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Mass shootings, troubled mindsPosted Thursday, December 6, 2007, at 8:57 AM
Another alienated person, another mass shooting.
It seems like so many troubled people these days take others with them as they end their own lives in attention-grabbing exploits.
Robert A. Hawkins, Wednesday's mall shooter in Omaha, has so many similar characteristics with other mass murderers: Youth (he was 19), rejection by others, a fascination with guns.
And, definitely, much anger at society. Sometimes it seems like they tried earlier, in their own way, to reach out for help and weren't heard.
We live in a judgmental, sometimes cruel society in which too many are judged by the image they project instead of the person inside, which admittedly may not be readily apparent. More of more of those judged, and rejected, at a young age seem to reach a breaking point.
The anti-bullying programs in some schools are apparently meant to help people like these, and they may to a degree.
But it's more than bullying. Most of us probably remember those from our school years who were simply set aside because of image, personality or "who they are." And it wasn't just students doing so.
When some (definitely not all) teachers themselves are prime examples of judging students by income, social class and popularity, mixed messages are sent. A social hierarchy definitely reigns in most schools, and it seems like some bend over backwards to keep it that way. There's a big difference between awarding students for achievements and awarding them simply for popularity, which would seem to be a reward in itself without the schools proclaiming it. And when the issue of special treatment for students from upscale families aries, the problems grow worse.
And it doesn't get any better in adult years. Class distinctions continue in civic and social clubs.
I guess it's human nature for people with similiarities to band together. And most people learn to "deal with it" as they realize that 50 years later it won't really matter who was "in" or "out", popularity-wise, at a given time.
I'm in no way defending mass murderers. There are better ways to deal with problems than violence and death.
But maybe we as a society should do more to reach out to those who are obviously troubled -- and reach out with an attitude of "we're all in this together" rather than "we're going to help you from a distance while we avoid you as much as possible."
A more inclusive world could make a major -- and life-saving -- difference, for both the alienated and the innocent.
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David Melson is a copy editor and staff writer for the Times-Gazette.
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