Tuesday, February 13, 2007

What Was He Thinking?

A young man walked into a Salt Lake City mall last night and calmly and indiscriminately shot to death two young women, two men, and a teenage girl and wounded four others before police killed him with a hail of gunfire after he failed to drop his weapon and surrender. Had the police not responded as quickly as they did--reports are that the gunman was "contained" within six minutes of the first gunshots fired--many more might have died or been wounded.

The question that comes to mind is, Why did this young man do what he did? Was it a case of "suicide by cop"? It's doubtful that he expected to live after he murdered those people. The fact that he responded to a command to surrender by firing shotgun blasts at police certainly suggests this.

But if he wanted to die, why did he want to kill as many innocent people as he could first? Whether Christian or not, don't most people fear "dying in sin" enough or feel sufficient uncertainty about what might await them in a possible afterlife that the last thing they would want to do just before dying is murder as many innocent people as possible?

I don't know about you, but if I wanted the police to kill me, I'd be as much of a saint as I could be for as long as possible before the fateful moment. And when that moment came, I'd do something to attract the police's attention that didn't harm anyone, and I would point an unloaded gun at police to get them to shoot me.

Don't worry, I have no desire to commit suicide by cop or any other means. But if I did, I would be an agnostic male version of Mother Teresa beforehand. I wouldn't walk into a mall with a shotgun and handgun and start blowing away men, women, and girls out doing an evening's shopping.

What was he thinking?


Tom said...

I have to think that the guy was very, very angry with the world; disgusted with his situation in life; and unable to see his way to being happy.

In an effort to assuage his own anger, to prove to himself that he was powerful and manly and courageous, he did what he did.

This is a problem in America and a problem with what has become of many young men in the Middle East and elsewhere. There's a lack of hope.

One way for us to address these problems, including the pre-eminent one for our time, terrorism, is to create pathways for hope and happiness for poor, opressed people.

I don't have any inside info on any of this, but what I write is what I believe must be the case.

Nagarjuna said...

Tom, I wonder how someone can think that shooting to death women and teenage girls shopping in a mall is a courageous or manly thing to do. But then I am thinking about this in a rational way. It appears that this young man wasn't.

When you mentioned "many young men in the Middle East and elsewhere" also going out in a burst of murderous violence, I immediately wondered whether this young man was Muslim and believed, in his own warped way, that his actions were striking out against the
great satan" America in a way that would deliver him to a posthumous paradise rather than torturous hell.

I sure hope not. As far as I'm concerned, Islam already has enough strikes against it.

CC said...

Maybe this young man wanted others to feel whatever terrible pain he had built-up inside him and felt that whatever waited on the "other side" couldn't possibly be worse?



Tom said...

I think that if you feel 'cornered' in life, oppressed, blocked and pleasure-less then you can lose any feeling of value for others' lives.

But I think cc's right. It is as if nobody hears you, so you want the world to sense your pain. So, the young man was going to die in a hail of bullets; he wanted random others to feel that, too.

I think the young man's act is horrible and deplorable, but not unreasonable. There is this 'escape valve' -- this act of Sparticus -- to refuse to acquiesce, to be unheard and lie down quietly.

In terms of society, it is the right of the mob to cause mayhem.

You know, they used to teach the story of the glorious Boston Tea Party in grammar school. I would bet they don't do that now. You know the story: A group of Boston citizens, in revolt against the British tax on tea, dressed up as Indians and tossed a shipload of tea into the harbor. Pure terrorism.

Tom said...

An aside: I am wondering, Nagarjuna, if the title of this post comes from Gwen Ifill, who, on Washington Week in Review has an occasional end-of-the-show feature where she shows film of some nutty thing a politican said and asks her audience to weigh it on what in the world the politician might have been thinking. Her first "What Was He Thinking?" was in respect to Trent Lott when, a few years ago, he praised segregationist Strom Thurman, suggesting he would have been a great president had he been elected in 1948.

Her most recent "What Was He Thinking?" was about Biden's "articulate and clean" reference to Obama. On the next week's show she showed viewer mail which was uniformly supportive of Biden. You could lip read Ifill talking to her panel as the credits rolled at the very end of the show. She was saying "I couldn't believe it ..."