Friday, February 01, 2008


(Each "Featured Question," an idea which I gleaned from A Republic If You Can Keep It, will remain toward the top of the blog until the next question appears. The previous QUESTIONS are HERE. Please scroll down for recent postings)

The recent shootings at Northern Illinois University by Steven Kazmierczak appears to have been carried out by yet another individual whose mental problems reached a breaking point, possibly related to his going off his medications for an as-yet-unspecified mental illness.
The Chicago Tribune has posted a photo gallery of Steven Kazmierczak. Trying to figure out just how Kazmierczak could have been so cold-hearted as to murder five and to wound sixteen in one act of violence, we study him — his expressions, his actions, his motives — as we look for warning signs, so far not apparent in this case

Each time a school shooting or similar atrocity occurs, we the onlookers are shocked. We also try to discern the reasons and the motives behind the killer's actions. Why did he do it? Was the act preventable? Did the warning signs go unheeded? Who or what else is to blame?

In fact, school shootings have appeared in the news with some frequency since at least 1996. According to psychologists, psychiatrists, and other experts in abnormal and violent behavior, the underlying causes of these murderous actions include feelings of persecution, failure to succeed in school, obsession with role-playing games, sleep deprivation, a dysfunctional family, exacting revenge, feelings of rejection and godplaying. Some experts specifically target the inherent violence in movies, television, and video games. Other experts look at our society itself and the isolation which has become, perhaps, a leading cause of depression. This video, though not directly related to school shootings, explains Dr. Stephen Ilardi's anti-depression program and is about five minutes in length):

Also see this article in U.S. News and World Report. Excerpt:
...Obsessive thinkers can learn to redirect themselves. Cognitive behavioral therapy, for example, teaches people to recognize when irrational negative thoughts are triggering a mood plunge and to reframe those thoughts in a rational way....
By coincidence and well before the shootings at NIU, I have been rereading Lionel Dahmer's A Father's Story, in which the father of serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer tries in vain to find a definitive reason for his son's vile and murderous behavior. Although the book is a good read, it offers few insights into the mind of a mass murderer or a serial killer. The review by Library Journal at states what may well be the feeling that any devoted family member has upon the realization that a loved one is a murderer:
Although he knew his son Jeffrey was disturbed, the author, like most parents, hoped he was "just a blink away from redemption."
The book indicates that, despite the boy's early fascination with death and with dissecting animals, no one could have reliably predicted have prevented the monster Jeffrey Dahmer later became, even though Lionel Dahmer knew that something was indeed very wrong with the way his son viewed the world and managed his social interactions. I thought of Jeffrey Dahmer's father when I saw the short interview with the father of Steven Kazmierczak, the gunman at NIU. Did the elder Mr. Kazmierczak not recognize the deadly potential of his son, or did he suppress the possible realization just as Lionel Dahmer did?

Does American society of the past several decades harbor a flaw leading to tragedies such as school shootings or other similar outbreaks of violence?
Note: My dear friend Mustang has also posted on this topic and has a list of related questions to consider.

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posted by Always On Watch @ 2/01/2008 01:00:00 AM