In an article entitled Shooting in Oregon another sign our culture is ill, Chicago Tribune contact reporter John Kass [above] refuses to blame spree killer Chris Mercer for his homicidal rage. This is as close as he gets: “Most news outlets focused on what has become depressingly familiar: the gunman, lonely, a nerd unable to adjust, narcissistic, nihilistic, seeking glory in innocent blood, perhaps a psychosis unknown as yet.” From there, Kass switches to Chicago’s “gun violence” problem, laying blame for that death toll on the Chicago machine . . .
What the president certainly understands, what politicians don’t tell the people, is that Chicago political corruption has a cost. And that leaves less money to pay for longer incarcerations for gun crimes, let alone any space to institutionalize the dangerously mentally ill.
Kass conveniently leaves out the fact that Chicago’s refusal to incarcerate violent criminals isn’t purely a government funding financial issue. The lack of appropriate law enforcement reflects the Machine’s desire to maintain the status quo. If Kass doesn’t see that the flow of drug money benefits – either directly or indirectly – Windy City’s politicians, he’s either ignorant or willfully ignorant.
Anyway, Mercer . . .
Right now I’m less interested in arguments about competing rights — the right to bear arms colliding with the supposed rights of psychotics to wander freely among us — than I am about the culture . . .
Our most popular sport, football, is about ritualized, gladiatorial violence. Our most popular movies are called “action movies,” but truly they should be called “kill movies” for all the corpses they produce, piles of them.
Our humor is rhetorically violent. Our popular music just as violent. We’re addicted to social media, where anonymity breeds a freedom to ridicule others, to peel their skin with venomous fingers from unknown keyboards. And we give our children phones at young ages so they may play, too.
Is there a cost to all of this? Sometimes a tragedy like what happened in Oregon makes denial all but impossible.
The Umpqua shooter was a homicidal satanist. The culture may have contributed to his evolution, but the key to Mercer’s killing spree was his personal psychology, not football, action movies, violent rhetoric, rap music or social media. The only thing Kass gets right: society failed to ID and isolate Mercer, despite the usual warning signs. To wit this (and other tell-tale signs of a disturbed mind) via PEOPLE:
[Classmate] Rivera says that Mercer liked to draw macabre scenes all over his notebooks. “He had this notebook with all these pictures of skulls that he had traced, and they had like fire in their eyes and looked really weird,” he says. “He would sit in class and just draw weird s— like bones or coffins instead of doing the work.”
Not everyone fascinated with the macabre is a spree killer. But it’s high time all of us intercede when we see something “off.” Other than that, what?