Thursday, December 10, 2015

"They Were Radicalized"

Why do so many reports claim that the San Bernadino shooters "were radicalized," or that they "have been radicalized"?

Why the passive voice?

As if a process of radicalization happened TO them.

As if these people were just hanging around, innocently minding their own business, and then this virus of radicalization infected them.

The two shooters in San Bernadino were not innocent, unwitting victims of some religious tsunami of zealotry that flooded through their brains and left them zombie-like, unthinking and eager to do the bidding of some Sith Lord of extremism.

These two adults, one of whom was raised on "our" soil, aren't child soldiers of Boko Haram, reprogrammed through horror and unthinkable brainwashing at early ages. These two people radicalized because something in them sought out radicalization. They didn't accidentally stumble on a hypnotic trick online landmine. They sought it out. They shopped around their dissatisfaction and sold it to the bidder of Islamic extremism. They found nourishment in it. 

I cannot for the life of me understand is why we, in our current culture, are so eager and desperate to remove as much personal responsibility from individual actions as possible. They are no more unwitting victims than Neo-Nazis or converts to Westboro Baptist Church, yet in this case we say they "were radicalized." Radicalization happened to them.

If these words are sounding uncomfortably Republican to you, dear reader, please know this isn't my aim. I'm fully appreciative of the complexities of the interaction between forces, of the influence of an environment, a history, an upbringing. I've seen children raised in horrible conditions, or born addicted to drugs, struggle and fail to escape what felt like an unjust and unfair fate, and you wonder if they were literally f*#ked at birth. And it aggravates me when people like me, "born on third base and thinking they hit a triple," look away because we've brainwashed ourselves into thinking mere gumption and grit can overcome a Berlin Wall of environmental crap karma.

But there is surely a middle ground in this. Surely there is room for us to acknowledge the hurdles and potholes of our surroundings while giving us plenty of room for empowerment over our own lives.

Side note:
As so many have acknowledged,
it's a strange thing we've done when it comes
to people in America shooting other people: 

Shooter is African-American = gangbanger!
Shooter is Muslim = terrorist!
Shooter is white = mental illness!

It's generally Pro-Gun conservatives who use that last one.
They're as guilty as anyone of seeking outside
(or at least uncontrollable psychological) forces
that can push the blame away from the weapon,
the accessibility, the human choices we are permitted
to make when we have freedom.

Why don't we acknowledge and accept that any human being who intentionally and willingly ends the lives of other human beings has defective wiring? Anyone who murders in America, no matter their rationale or lack thereof, is on some level mentally ill. The rest is just a question of degree and situational details. Actions that result in the deaths or serious harm of others should not be cushioned with too much excusing or apology-making.

An December 10 article in Quartz highlights research that "most violence in the world is motivated by personal morality. It suggests that mental illness isn't at all the core of the problem, but rather a morality system that places the lives of others at a lower value point than some other principle, be it the defense of unborn babies or the defense of their particular vision of Allah. A particularly telling quote:
The general pattern we saw in the cases we studied was that violence was intended to regulate social relationships and sustain a moral order. The perpetrators are in control of their actions—they know they are hurting fellow human beings, and that is exactly what they intend to do.
To bastardize the Radiohead song, They did this to themselves, and that's what really hurts.


G. B. Miller said...

Interesting that you want to blame the gun instead of the person when it comes to mass shootings. If it was a mass bombing, say OKC, would you blame the bomb? Most normal people wouldn't. Both sides are guilty of ratcheting up the rhetoric when it comes to gun control and mass shootings.

And while your side-note is an over generalization of connecting the dots, sadly the last one is usually 97% true. Whites who do mass shootings like this often suffer from some kind of mental illness that was ignored (Sandy Hook, Aurora, Vtech) that if some kind intervention was done, maybe, just maybe, lives could have been saved.

For the record, I am neither pro or anti-gun control. I am for common sense, which is sorely lacking in today's society.

G.B. Miller

Bob said...

Because, Mr. Miller, there aren't bomb stores, bomb shows, bomb ranges, collector bombs, hunting bombs, bomb rights, bomb advocates, or the National Bomb Association and other pro-bomb lobbyists. That's why.