Response to “Empty Words” by Casey Dorman, Lost Coast Review

On November 6, 2017 Casey Dorman wrote a response to the most recent mass killings in America titled “Empty Words” at Lost Coast Review. Dorman states, “Fighting terrorism or preventing mass murders is not a matter of ‘not giving in’ to something.”

Because of the length of this response, I have posted it here rather than on the the Lost Coast Review website: The following is a comment to “Empty Words”:

I  agree, Casey. All of our statements of unity seem hollow and trite. They are spoken in the absence of a call for more effort toward understanding the causes of these incredible tragedies. That call, it seems to me, would be for more intensive research in and attention to trying to understand the mind of individuals who actually have chosen to give up everything that any of the rest of us desire in this world. They HAVE chosen to give up everything. We think about the tragic enormity of what they take from innocent people, but we often fail to consider the angst that brought them to the place, essentially of suicide – the same angst that perhaps thousands of other people also feel, but which these individuals cannot control. Why? No matter how much armor they wear or try to run at the very last minute, they DO understand that they are risking everything to go against sacredly held ideals of society. They choose to be the outcast. Again the question is “Why”‘? What can be a motivator that is stronger than survival? What can be the cause that transforms a human mind, that makes the instinct for survival SUBSERVIENT to his or her need to engage in horribly destructive action to others as well as to himself?  Even in as seemingly unconnected case of a person afflicted with anorexia, something has happened to turn off that survival switch. What is that factor?

You said something in this piece that I don’t think was expressed elsewhere. ‘Many of the mass killings involve individuals who desire to kill lots of people who are together enjoying some benign group activity, such as attending a music concert, a sporting event, church, or being present at a club, a movie or political event.’ I was struck by the words “enjoying some benign group activity”. It suggests extreme isolation from the community as a unifying factor and a probable cause for how a mind is re-shaped – how it is called to act in retaliation or how it becomes open to indoctrination of an ideology.

The heroes of society are rightfully identified as the first responders, or others who step in to stop the carnage. Those ARE the heroes, and there are other heroes as well.  Those are the people who take on the day-to-day difficult task of counseling individuals, providing support groups for domestic violence, giving intensive therapy, and doing research into cognitive behavior. Those heroes are not supported nor applauded enough by society.

Emphasizing that aspect of society on an ongoing basis is at the core of the solution to the problem; making them a source of inspiration is a shift in focus that we need to take.  And we need to think about the heroes among us who inspire us. You can find them in any community. They are the people who stop and interact with the kid who seems alone, talk to the guy on the block no one wants to befriend. When I see them interact, it inspires me. I think we should think about these people at moments like this and how we can be more like them. We need sincere inspiration rather than the syrupy “oh so strong” rhetoric that falls like a disingenuous, cacophonous clang on everyone’s ears. Until we have truly inspirational leadership, we just have to inspire each other.