminating on all those past slights and offences. And they begin to develop a hatred for the whole world.

Perhaps most important of all, these people are on a project to suicide. They go out there to die, and they go out to die literally in what they see as a blaze of glory. They are seeking a sort of personal vindication through fame or, more precisely, infamy.

To summarize: although direct research is somewhat limited because shooters usually commit suicide, they do operate from an almost stereotypical pattern. The shooter kills in public during the daytime, plans his offense well in advance and comes prepared with a powerful arsenal of weapons. He has no escape plan and expects to be killed during the incident. The killer is driven by strong feelings of anger and resentment, flowing from beliefs of being persecuted or grossly mistreated. He is driven by fantasies of revenge.

These killers are calculating and delusional, but most often not mentally ill. If you met one, you’d think they were odd, but their behavior would not alert you to what they were planning. They can be episodic, so people who spend time with them such as parents, friends and teachers will know that something is wrong, but that can be said for many people, and trying to pick out a potential shooter from the millions troubled, frustrated and disenfranchised people is a daunting task to say the least.

But what is a teacher or parent to do? Several of the recent crop of mass killers could easily have been helped by a residential facility, but even though their problems had been identified, there was simply no program or facility to help them, and no mechanism in place to allow them to be legally referred out for help. So the concerns of teachers, family members and even therapists fell into an abyss in the system with as we now know, tragic consequences!

Most often a teacher or parent’s only resource is to call the police, but the police can only respond to a direct, immanent, violent threat. This puts the subject, if he looses his rigid composure (which is uncommon), into a criminal justice system that is neither equipped or prepared to deal with him.

There are almost no resources to help troubled people – no housing, no supervision, no guidance, counseling or vocational training. A callous political calculation has been made that killings such as Columbine, Virginia Tech and Sandy Hook are a cheaper alternative than to create community based mental health clinics and the billions of dollars and large infrastructure that would require.

Shooters do not see themselves as troubled but rather as victims, so these angry young men vehemently resist taking medications, being confined or receiving treatment. Many of the drugs they are prescribed have truly awful side effects (including violent behavior), further complicating an already difficult situation. These men are smart but their dysfunction is likely to have already brought them up against teachers, the police and psychiatrists, and they will have learned how to play the system to avoid being confined.

The lack of community support makes the well-meaning teacher or parent who seeks help for a subject, a target for the subject’s smoldering rage. And as we have sadly seen, these men can lash out with incredibly destructive rage or in a most interesting modern twist, lawsuits! Most parents are also unwilling to see their sons as troubled because that reflects back on them as parenting failures.

A critical element in the discussion of mass shooters obviously involves guns and their accessibility. There is a group of people in our society who fear that the government might try and take away their freedoms. These are usually men who feel personally powerless. And for people who feel powerless, like a victimized shooter or an NRA member, an assault rifle can be the great equalizer.

The need of these men to defend themselves against a fantasied governmental incursion has led them to create an open market for assault style weapons that regrettably, can easily get into the wrong hands (either legally or illegally). The fear of these “Defenders of Freedom” puts the rest of us at grave risk. Eighty percent of the perpetrators of the 62 most recent mass shootings obtained their weapons legally.


Besides, home security can easily be accomplished by less aggressive weapons. And as far as protection from a governmental incursion is concerned, if you consider the premise of armed civilians going up against the might of the Army with its tanks, trained troops and helicopter gunships, the whole concept becomes pretty ridiculous. But, in one sense the NRA is right, guns are only the instruments of mayhem. But, the pivotal factor that the NRA conveniently chooses to ignore is that a rage filled person with a Bushmaster assault rifle is massively more deadly and dangerous than one without. Mass killers don’t use knives or baseball bats. Assault weapons have been perfected as instruments of death and they are incredibly effective at doing it! And that is why we must get them and high capacity magazines off the street!

The NRA, controlled and funded by gun manufacturers, purposefully and unconscionably, fuels their member’s fears, as it attempts to gain support for its private agenda, which is a society where everyone carries guns – essentially a throwback to the violent Wild West of the 1880′s.

The other aspect of the weapons discussion has to do with their sheer availability. There are over 350,000,000 guns in America and anyone who wants a gun can easily get one. You can go to any city in America and in 48 hours purchase enough guns and ammunition (including heavy weapons), to equip a small army.

gun  show

America is violent country. Our homicide rates are SEVEN TIMES higher than rates in the other high-income countries. More than half of all murders are committed with guns. Our firearm homicide rates are TWENTY TIMES higher. For youths fifteen to twenty-four years old, firearm homicide rates in America are FORTY THREE TIMES higher than in other countries.(1)

Another issue in this discussion, and what has until now been a sacred cow, is the failure of psychotherapy to heal people. The simple truth is that psychotherapy and drugs just don’t work very well. But, since they have been the only game in town and they come from the esteemed medical profession, politicians give them approval because of the way the legal system esteems psychiatry, (which even amongst practicing psychotherapists is a standing joke!) The alternative is to warehouse troubled people like we do criminals – who we also don’t seem to know how to help.

Shamanism (and you must accept my bias here) has a remarkable record of helping emotionally troubled people to heal, but it is a foreign concept from “backward” tribal cultures, difficult to teach in university classrooms and is spiritually and not medically or “scientifically” based. Besides, there are relatively few really qualified shaman around. So, even though the psychotherapy car already has several flat tires, we continue to try and drive it down the road.

The law doesn’t help much in dealing with troubled people either. The courts are understandably, exceedingly touchy about confining someone against their will without a certification of mental illness. And as I said, most mass killers do not meet the the mental illness requirement. Acts of mass murder are so heinous that it is difficult to attribute them to normal people, but shooters are merely the extreme fringe of a culture that engages in deadly violence every day. In America hundreds of people are killed every single day. I don’t personally agree with the psychiatric categorizations of mental illness, but these are the rules that the law and the courts have chosen to adopt.

When a troubled person attracts attention, the police are usually called. But the only resource a police officer has is jail, and that’s only going to be for a short time. Sometimes they can pawn the troubled person off to a shelter. If a seriously troubled person comes for therapy, unless he or she represents an imminent and immediate threat to themselves or to others, the system effectively forbids the therapist from doing anything beyond counseling. Even if the subject is a ticking time bomb, unless he or she expresses an active desire to cause harm, therapists, the police, teachers, the clergy and even the courts are denied any real resource for intervention.

And when a person does present an active threat, they can only be hospitalized for 72 hours before being committed as mentally ill, if they actually happen to be so, and if there is a bed available, which these days is rare. A colleague of mine in Virginia had a potentially violent client, checked with the state and found 70 other violent people already waiting in line. By the end of the day, this violent and potentially explosive man was back on the street. The only consolation for mental health professionals is the miracle that more killings aren’t happening every day!

I would like to end by making a few suggestions. These are not complete answers, but they would go a very long way toward mitigating the current situation:

Since an assault weapon cannot be used for hunting, and personal defense can be easily accomplished by other means, it is time that society took a stand and joined the rest of the civilized world to establish bans on assault weapons and large capacity magazines. Further, the purposefully designed loopholes in the present reporting system for weapons sales such as unregulated private and gun show sales must be closed. Unfortunately, having the government maintain a list of gun owners feeds right into the paranoia that makes NRA members want assault weapons in the first place!

In a many cases, troubled people can be identified before things go bad. I have mentioned having a referral system based on observations from therapists, law enforcement officers, clergy, teachers and even family members. It would be simple to backstop these referrals with a qualified professional so that errors would be minimized.

There are tests that could help identify people who are likely to need help in the future. It would be possible to test all sixteen to twenty year olds for a host of issues. This could cull out most, but unfortunately not all, of the people likely to be future shooters.

But, there is no sense identifying these people if we are not going to provide the resources to help them. The names of people meeting critical criteria could be denied access to firearms. Civil libertarians will not like it, but under the circumstances, it would seem to be a reasonable limitation of personal freedom. Access to this list could be selectively given to parents, teachers, the clergy, therapists, the courts and law enforcement officers.

There is a desperate need for community based, residential facilities for troubled people. These facilities must be sufficiently funded and staffed so that the needs of patients could be addressed and the reasonable concerns of neighbors mitigated. This would provide a badly needed resource for parents, therapists, law enforcement officers, the clergy, the courts and educators who, with some changes in the law, could refer out troubled people with protection from retribution and lawsuits. This represents a very large expenditure, probably the equivalent cost of an aircraft carrier or a few nuclear missiles.

Psychotherapy has emphasized cognitive behavioral health for years. Cognitions and behaviors are measurable, observable. And to some extent, altering thoughts and behaviors does help MANAGE emotional issues. But in only rare cases does it HEAL them. This leaves open room for relapse when the person is subjected to challenging circumstances.

There are other healing methods like shamanism that have an established history of providing exactly the healing that troubled shooters require. These approaches can reach the cause of the underlying problems and address them. It is time to begin looking into some of these alternate approaches.

Confining someone against their will who is not mentally ill and who already feels victimized by the world is going to pose a nightmare for the courts and legislators. Where do you draw the line? What about errors in diagnosis? And there will be some. This matter is subjective and emotionally loaded, presenting land mines for the legal system.
As I said, this is a complex issue with many moving parts.

Solutions will require changes in the concerns some politicians have about socialized medicine and our present legal prohibitions around personal privacy. Creating community based mental health clinics will be expensive. But most importantly, what needs to change are the views, fear and ostracism we hold towards troubled people.We need to find our compassion for them. Societies do not die in a cataclysm, that is only the final event in a series of unresolved social issues that cause the social fabric to decay. To delay, to not provide care for the many troubled people who live amongst us, is to only invite more school shootings, and the painful thing about that is what it says about a society that is unwilling to respond to the cries of its neediest people. Perhaps the Mayans were right after all.


(1) To clarify Mullen’s point: Interviews tell us that mass shooters are not exactly loners. They do not seek isolation, and have “friends,” but their social experience is marked by a history of struggling to connect. They experience rejection by their peers or they draw back from potential friendships, assuming they’ll be rejected if they try. They believe they are perceived as unimportant and insignificant. Many mass shooters, rather than wanting to be alone, end up that way because they cannot maintain a connection.

(2) (

 Copyright 2013 Ross Bishop

The Origins of Violence

by Ross Bishop

This article is something of a departure. There is a good deal of violence in our world and little meaningful response to it. I am going to address the root causes of two kinds of violence – crime and terrorism. They come from the same sources. Tragically, we are not predisposed to address their causes for the same reasons we ignore the causes of social injustice. Ultimately it forces us to remedy our own failings toward others, and we do not like being called on to do that. Instead, our militaristic attitude towards both crime and terrorism as history shows us, only makes them worse.


What does it take to create a criminal or a terrorist? Take two identical children. One grows up to be a terrorist, the other grows up to be you. What are the differences? How much frustration and despair does it take to make a person willingly throw their life away as a suicide bomber or choose to spend the rest of their life going in and out of prison for dealing drugs? We can try to imagine, but truthfully, the life experiences of criminals and terrorists are so far removed from our daily world that it is very difficult to relate to the environment that creates them.

During the 19th century, scientists held that criminal behavior was inherited, caused by inferior genes. Theories like this gave support to Darwinian racist beliefs, adding a great deal of racial fuel to the conflict that led to the American Civil War and has fueled racism ever since. Criminals and terrorists are not some genetically deviant species of sub-human. Genes predispose people toward certain behaviors, but it is culture that creates criminals. God does not create good frogs and bad frogs or good trees and bad trees. God just creates frogs and trees. We do the rest. Criminals and terrorists are you, baked and basted in a really nasty oven.

Study after study has shown that subjected to similar conditions, many people abandon their altruism and turn to crime or terrorism. Terrorist and criminal behavior are expressions of responses to extreme circumstances. As just an illustration, if you have children – how far would you go to protect them? Would you steal to get food? Would you lie to stay alive? Would you kill someone who threatened their safety? You see, you do have it in you! Fortunately for most of us, we never have to go that far. Other people are not so fortunate. And when that happens, there is incredible inner turmoil. When soldiers return from combat, we call it PTSD.

At the core, terrorism and criminality develop from deeply held feelings of powerlessness and hopelessness and the resulting resentment and stress this creates. These feelings come from people who are shut out with little hope of ever being let “in.” For some people this becomes a lifelong ordeal, meaning that there will also be a good deal of suppressed rage to accompany the alienation.

Rage can be internalized as shame or manifested externally as a need to defend oneself or “get back” at parents or a society that has been abusive, unfair and unkind. Holding resentment and feeling treated unfairly makes it easier to rationalize anti-social behavior.

The roots of these difficulties begin when we are very young. Children come into the world powerless. They cannot care for themselves, cannot feed themselves and cannot protect themselves. They are totally dependent on parents for their survival. If not cared for, a child will perish, and children are instinctively aware of their vulnerability. The reason this is important is that the child’s unique position makes her exceptionally vulnerable to parental manipulation.

In a healthy environment there is unconditional love and support from both the family and the community. Under these circumstances a child will evolve from powerless dependency into healthy independence. This is not a smooth or easy transition as the child struggles with issues of identity and power and parents must deal with challenges to their competence and self-confidence. Parents are intimately familiar with the Terrible Twos, a stressful and challenging time for everyone as children begin to establish their independence.

Parents generally love their children. But many parents also have difficulty openly expressing their love. If the process of childhood development (called individuation) is sabotaged by a parent’s inability or unwillingness to openly express, then the child’s development can be impeded. The situation is often complicated by the child being told that she is loved while parental actions are contradictory.

When love is withheld, a child is placed in an impossible position. She has no power to change either her parents or the situation (although she may try). But the child must reconcile the conflict between wanting to be loved and not receiving it (a primal threat). Without some kind of rapprochement she will go crazy. Since she cannot change her circumstances, she will turn to the only thing she can control – her interpretation of the situation. She will do what every child does in this situation. She will reinterpret what happened in order to resolve her considerable inner conflict. She will decide that she does not deserve to be loved. The explanation is simple. If she is bad or unworthy, then her parent’s behavior becomes understandable. It reconciles the “I love you, but I’m not going to give you my love” conflict. It is not an easy reconciliation, but under the circumstances it is all she can do.

Parents frequently express concern that they have damaged their children by doing the “wrong” things. Raising a healthy child has really little to do with what a parent does. If they feel loved, children are incredibly adaptable. What is important is the heartfelt feelings behind parental actions. Children are incredibly forgiving when they know that a parent is sincerely trying.

Once the child accepts that she is unworthy (or worse), she will retreat into fear and self-protective (fight or flight) behavior. If she retreats, she may become sullen, avoid contact and close off emotionally. If she chooses to fight, she may become rebellious, fight back, become angry, kick and scream, etc. The severity of her response will match her perception of the threat to her well-being. Her need for self-protection may only drive her into a minor neurosis. Or, if the perceived threat is extreme, she might find it necessary to engage in all-out war, seeking revenge and retribution that can spread far beyond her perpetrators to a wider world.

Notice that these are defensive postures. They are not strategies designed to resolve the problem. They are designed to create distance between her and an external tormentor. But, it is all she feels she can do. If her needs remain unmet, her inner terrorist will remain functional so that she can respond to threats that she feels powerless to address. In this dynamic are contained the seeds of both crime and terrorism.

There are many factors that enter into these situations, and a dysfunctional social environment can powerfully contribute to the dysfunctional beliefs the child is creating. You probably do not listen to rap music, but in addition to lust and materialism, it often speaks of struggle.

Not everyone raised under these circumstances turns violent, but many young people do. The few who pull themselves out, in spite of poor parenting, terrible schools and a degrading social environment, deserve our reverential respect. Their accomplishments, against overwhelming odds, are remarkable.

Thus far I have discussed what might be considered a typically abnormal family environment. But when a parent shifts from simply being unable to love to more extreme behaviors such as outright cruelty or abuse, then the emotional dynamics of the situation build in ways most of us cannot imagine. The circumstances for the child can become so awful that life enters the realm of the surreal, severing the child’s connection to reality. Then, to make matters even worse, if we put her in a dysfunctional and violent cultural/social environment, we can create a very damaged person filled with incredible despair. She (or more likely, he) can turn revengeful, hateful and explosive in a heartbeat. It is not a large jump from this state to criminal or terrorist behavior.

Consider what we know about arrest (note: not crime) statistics: We have established that between 10 and 20 per cent of children in the general population experience some form of abuse. However, over 80 percent of the prison population has been abused physically. Of all types of childhood maltreatment, physical abuse is the most likely to be associated with arrest for a violent crime, especially amongst males. The group next most likely to be arrested for a violent offense were those who were neglected as children.

Abused children are 11 times more likely to be arrested for a violent crime than the general population. Studying groups of young people against control groups of their peers subjected to similar social circumstances, abused children were still five times more likely to be arrested later as juveniles, twice as likely to be arrested as adults, and three times more likely to be arrested for a violent crime.

Separated by sex, forty percent of abused males will be arrested for a violent crime as opposed to sixteen percent of a matching control group. Amongst females, sixteen percent of abused and neglected females will be arrested for violent crime compared to only two percent of a matched peer group. And remember, these are only arrest statistics; they do not address the number of crimes or acts of violence. Adding one more fact to this mix, we know that serial killers, almost without exception, are severely sexually abused as children.

With less than five percent of the world’s population, the U.S. has over one quarter of the world’s prison population. Today, one of every one hundred adults in the U.S is in prison – 2.3 million people. If you add the people on probation, the total surges to 7.2 million. We have never known what to do with these people, so we sweep them under the rug and warehouse them in prisons. The rest of the world seems to have found ways to be more forgiving.

Violence is not however a uniquely Western quality. In addition to our homegrown crime, we are also living during an age of violent conflict between Western militaristic capitalism and Islamic fundamentalism, adding to the overall culture of violence.

Islamic cultures have extremely strong prohibitions against crime through both social morays and Draconian punishment, and so there is little crime in Islamic societies. But Islamic culture is also quite rigid and can be very violent, endorsing honor killings, wife beating and the sexual mutilation of girls. Exacerbating the violence is the almost total failure of Muslim society to address the emotional, economic and educational needs of its people.

Many people in the Middle East live under the daily threat of either military aggression or terrorist violence. We do not have any frame of reference through which to understand what life must be like under those circumstances. American children are spared the trauma of living with carnage in the news, a daily television staple for Muslim children. Lloyd deMause has written extensively about violence and terrorism in Islamic society. He writes in “The Childhood Origins of Terrorism:”

The roots of current terrorist attacks lie, I believe, not in this or that American foreign policy error but in the extremely abusive families of the terrorists. Children who grow up to be Islamic terrorists are products of a misogynist (ed: woman-hating, anti-feminist.) fundamentalist system . . . as one Muslim sociologist put it bluntly: “In our society there is no relationship of friendship between a man and a woman.” Families that produce the most terrorists are the most violently misogynist; in Afghanistan, for instance, girls cannot attend schools and women who try to hold jobs or who seem to “walk with pride” are killed.

Young girls are treated abominably in most fundamentalist families. When a boy is born, the family rejoices; when a girl is born, the whole family mourns. The girl’s sexuality is so hated that when she is five or so the women grab her, pin her down, and chop off her clitoris and often her labia with a razor blade or piece of glass, ignoring her agony and screams for help, because, they say, her clitoris is “dirty,” “ugly,” “poisonous,” “can cause a voracious appetite for promiscuous sex,” and “might render men impotent.” The area is then often sewed up to prevent intercourse, leaving only a tiny hole for urination. (Note: Over 130 million genitally mutilated women are estimated to live today in Islamic nations.)

deMause then goes on to make a most astute conclusion:

. . . It is not surprising that these mutilated, battered women make less than ideal mothers, re-inflicting their own miseries upon their children. Visitors to families throughout fundamentalist Muslim societies report on the “slapping, striking, whipping and thrashing” of children, with constant shaming and humiliation, often being told by their mothers that they are “cowards” if they don’t hit others. Physical abuse of children is continuous; as the Pakistani Conference on Child Abuse reports: “A large number of children face some form of physical abuse. . .” The report goes on to say that, “Widespread child sexual abuse leads to paranoid, highly traumatized, and revenge-seeking adults. . .“

Adding to deMause’s (and many others’) observations, Jamie Glazov writes in “The Sexual Rage Behind Islamic Terror:”

Throughout the Islamic Middle East, men and women are taught to be vehemently opposed to pleasure, especially of the sexual variety. Men are raised not only forbidden to touch women, but to even look at them.

Criminal behavior comes in many flavors. The ghettos of East LA or NY produce a violent kind of crime, the conceit and moral corruption west of Third Avenue or The Hamptons produces another. Criminals and terrorists act as they do because their personal burdens demand that they rend the social fabric. They are unable to behave like normal people and they have little desire to. The dynamics of their personal hell combined with the influence of their dysfunctional social environment make living like you do both problematic and undesirable.

Sociopaths do not see their victims as people but rather as objects. A drug dealer has little regard for the lives he destroys. The men who ran ENRON didn’t care about the people they hurt. Do you really think that the investment bankers responsible for the present economic disaster are remotely sorry for the millions and millions and millions of dollars they have salted away in numbered accounts? If you listen to their explanations, it is always someone else’s fault anyway. Terrorists throw their lives away because they have little to live for and hope to wake the world up to their plight.

You have a great deal to live for. They don’t.

You have hope. They have little.

Your life was difficult, theirs has been hell.

Until we create a social order built around the values that the Creator has given us, the prospects for significant change are poor.


Copyright©2009 Blue Lotus Press

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Finding Peace

by Ross Bishop

John Dominic Crossan has written a most interesting book entitled, God and Empire. In the book he premises that although individuals may not always be violent, societies almost always are. Countries have land and resources to guard and the welfare of the people to protect. Then too, there is always the issue of territorial expansion. Look at history – the Carthaginian, Greek, Roman, Spanish, French and British empires were all created through conquest and violence. The same thing was true in ancient Africa, Egypt and much of the Orient.

The modern age has seen America involved in two World Wars, the Korean conflict, Viet Nam, and recently wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Each of these conflicts was about territorial and/or philosophical domination. These conflicts express the traditional approach to expansion and its natural response. This is the expansion of political philosophy at the point of a gun. Crossan refers to it as “peace through violence.”

The Peace Through Violence is an international expression of a domestic philosophy that has been in place I our culture for centuries. We practice peace through violence by way of our laws, police power, the courts and prisons. The approach is simple and straightforward – “Break the law, go to jail.” It doesn’t really matter what drove you to act as you did. To traditionalists, “Good people don’t behave like that,” and we segregate “other” i.e., “questionable” people from good people, physically in ghettos and also socially and economically.

Author Crossan contrasts the concept of Peace Through Violence with the “radical nonviolence of Jesus.” On the surface, both approaches claim similar goals, but there are significant differences. As Abraham did before him, Jesus sought peace through inclusiveness and compassion. He created a large tent into which everyone was welcomed with love and respect. It was a supportive environment with room for diversity and differences. Because people were respected and accepted, they were disinclined to violence

The Peace Through Violence philosophy is significantly less embracing. It is notably self-centered and fear based. It says in effect, “You can come into the tent so long as you agree not to threaten me or the rest of the group.” It is an uneasy peace where power is achieved through violence and everyone has a gun. This approach does not respect the individual, it coerces him. The authority sets the rules. It is the Catholic nun in fourth grade coming down the aisles and rapping knuckles with a ruler. It is an approach guaranteed to create a negative reaction.

Jesus honored and respected the individual. He recognized that people could do bad things, but that this did not make them inherently bad. This moved Him to compassion and created the desire to reach out and help others, rather than shut them away in prison or shun them to live under freeway overpasses, as we do.

Conservatives in every society typically exhibit a strong reaction to the advocacy of inclusiveness. They have theirs and they are generally not interested in sharing it with the “unwashed.” The fear and violence of white Southerners toward the emancipation of slaves and later to their legal equality, gave rise to beatings, murder, church burnings and lynchings. It speaks to the knee jerk fear reaction conservatives frequently exhibit toward the “big tent” philosophy. Recently, the politicization of the 9/11 ground zero “Mosque,” vandalism and opposition to other Mosque building projects, the proposed burning of Korans, resistance to equality for gays or the entry of Hispanics or other ethnic groups into the country – people we used to call “guest workers” that are now referred to as “illegal immigrants,” expresses the exclusivity of the conservative perspective.

The most famous conservative reaction in history was that of the Sanhedrin to the teachings of Christ. The Sanhedrin was so threatened by the loss of position and power represented by Christ’s radical philosophy, that they pressured the Romans to crucify Him. The Sanhedrin was not alone in their fear of Christian compassion. The Romans themselves were sufficiently threatened by Christ’s teachings that they engaged in genocide against the early Christians.

A friend of mine, we’ll call him Mark, hired a young man, a former addict, to do odd jobs around an apartment building Mark owned. Things went well until Mark went out of town and the young man fell off the wagon. Mark returned home to find his television set, bicycle and stereo missing. They had been sold by to buy drugs.

It would have been easy to have this troubled and troublesome young man locked up and “punished” for his sins. But Mark knew this would solve nothing. Instead, he worked with this kid, got him help and support from former addicts. Mark encouraged him to enroll in a treatment program. Rather than exclude him from his tent, Mark chose to bring him in, as Christ taught, to “turn the other cheek.”

It wasn’t easy, and it took a good deal of time and effort and it was a risk on Mark’s part, but today the young man is back at work, clean and sober, and making wonderful progress toward being a contribution to society instead of a hard core, prison system recidivist or street junkie.

That’s how we change the world, one person at a time. Somewhere in your block, or in your town, is someone who needs your help. How many things in life are more important than that? When is the last time you volunteered at the local soup kitchen, or gave the old lady down the street a ride to the store? A friend of mine makes baked potatoes and distributes them to the homeless in his town. He says it does wonders FOR HIM! What it comes down to is, “How large are you willing to make your tent?”

The world does not change by politicians passing laws, it changes when you realize that you can make a difference in someone else’s life. When that does not happen, then we have to use Peace Through Violence.

Copyright©2010 Blue Lotus Press

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