Today I saw a picture on FB on an unarmed ex-Marine standing guard in his fatigues at an elementary school. The symbolism, at least to me, was significant. Certainly, an armed US Marine guarding the door at Sandy Hook would have deterred the likes of Adam Lanza, a low life who was nothing more than a domestic terrorist preying on the most helpless among us.
(I am aware that this individual faked his service. This too is very sad and in some ways factors in to what I say below. However, the symbolism of what he did is significant in showing the limits of what can practically be done to protect those we love.)
Yes, I said terrorist. There are terrorists among us and if the past is any predictor of the future the terrorists will always be among us.
I am 59 years-old and clearly remember another act of domestic terror. His name was Richard Speck a man who had no respect for law and was a career criminal. His background included a number of assaults and rapes with the use of a knife. Records show he was arrested at least 42 times prior to Speck murdering, with a knife, eight young student nurses in south Chicago on July 14th, 1966.
I was thirteen at the time and to this day easily remember Speck’s name and the fact that one young Filipino nurse survived by hiding under a bed while Speck systematically butchered her eight friends.
It was my first realization at age thirteen that terrorists walk among us.
I distinctly remember some of the discussions my family had in the wake of the Speck act of terror. Being from Wisconsin most everyone was familiar with Ed Gein. Gein was a domestic terrorist that lived in the Plainfield, WI area. His claim to fame was he was a body snatcher stealing corpses from local grave yards and fashioning trophies from the deceased. Gein also murdered two women in 1957. Gein served as the “inspiration” for at least three movies that included Psycho, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and The Silence of the Lambs.
At the time Gein was not considered a serial killer nor was Speck. Both were considered mentally unbalanced with their childhoods being sited as major influences on their pathway to terror.
In Gein’s case much was blamed on Gein’s mother who taught him that all women were prostitutes with the exception of herself. It appears that she was also a man-hater who harbored much bitterness towards Gein’s father. She abused her sons verbally, considering them losers and used the Bible in a whacked out way to traumatize her boys. Gein later wished to transform himself into a woman. Bitterness over who he was and hatred toward women would be a large factor in trying to figure out why he did the things he did.
The same is true of Speck. Speck was diagnosed with an obsessive-compulsive disorder and hatred toward women, somehow feeling betrayed by them. When he confessed to the murders he blamed it on drugs and alcohol and said he had gone to the apartment complex for a simple burglary. Specks time in prison reveals a person who has sunk to lowest levels of depravity.
It wasn’t long after the Speck murders there was yet another act of domestic terror. This time it was in Texas when a former Marine named Charles Whitman killed 13 people and wounded 32 others when he took up a sniper’s position in the tower of the University of Texas in Austin on August 1st, 1966. Whitman was killed by a Austin police officer.
After killing both his mother and wife who he said he adored and typing a suicide note Whitman purchased a number of weapons including a M1 carbine and a number of magazines. Thus began the rampage that left another 11 people killed and 32 wounded.
Whitman had been to a psychiatrist and had a self-admitted anger problem. The psychiatrist treating Whitman said this: “this massive, muscular youth seemed to be oozing with hostility.”
The tower where Whitman had positioned himself was closed following the murders but was reopened a short time later. Ironically, the tower was used by four students who committed suicide by jumping to their deaths (27 floors).
Speck, Gein and Whitman were all domestic terrorists who used different means to terrorize their victims and spread fear among everyone else.
Even as a thirteen-year-old you come to realize that something is significantly wrong with the environment and with people. You also come to realize that the law can only do so much to protect you.
Speck was arrested and released 42 times before he murdered. Gein was not discovered until police found body parts on his property. Only then did he confess to the murders of two women. Whitman’s criminal record was not significant. He and some friends poached a deer and were caught butchering it in a university dorm. They were fined $100.00.
Thus began my realization that were domestic terrorists among us and the law had limits to prevent it.
Charles Krauthammer is a psychologist and Fox News analyst whom I respect a great deal. He has an ability in my opinion to clear away secondary issues and cut to the chase as to why people do what they do and why things happen the way they do.
The most recent act of domestic terrorism (that is, an act that made the national media since smaller acts of domestic terrorism occur every day and every where) in Newton, CT where 26 children and adults were massacred by Adam Lanza is a case in point.
Note what Krauthammer said as reported on Tammy Bruce’s website:
CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER: The first thing I think we have to say is: in trying to look at this or analyze this requires a huge amount of humility. The true factors that we do not know often — even after these events are analyzed and thought through, we really don’t know. This is the problem of evil and it’s been struggled with forever.
I mean, what we do know about the current shooting is that people are going to divide into three camps, there are three elements here. You’ve got the psychology of the shooter, you’ve got the weapon, and you’ve got the cultural environment. And people will choose whatever cause they want to blame. They’ll say guns were available, the laws ought to be tightened. Al though, the Brady campaign says that Connecticut has the four strictest laws in the country. And you’ve got the environment people on the right, and to say that our culture desensitizes young people in movies, in video games to killing in the way that older generations would find inconceivable and disturbing.
I tend to gravitate toward the psychology of the killer. I mean, when you think about the details of the crime; [he] began by shooting his mother in the face, taking her weapon and then destroying everything precious to her. Her colleagues and her children, and then killing himself. That is where I think I would start, al though I think all the issues have to be discussed.
I have no idea what Krauthammer’s faith background is but when he says the root of the problem is evil he is spot on. We can psychologize till the cows come home, blame the implements of destruction or the harsh influences of culture but at the end of the day we are left with the face of evil.
Note Krauthammer’s last paragraph. Lanza hated his mother. He shot her in the face and destroyed whatever he could that was important to her that sadly included people she worked with and the young students. That is rage and it is bitterness and it is the commonality that is found among all types of terrorists, both domestic and foreign.
They all hate something or someone and they are evil. Theologically, they are people turned over to their bitterness and have no functioning conscience to speak of. Speck said he felt nothing while killing the nursing students. Whitman realized he did something terrible when he killed his wife and mother but that realization did not prevent him from killing 11 more people. His too was a hardened conscience, a fundamental problem when understanding the problem of evil.
The problem, the base problem is that we want to blame everything but evil when domestic terrorism grabs the headlines.
It’s the environment in which the terrorist was raised. It’s the fact so and so was a loner and had no friends. It’s the fact he played violent video games and watched violent movies with gratuitous violence. It was the availability of weapons that was the cause.
We seek to blame that which influences domestic terrorism without addressing the fundamental problem of the human heart and it’s propensity for evil.
Christians familiar with Jesus’ teaching should be familiar with this text:
And he said, “What comes out of a person is what defiles him. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.” (Mark 7:20-23 ESV)
And that is what is wrong with our culture, every culture for that matter. Hearts that have a propensity for evil, hearts that are given over to evil and act out in the most horrific ways.
Ironically, in a few days we celebrate the birthday of the one who can change a human heart. Ironically, many find him offensive and wish to ban him from the public square. Ironically, the only one who has conquered evil is held in contempt by much of this nation and the world. And that too is a consequence of ignoring the problem of evil and blaming everything but evil for acts of domestic terrorism.
Krauthammer added this comment:
KRAUTHAMMER: We live in a culture where you can’t escape from these events, which itself is rather tragic. So, everybody is exposed. All you can do is provide them safety and love, that’s all you can do. There are no explanations, I don’t that’s what you want to do. You just show them that you will protect them because you love them and they do not have to fear. That’s all you can say.
In the wake of Newton massacre one Christian mom I know of posted something on FB that explained her understanding that she could not, in the final analysis protect her children from domestic terrorism. She added this insightful comment which I’m paraphrasing. She said she could not protect her children from themselves and all she could do was do her best to bring them up in fear and admonition of the Lord (Eph. 6:4).
She’s right and maybe armed police at every school would at least slow down or eliminate the next domestic terrorist hell-bent on murder.