On the surface there appear to be many commonalities between two recent killings in the United States: one happened in a movie hall, and the other in a school.
- One was a venue that people go to for simple entertainment, and another, a place where innocent children go to study.
- Both the culprits were young boys, described as loners, and as highly intelligent by those who knew them.
- In both cases, the perpetrators of the crime appear to have come from families that invested in the care and upbringing of their wards.
- The victims of the tragic events, in both cases, were not in any known way directly responsible for any physical or emotional hurt or abuse that could have led to their being killed.
- The motives are unclear, and there is a sense of helplessness in trying to understand and come to terms with these happenings.
Societies function because there are mutually recognized conventions, beliefs and assumptions. When one goes to a movie hall, one doesn’t go prepared to die. When we send our children to school we believe that we are sending them to a place where they will be safe even if we are not around to take care of them.
Meaningless killings do happen. But when they do, we are able to come to terms with them as the venue is one where such deaths may have been expected to happen; or it is not beyond the pale of reason to expect such crimes from the perpetrator of the offence; or the choice of victims in some way helps explain the killer’s motivations.
But in the case of James Holmes and Adam Lanza such rationalizations fail. There is no answer to the question why. The helplessness that one feels is deep and disturbing.