You ever feel like it’s not a matter of if, but when? Today’s headline: San Diego Pool Shooting. A pool shooting, really? We can’t even go swimming now? Last week’s headline: Random Killing Of Cleveland Man Captured On FB Live.
The aftermath and investigation try to explain the “why” behind these incidents, and lately, at least to me, it seems they all sound the same. The reasons are usually jilted lover, gambling debts, felt disrespected, fired by employer; anything that might explain “the why” behind these incidents.
Many of these excuses are given to help us all make sense of the randomness and shocking violence, and the cycle remains the same. First the media report the incident, name the offender, describe his background, and try to give reason to his madness. Next, his family and neighbors are interviewed and we are told he was really a super nice guy, but something must have snapped and “he has been having some problems.”
Then we gawk at the family and shake our heads because they’ve lost their loved one and hope it never happens to us.
On to the next one, where the predictable cycle repeats again and again and again.
My thinking lately has caused me to believe that we fail to look at the culture we have created because it is never comfortable to take a good long look in the mirror. I’m not proposing the acts of violence are our fault necessarily, the killer owns the responsibility. However, in a culture that glorifies violence, esteems revenge killings, makes law enforcers villains, and applauds criminality, isn’t this what we should expect?
What Has Changed?
I’ve already mentioned the biggest change. As a culture, we’ve bought into violence in all forms, and violence begets violence. When we see people being hurt, and have no feeling about it (and numerous people standing around documenting it on video without intervention), we have crossed into new territory.
The fact that we can peer into an actual killing in progress everyday via video, and have an expectation to see violence in action, and feel disappointment when we can’t witness the violent act is a clue we have become utterly desensitized to violence.
These acts are seen live, in color, by thousands instantly – by all ages.
Psychology Has Shifted Responsibility
If I don’t like being told what to do, I have Oppositional Defiance disorder, it’s not my fault. If I shoot heroin into my veins, I am addicted and not responsible. If I gamble and lose all that I have, that too is an addiction. Beating my wife because she makes me angry may lead to anger management classes, my brain is damaged, so this is why I don’t have control. If I rage against my employer, most likely he is violating my rights as an employee and is being disrespectful.
Never mind my bad work habits, my mother didn’t love me, that’s why I am such a sorry employee.
Nothing is my fault. I am a victim. You are a victim. If we are victims, then there must be somebody to blame. Our culture has shifted to this mentality – we are not to blame – other’s are to blame.
It’s easy to become discontent in America. Take a look at FB and everyone’s life is better than yours. Media messages repeatedly suggest we deserve to have things, and if we don’t have things, something must be wrong with us. Politicians, in the name of getting votes, help us believe we are owed something just because we breath air. Some of them even encourage people to speak out, be heard, protest and demand what is rightfully ours by birthright. We believe we deserve a great life, and when it isn’t a great life, some of us get very angry and bitter about it.
It’s OK To Rage Against Those Who Don’t Agree With You
Have you ever been scorched on FB? I have. An innocuous comment on a post has led to people calling me all kinds of names. Complete strangers feeling compelled to rage against my opinion and to tell me about it. This has happened so often, I have stopped posting on anything that might be controversial.
Maybe it’s just me, but America feels like a really angry place these days. All those years before FB and Twitter, we just had to gripe to our circle of friends, but now, we get to tell the whole world how angry we are – instantly.
We All Have A Platform Now
People who commit heinous, violent acts are demonstrating their rage against their circumstances, the person who caused them pain, and/or society as a whole. Their lives haven’t quite worked out for them. They used to call this “Life” but now it is cause to become embittered and angry. The fact they have a crappy life isn’t necessarily their fault. They have accepted the lie that someone else is responsible for their mess.
Violence in our world has become the answer.
Now they can share their disgruntled state with their friends and family as it happens on You Tube or Facebook. They demonstrate how angry they are, while also showing everyone their narcissism, rage, victimhood, and suicidal/homicidal tendencies and their moment of infamy as it unfolds.
The unknowing person, ex-wife, boss, teacher, pastor, any innocent person in their path will suffer, along with their family and friends, all of us will now have to endure it as it happens. Posted to social media instantly, and retweeted until the feed is taken down.
In the story of Pandora, she unintentionally opens a box and all the world’s evils come out and all that is left is hope. Once the evil is out, it is impossible to put it back into the box. As has happened in public mass murders, copy-cat crimes try to out do the crime before it. Now the demented and scorned have taken to live streaming their destruction on social media. In the past week alone, I have seen two additional copy-cat crimes more outrageous than the one before it.
I don’t see this problem getting better because it will take a sea change in beliefs and practices to change mens hearts. We will always have guns, we will always have violence, and now we have a new way to display rage. The thing we can do is believe it can happen and prepare for it.
When a car rams into a crowd, resist the natural American urge to rush in and render help. While your focus is on the wounded, you might next feel a knife plunged into your back, and now you are no good to anyone.
Your time to help might be short in coming though. If you read this article, you are now one of the informed, and it is my hope, being one of the informed might aid you in saving lives, including your own.
Why would I suggest such a thing? It seems so calloused and heartless to write, let alone do in real life.
Please understand, I’m not asking you to do nothing. I’m just asking you to wait a few moments. If you are in close proximity to an attack like this, rushing in may be the last thing you do.
The good hearted people who rush in to help do so because they haven’t given thought that this type of event could actually happen to them, and their Arc of Survival forces them to do nice things, but they are actually potentially detrimental things.
For normal people, seeing a car careening through a crowd and mowing people down would lead most people to believe the driver must have a medical problem. Who else but one with a health problem would run a car into a crowd?
The common sense thing for good people to do in this situation is to call the police, tend to the wounded and to check on the driver to make sure he is conscious and breathing.
That is, if we lived in a common sense, predictable world. If the world has ever been predictable, it is now arguably less so. At what other time in history have we seen such senseless acts where madmen (are they really?) run their cars into a crowd of people, exit, and begin stabbing anyone within reach of their blade?
We can no longer function in such a common sense way as we have done in the past. Just as 9/11 changed things in America, these smaller events must make us evaluate how we respond as citizens.
Could This Happen Here?
I am always stunned when I hear media talking heads trying to discover whether this same situation could happen in America. This we know: ISIS has encouraged young Jihadis to use their cars to ram into crowds and then stab those who come to help.
It is a recommended method of attack because it is so easy to do. It is low tech, low cost, and not easy to detect.
Car ramming/stabbing attacks have already happened a lot: France, United States, Great Britain.
Are our memories so short that we forget this exact scenario happened at Ohio State University just a few months ago?
You might recall how on November 28, 2016, Abdul Razak Ali Artan, suspected Islamist terrorist, inspired by ISIS propaganda, rammed his car into a crowd at OSU’s Watts Hall. Of course the students believed no sane person could possibly do this on purpose, so when they moved into help the injured, several were slashed by the suspect before being gunned down by a police officer on scene. A total of 13 people were directly injured by the terrorist before he was shot by the police.
Jihadis are on the attack, and we continue to believe it cannot happen to
us. This is our weakness: Failure to believe it can happen to us or in close proximity to us.
Understand The Arc of Survival
In her book, The Unthinkable, Amanda Ripley examines how our brains respond during emergency events. Each person’s response is different based upon their exposure to such incidents, and is dependent on whether they have allowed their brains to think about violent incidents and how they respond.
Depending on whether a human being has thought about, seen or practiced for something often determines how they respond and in some cases whether they survive violence.
The Arc of Survival involves three distinct phases of thought and action. In the first phase, Denial, humans involved in high stress events take time to process what they are seeing unfold before them. They try to determine if it is real and whether it is dangerous. The brain asks questions: Is this really happening? What do I do if it is really happening?
If you have convinced yourself you will never be in a crowd when a car comes through it, then Denial will be a very tough phase to work through. It will take longer to determine this is a real event.
In Denial our brains are working to make sense of the reality before them and deciding if they have a pre-programmed, trained response to what they are seeing. Critical seconds can pass, or a failure to move can result in injury or death.
In this scenario, if you follow the crowd and move to help, you are walking toward the danger. If you are frozen in place and trying to figure this out, the threat can come to you.
The brain then shifts to Deliberation: Should I help? If I help, what should I do? Should I run to an injured person? Should I get behind cover? Should I run away? Do I call 911? Again, spending time deliberating a response decreases reaction time, and elongates the Arc of Survival. Deliberation can last long enough to force you into a bad situation. This can also lead to being paralyzed, so you neither run away, nor run toward, you just stay in one place.
Depending on what you have been trained to do, or what you have thought to do in a given situation, this leads to the third stage, Decisive Action.
Think for a moment, how often do you hear of a car running into a crowd of people? Thankfully, this is a rare event, but lately these events have led to the driver exiting his car and stabbing anyone around him.
Knife attacks are deadly enough. What if he has a gun? What if his car is full of explosives? Obviously, running toward the action in an attempt to help may lead to injury or death for you.
What Am I Asking You To Do?
Think. Agree. Act
Upon hearing of a terrorist attack, I have found most people say, “Tsk, Tsk, shameful thing,” then go on about their lives without giving it some thought that one day they could be involved in a serious, life threatening event.
A chance to think of how they would respond in a similar or like circumstance is gone and wasted. At the basic level, I ask you to simply think, “This could happen to me or someone I love. How would I respond?”
Simply agree that something like this could happen. You may one day be present when a car runs into a crowd of people, and you are one of the people still standing after the initial attack. If you agree something like this can happen, then your Arc of Survival becomes smaller, and your time to respond becomes shorter.
What are you prepared to do in the moment? Do you have a responsibility to act? Are you trained in empty hand tactics to disarm a man slashing at a crowd? I’ve received training in how to disarm someone with a knife, but it isn’t something I want to do. I would much rather stay far away from the threat, and come up with plan that creates a barrier.
Are there weapons available to you and are you willing to do what it takes to stop his deadly aggression? A weapon isn’t always a knife or a gun. A car, a brick, a log, a beer bottle can all become weapons if necessary. Simply thinking about it before hand, can result in reacting better in a stressful environment.
Tactical retreat – running away – is always an option. There are no rules saying you have to stay and fight, running away and directing authorities to his exact location with a great description can be extremely helpful in a crowded event. This is not cowardly, this is survival, and a perfectly acceptable option if your life is in danger.
You may have heard the saying, “Only fools rush in.” I agree with this sentiment.
The greatest help you may be to anyone injured in this type of ramming event may be to momentarily seek cover, observe, and alert authorities keeping them informed as to what is happening on the ground.
If you determine after a few minutes of observation (believe me when I tell you this is a hard thing to do) there is no secondary threat, or an armed citizen or police officer has stopped the offender’s aggressive action, then you can move closer and render aid.
Simply thinking about it before hand and pre-planning a response can help you should you ever find yourself having the worst possible day ever and prevent it from your last one.
On March 11, 2017, two Mormon missionaries were minding their own business when two Brazilian thugs drove up on a motorcycle. The back passenger jumped off and stuck a pistol in one of the young men’s gut and demanded money. What happens next is quite impressive.
Acting quickly, the missionary goes on the attack, disarms the thug and sends him to flight. The other robber dismounts from his motorcycle and attempts to get the gun back. The missionary flings the gun up into the area and proceeds to land several incredible blows to his jaw.
As he is man handling the robber, another motorcyclist pulls up and tries to help the missionary. Finally the robber, gets to his feet and begins to run away.
“One of three would-be robbers was shot and killed by an employee at a taco stand that the three men were trying to rob in South Los Angeles, a Los Angeles police lieutenant said Saturday.
The dead man was 19 years old, according to a watch sergeant at the LAPD’s Southeast station.
The shooting took place at the intersection of San Pedro Street and West Century Boulevard at about 11:30 p.m. Friday, LAPD Lt. Clint Dohmen said.
“Three men walked up to the taco stand with the intention of robbing it,” Dohmen said. “One of the men pulled out a handgun and one of the employees at the taco stand pulled out his gun and fired at the robbers.”
The would-be robber with a gun was shot and later died at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center, Dohmen continued.
His name was withheld pending notification of next of kin, according to the coroner’s office.
“Right now it looks like the employee was acting in self defense to protect himself and the other employee at the taco stand,” Dohmen added.
The employee remained under investigation this morning, Dohmen said. The other two would-be robbers fled the scene on foot and remain at large, police said.”