A dear friend advised me to stop asking ‘why did he do this to me’ and instead focus on him as a person who is messed up, fucked up and ask yourself ‘why would he do this at all’. Once the ‘me’ goes out of the thought process you are probably closer to closure. Maybe what you should do is be fascinated or repelled by the character rather than by what that person did to you. Sounded perfect to me.
So when I read in horror about the recent Las Vegas shooting, for a moment I was dumb struck. Then I read that the ISIS claimed responsibility. Actually I was relieved . So there is a motive. The old Islam purification technique . Las Vegas, capital of sinful pleasure, a large crowd dancing to country music and yes …a radicalized white man shooting them down to satisfy his inner religious urge, rage…whatever…. seems plausible. We are not dealing with a complicated psychopath here. And then things became murky and a little frightening when the authorities came up with a blank and had to rule out ISIS.
The question now is who is this Stephen Paddock and why in heaven’s name would he gun down 59 people in a shooting spree? It’s not the favorable gun laws. He could use a bomb or a truck to mow down the crowd. It’s whats inside the head that makes him willing to do this that is scary. Do we want an explanation or do we want to be able to identify such people among us so we can be on guard?…. is it possible that one of us could turn into this heinous creature out of the blue without knowing why? 64 years old Stephen Paddock a retired accountant is the normal next door guy in a law abiding locality. He has a pleasant little house, a steady girl friend, reasonably wealthy, no criminal records, not even a parking ticket, enjoys gambling in Vegas and has a brother he keeps in touch with, sends gift boxes of cookies to his 90 yr old mother ….normal as normal goes. Yet one fine day this man becomes the sniper who mercilessly guns down 59 people.
Innumerable questions assault you. Is Stephen Paddock a psychopath? Is it genetic? Was he into depression? Did he suddenly slip into some psychotic break? Is he on drugs? Or simply is he nuts? And because of one of these he just gets a load of guns and kills total strangers. The human mind is a big mess. Or…as Lionel Shriver , the author of ‘We need to talk about Kevin’ suggests, Paddock could have yearned to be famous. Actually radicalization seems more sane. Why was he so angry, so murderous, so malicious? Why do people do mean things to others without telling them why?
It’s the intention behind an act that gives rise to consternation, whatever be the act. Taking a page from ‘We need to talk about Kevin’, Kevin’s mother asks her son Kevin who is a teen sociopath , who kills nine classmates, a teacher and a cafeteria worker, “why did you do it” . He says “I used to think I knew. Now I’m not so sure”. In other words ‘I don’t know.’
When Walter White , the ‘Breaking Bad’ chemistry teacher , father, doting husband, timid humble upright citizen was diagnosed with cancer and he decided to cook meth to make quick money for his family his intentions were clear .Then his priorities changed and we wondered how could he…do this? But in the end it becomes clear. Finally he agrees that he did what he did, cooked more meth, murdered not just for his family but because he liked what he was doing. He says “I felt alive”. Even cancer took a step back when he was in the thick of being bad because it made him feel good, right and alive. Can we fight that, cure that, explain that in terms of morals , rights and wrongs? No. I still remember the scene where Walt slowly slips down to his death his eyes glowing with the joy of touching his equipment in the meth lab. He loved being bad. He did it because he liked doing it. Maybe when someone gives you the answer “I don’t know why I did it ” the answer is just that he doesn’t know yet that he liked it and that’s why he did it.
So somewhere in our grey matter are these chemicals that given the right circumstances flare up and lead us into doing something cruel, mean, unforgivable, immoral, illegal, bad …everything that makes other people dumbstruck , horrified, hurt, puzzled ,sad ….. and all we can explain it is with the words “I don’t know why I did it”.
Coming back to mundane life with it’s insipid and minor bruises and rejections, I realized my friend was right in telling me to focus on the person who hurt you and not the ‘hurt’ per se. If they hurt you its probably because they had a reason but if you can’t find that reason and they won’t tell you what it is maybe it’s because it’s just a person out there who ‘likes’ doing it , who felt alive dishing it out.
Well…now ‘I know’ and that my friend is the closure we need!