January 21, 2011

The Psychology of A Killer (Or How One Finds Oneself On The Trigger)

Lets face it: for a normal and decent human being, killing someone or something is outrageous, obscene, upsetting, and (mentally) impossible. What is it that drives us to murder? Is it the thrill? Revenge? Anger? Or could it be fear? How do you turn against someone or something you love? Some say it’s hate. But is putting down an animal you simply cannot afford to keep hate or fear?

I am from the age and generation of video games and the Internet, and I have witnessed many deaths, whether they were virtual, stunts, or reported on the news. My generation seems unfazed by all of the violence.

Jared Loughner the “Arizona Shooter,” happens to be a member of my generation — a twentysomething. But out of all of us that were raised in this environment, what drew him to harm so many people just going through their daily routine? Some say he played video games too much, others talked of his love of “Mein Kampf”, that he was obsessed with the military, and our Tea Party friends claim he was a Communist.

It is much too easy in this digital age to get sucked into violence and hate and forget about the real world, where there are real relationships and very real thoughts. Thoughts can run free online. It is much too easy to type things or record videos of things you normally wouldn’t say or do. Sometimes I sit back and read the status updates of “friends” on Facebook and think, ‘Gee, would these people say these things out loud’? I think, no, they would not.

The National Institute on Media and the Family (NIMF) reports that 92 percent of children and adolescents ages 2 to 17 play video games, and more than two thirds of all children live in a home with a video game system. The frightening fact is that they spend between 20 to 30 minutes a day in their virtual world. That’s about 14 hours a month.

I do realize that not all video games are violent. Yet, 89 percent of the top selling games currently out contain violence and half of those contain serious violence. About 17 percent of these games are focused only on violence. NIMF also found that playing these games accounts for a 13 percent to 22 percent increase in adolescents’ violent behavior.

Growing up, I remember being in Washington, D.C., waiting on the line for a tour of the FBI building. It was a typically hot steamy summer day in Washington, and my family and I had been waiting on line for hours. It was my father’s birthday – April 19th, 1995, the day Timothy McVeigh blew up the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City. Right after the bombing, I could see the black coated agents running frantically, trying to figure out what to do first. One hundred and sixty eight people had died and four hundred fifty were injured. This was one of the first cases of home-grown terrorism.

By all accounts, McVeigh had a typical childhood. He was bullied; his parents divorced when he was 10; he was raised in a suburban neighborhood in Pendelton, in upstate New York. Where did it all go wrong for him? He had hoped to become one of the top computer programmers in the country and graduated high school on time, despite poor grades. But thanks to his grandfather, McVeigh grew up with an unhealthy obsession for weapons, fire arms, and gun rights.

Much like Jared Loughner, McVeigh was obsessed with guns, the army, anti-government conspiracy theories, and technology. They both lived in the technology world, fixated on their computers. They were both addicts, and full of hate. But was there fear in that rage?

The fear that I personally see in these spurts of rage is the fear of losing everything and not finding control in your daily life. Both murderers were anti government, pro-weapons, and pro-violence. They were afraid a different race than theirs would overcome their own. They feared that the government would control what they do or how they do it. If guns were banned, who would they kill and how would they do it?

It is lessons like these that make me believe that it is important to focus on yourself and open your eyes to what is important. Don’t ignore the early signs of someone who needs your help. Always be there for your friends and family. Do not glue yourself to the internet or some superficial (or virtual) world, because that my friends, is the end and downfall of society as we know it.

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