Who are we really?

As a writer drawn to the motives of murder, you would think I have an analytical bent on the atrocity that occurred in Newtown, Connecticut. I don’t.  I’ve let my mind wander into some pretty sinister crevices in my own brain to create the murderers in my books, but I’ve never found this particular monster.

And unfortunately, Adam Lanza chose to leave the world as a monster. He most likely didn’t start out that way. It’s actually quite difficult to look at the emaciated geek in the fuzzy black and white snapshot and picture him hurting anyone. I think that’s a good thing.

When writers dramatize murders, whether it be in a play, book, movie, or TV series, we make it a point to hide who that murderer is, but once that person is revealed, the motive is clear and reasonable at least to the murderer. An audience needs the motive for closure. Somehow, it needs to make sense.

But how do you make sense of an anonymous killing spree? What’s the motive?

Take your pick; Columbine, Virginia Tech, Arora, Portland, Newtown; these horrible acts of mass murder were committed by marginalized young men who no longer valued the sanctity of human life, including their own. If I had to sit down and come up with a reason, the only one I can think of is pretty damn sick: a need for attention.

However petty it may seem, we all want to matter to the rest of the world in our own small way. If you’ve been marginalized by the community that you were born into, that need can start to mutate into something off center, sometimes culminating into a positive force, sometimes negative. The catalyst that shoves your own personal pendulum one way or the other can come from just about anything or anyone.

We can all sit on our high horses and say, “I would never do that.” Yet, we all want a motive. We all want it to make sense and be easy, so we can feel safe again about the world around us. The problem is, though, we only want our understanding to be shallow. We don’t want to look inside ourselves and search out the monster within us.

So I ask, who are you? Are you the marginalized or the marginalizer? I honestly believe that if we as a society can’t or won’t answer that question, we will only perpetuate what is becoming a painfully glaring problem.

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