Shooters to Shao Lin

Who are the really dangerous ones among us?

Paul Robeson once observed: “The man who accepts Western values absolutely, finds his creative faculties becoming so warped and stunted that he is almost completely dependent on external satisfactions, and the moment he becomes frustrated in his search for these, he begins to develop neurotic symptoms, to feel that life is not worth living and, in chronic cases, to take his own life.”

Or yours. America is adept at producing young white men in particular, who find their only outlet of either sexual or meaningful life expression, in murderous violence, ending in suicide, or suicide by cop. Either way, lacking courage to create a life. Easier to destroy than create, and our society makes that normal.

Normal is what occurs with predictable regularity — there’s an infrastructure producing “normal.” For me, what happened at Umpqua Community College was about where and when, not if. In some communities this kind of violence is a daily occurrence.

Every day in America 90 people die by gun violence. By Oct. 1, the equivalent of the entire population of Roseburg plus about 3,000 had already died. Put another way, the annual death toll from gun violence equals the entire student body of Lane Community College, plus all but a few thousand students of the University of Oregon.

Normal and predictable, supported by infrastructure: also means preventable. For example, the illegal drug problem in America is normally generated by un-arrested, unprosecuted wealthy white Americans. Relaxed drug laws and reduced incarceration of people of color aren’t going to make a dent. Stricter gun laws without increasing general humanity, compassion and culturally competent mental health skill-building therapy will not make a dent either.

Many of my clients who have already been dangerous people want to be less so and “give back.” I feel no danger from the people who’ve killed for our government or for their street organizations. The former killers who now want to give back and become addiction workers or social workers are not the dangerous ones. After receiving three death threats (two from supremacists and one from a mentally ill person), I like to keep aware of my surroundings. I see it’s the dangerous ones who lose their humanity in cyber addiction, in fantasy, in garden variety dehumanizing insanity. The system that doesn’t recognize racism as a normalized recurring dual diagnosis (an addiction and a mental illness) which affects white shooters, like Dylann Roof, and black shooters like Vester Flanagan alike, won’t begin to address the normal generators of such madness.

The shooters don’t find sanity in the reality of helping less fortunate others — giving themselves a more noble life purpose in the face of barbs and slights from others. What if access to deadly force was not simply a consumer choice, but an earned privilege, like a samurai sword? You must prove your capacity to heal and make peace, adhere to a code of honor, before acquiring deadly force in the manner of a Shao Lin monk, or 18th Dynasty Medjay warrior.

It’s old school and naive perhaps, but when did expecting people to become more human, not less, and nurturing them on that journey, become more rare and less normal?