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Rationalizing the Irrational

January 11, 2011 Leave a comment

Despite our desperation, there is never a simple answer to complex situations. We see in the fallout from this weekend’s tragedy in Tucson a splinter of stories seeking to explain the event. We read stories investigating the shooter’s background, his reading lists and interests and previous history from which interpretation and explanation can be culled and applied. We see stories tracing the events of that day, brief biographies of the victims and the motivations, goals and dreams of each of the lives snuffed out by that horrible deed.

From that one event we have a multitude of stories. Popular media outlets appear to be scrambling for the correct dynamic to take. Should the background of the shooter be the main focus or should the possibility of deeper political factors be explored? Self-censorship is still in play at this stage with most reporters refusing to actually mention the linking to Sarah Palin. I do not link PalinĀ  to the events in Tucson, nor do I link any extreme rhetoric or the tea party movement. At the core of this story is one individual’s actions.

For those beyond the direct implications of the tragedy, those whose family members were not directly affected, we are left with the task of understanding the event. As the story unfolds we gradually answer the essential questions of Who, What, Where, When, Why and How, progressing from the easiest questions of setting, time and actors and transitioning to the more difficult questions that require a greater depth of consideration. In these questions we consider the motivations of the shooter and may fall victim to judgments on the basis of conjecture or assumption.

We must avoid the mistake of distorting what we know of the shooter. We may know his background, his reading materials and a series of events in his history but none of these events can explain what occurred on that morning. This was an irrational act completed by an irrational person. The human psyche is a complicated device which under certain conditions, perhaps chemical, biological and/or psychological, can bloom to a level beyond all human understandings.

We need to avoid looking for connections to previous killers. We may never know the true motivation in this event; perhaps, there were none. What we know is this is a tragic event. The only response from this moment forward is to honor those who have been killed, preserve those who remain injured and strive to establish a system that avoids events like this in the future. Banning the tools used in this tragedy do nothing. The only real solution is a human solution and our network of social support services can prevent, protect and preserve our society and its citizens from a future act of horror.

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