Although it took place on the other side of the Earth, and murders and other atrocities happen frequently around the world, I can’t let this one go … First of all, of course, because it is horrible tragedy and the media is abuzz with it even over here in Australia.
Next, because the timing is extra cruel … What happened would have been a disaster for the victims’ families at any time, but the fact that it happened right before Christmas makes it even more heart breaking. Because parents of the killed children will have prepared and imagined Christmas together with them, the whole family together, and now when the kids are missing from that setting, every sight, smell and thought of Christmas will flash the loss in the minds of their family members.
A stereotypical mass-murderous social misfit
What gets to me the most though, is that the mass killer – again – was an introvert, socially awkward loner; an ‘a stranger amongst us’ type of character. Words reportedly used to describe Adam Lanza by people who knew him include shy, quiet, weird, strange, an odd figure, a loner without friends, socially awkward, disconnected, reclusive, mentally troubled, nervous, bright, different… and what’s so bad is that these words are used to answer the big flashing question: Why?
[…] after hearing of the news on Friday, Ms. DeVivo reconnected with friends from Newtown [former classmates of Adam Lanza], and the consensus was stark. “They weren’t surprised,” she said. “They said he always seemed like he was someone who was capable of that because he just didn’t really connect with our high school, and didn’t really connect with our town.” She added: “I never saw him with anyone. I can’t even think of one person that was associated with him.”
So, in hindsight, because he was odd and didn’t connect with people, it didn’t come as a surprise to people that he was capable of mass-murdering innocent children?
Richard Novia, former school district’s head of security who advised the school technology club that Lanza was a member of, said:
“Have you found his best friend? Have you found a friend?” Novia asked. “You’re not going to. He was a loner.”
Another high school classmate, Ryan Schmidt, said Lanza “kept to himself. … He was just a bit off. He seemed like he was always awkward and looking around expecting something or someone to be coming at him. Twitchy, almost.”
Image source: heavy.com
The loner = ticking bomb stereotype is unsettling. As a largely solitaire introvert who lived most of my life from the teenage years and well into my twenties in great social isolation, I’m wary of wary attitudes to outsiders.
Loner in the crowd
Although I’ve always enjoyed solitaire pursuits and despite my dislike of mingling, small talk, noise and crowding…. Solitude and loneliness are different concepts; the former calming and focusing; the latter stressful and depressing.
Loneliness in a a crowd; to be like an isolated node in a network, is deeply stigmatising. Young people are painfully aware of this. Alone-in-crowd status flashes a damning message to the world: ‘there’s something terribly wrong with me. I’m not worthy of anyone’s friendship. I’m the lowest of the lowest in the social hierarchy. I’m socially blind too – I don’t have the connections to inform me about what’s going on. My social value = zero… regardless what I say and do, my loneliness speaks for itself!’
I recall bitterness and anger over subtle insults and social doom, carelessness and exclusion, where I couldn’t pinpoint the enemy. The social environment was too complicated and its information corridors hidden to me due to my disconnected loner status.
It wasn’t so much loneliness that bothered me as it was the chronic information failure and its consequences: relentless blunders due to not knowing what was going on around me; the feeling of always fumbling blindfolded through an unpredictable maze.
Even for someone who isn’t a loner, it may not be so easy to figure out why people and groups of people act the way they do… to X-ray the political games. Then try to figure it out when no one tells you anything!
While I can not understand the killer’s action, I can imagine his anger. This is in no way an excuse for Adam Lanza’s terrible actions. Neither do I mean to suggest that he held a grudge against the world because he was considered a weird looney, or to project my own troubled youth onto his obviously much more troubled youth.
I do however think it is reasonable to conclude that Adam Lanza was a very angry young man, that he aimed his anger at an innocent and possibly random target, and that he didn’t believe he had a future in this world despite being very bright. To this cocktail, add the special American ingredient: access to guns!
Apparently, Adam Lanza’s mom was a passionate gun collector and kept an arsenal of no less than five weapons in her home:
- two powerful handguns
- two traditional hunting rifles
- a semiautomatic rifle
Adam knew how to use them, because his mom regularly took him to target practice. WHAT?
I read this first in a forum. Someone asked: how come that a nice elderly lady with a mentally unstable son who’s got a history of emotional outbursts* keeps such a weapon arsenal in her home? listing the weapons. Replies indicated ‘that’s not an arsenal, that’s perfectly normal…’.
Then followed a load of rubbish along the lines of ‘Guns don’t kill people; people do’, ‘Criminals will always find a way to get guns’, and ‘If you want to kill someone, you’ll find a way – even if you don’t have a gun. Knives, stump objects, can all be used’.
I guess some people could even use their bare hands to kill someone. So should people have their hands amputated so they can’t kill anyone?
That argument is as much rubbish as all the others.
While guns don’t motivate people to kill (presumably, and with the possible exception of cases where a person is obsessed with guns and their power to shoot dead), they provide a means to take lives that is unnaturally easy, effective and distanced from the victims. Even a school kid can do it.
I’m also guessing that the perception that having guns at home is normal raises peoples’ threshold for feeling alarmed about weapons in the hands of whoever shouldn’t have them, familiarises kids with guns (including troubled kids), and puts guns as an option into people’s frame of mind.
Adam Lanza: a ‘quiet, odd’ loner living on the Fringes – Hartford Courant 15 December 2012
- School gunman Adam Lanza remembered as weird, quiet loner – The Australian 16 December 2012
- A mother, a gun enthusiast and the first victim – New York Times 15 December 2012
- Connecticut school shooting: troubled life of Adam Lanza, a fiercely intelligent killer – The Telegraph 15 December 2012
*as indicated by a variety of insider sources