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  • Writer's pictureDoug Weiss

Victims and Perpetrators

Reviewing a podcast I recorded several years ago with my colleague, Alvean Lyons, I was reminded that the greatest predictor of abusiveness in a relationship is a history of having been abused as a child. The relationship is so common, in fact, that it is often referred to as the predictable pattern. Yet, in the current debate about mass murder, grooming, and other sociopathic acts the dialog is almost exclusively focused on mental health issues as if they were a spontaneous occurrence. The intentional over simplification of the root causes of sociopathic personality disorders ignores the pivotal role parents and caregivers play in setting the stage for these behaviors. And, among the many inane solutions proposed of late, teachers are once again singled out as the first line of defense in identifying and referring troubled children for help.

While teachers do spend a good deal of time with their students on a daily basis, to suggest that they have the training, observational skills, and ability to diagnose, mental health issues much less sociopathic tendencies among the dozens of students they see each day is simply shifting responsibility away from family, community, and neighbors among others. The fact remains that it is far more likely that a predisposition to abusive pathologies can be observed in the home, and in the behavior of parents and caregivers than it can in children, at an age where intervention can be effective. But this is not a view any legislator or health official is likely to espouse for obvious reasons. Intervention is almost always the role mistakenly assigned police departments when acts of violence within a home or in public are manifested. In too many cases it is long after lasting damage has been done.

Moreover, listening to the nonsense being prattled by pandering legislators and their sycophantic followers it seems we expect teachers to be lethally trained, armed psychologists. One Texas school superintendent who is in fact training and arming all the teachers in his rural community as a condition of employment described it as a preventative measure akin to swimming lessons. His expressed fear is that a lone gunmen could drive off the interstate and attack his school before police located 20 minutes away could reach them. I would suggest that the likelihood of that scenario unfolding borders on the manufactured, while the possibility of a current or former student taking innocent lives is far more realistic.

Parents, many of whom believe they know far better than trained educators what and how to teach their children, are now demanding new laws to ban books, sus out children wrestling with identity issues, sweep out any mention of our country’s dismal history of slavery and racism, and otherwise sanitize the curriculum so that it reflects a world that never was. Do not expect the revisionism to stop there—soon we will be teaching 7 day cosmology, flat earth science, and the history of Jesus, "the greatest American that ever lived", taming the Dinosaurs.

I am not making any of this up—you can find examples in every community, people who not only believe such things but are outraged that the rest of us don’t. And, it goes much further. A Christian fundamentalist preacher recently stated that every LGBTQIA person should be hunted down and shot in the back of the head. How can we listen to such stories and wonder why teenagers are gunning down 4th graders? Who exactly taught them a creed of violence, who exactly do we mean when we talk about a mental health crisis?

Well, my friends, we do have a mental health crisis but it isn’t the teens who pulled the trigger that need intervention, it is their parents, their families, co -workers and their community who taught them to hate, taught them that violence is acceptable, that being different in any way is wrong, morally corrupt, and should be punished, severely, even unto death. Do we have more mentally ill people in our country than any other, the data does not support that contention. But we are a culture that cultivates a vision of violence as a solution for every problem, looks the other way when it occurs in the home, and makes it easier for a 12 year old to legally obtain the tools of mass murder than to get a driver's license, buy a drink or a pack of cigarettes .

The same people who defend the ridiculous gun laws we cherish have construed a constitutional provision restricting the ability of government from taking arms from organized and trained militia to mean that anyone with enough money, regardless of their sanity, history of sociopathic behavior or demonstrated predisposition can purchase a weapon wholly unsuited for hunting or target shooting purposes. Semi automatic weapons with high capacity magazines were expressly designed to do only one thing very well, kill people. In what version of reality do we suggest that freedom of speech extends to bald faced threats of extreme violence preached from a pulpit? In what reality does a person who claims to follow Christ, believe that mass murder is an acceptable solution to anything?

I want to be absolutely clear. I am not anti-gun. I own them and was an instructor for the NRA and New York State Hunter Safety, as well as a competitive target shooter. I resigned when the NRA stopped preaching gun safety and began preaching gun legislation—that is the systematic elimination of any and all laws restricting ownership of any kind of gun. The NRA is an organization largely subsidized by gun manufacturers and it dispenses prodigious sums of money to the campaigns of politicians on both sides of the aisle. As much as this system of corporate influence is a corrupt practice in any democracy I do not place the blame entirely on the NRA, any more than I can place the entire responsibility for global warming on the lobbyists for coal, oil, gas and the chemical industry. They are doing a job we accept as legitimate, to peddle influence in exchange for political contributions.

It is we who support and vote for the legislators that take their money, who enable them. Just as it is we who remain silent or offer up prayer as our sole remedy when yet another perpetrator takes the lives of innocent victims, by gun, disease, environmental disaster or any other predatory act. It is we who are the perpetrators but it is also we who are the victims. it is we who tolerate all manner of unspeakable trespasses against peace, against equality, against our fundamental human rights, unless or until it is we who fall prey to them. Inside us all is both perpetrator and victim—whether or how we will act to break that cycle, the 'predictable pattern', will decide our future.

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