As we argue over who and what is to blame for the Florida school shooting, it seems we have lost sight of the fact that the one and only person to blame for the shooting is the shooter. From the way we discuss this massacre (and every other), you’d think that it was carried out by some kind of robot, compelled by an outside force to go and slaughter 17 innocent people. You’d think he was forced into it by a certain political party or a certain organization or even by the gun he was carrying. You’d think there must be a whole parade of people and things to blame for this horrible act — except the guy who acted.
We ask a million questions in the aftermath of the crime: What law could have prevented it? Should guns be outlawed? Which political party can we pin this on? Was the killer a white nationalist? Did he support Trump? Did he hate Trump? So on and so on. But the one question we seem to avoid is the one that matters most: Why would a person choose to do something like this?
And even if we do ask that question, we’re likely to arrive at a conclusion that absolves the murderer of personal guilt. We’re likely to shrug our shoulders and say, “Well, mental illness.” And then we start clamoring for a “national conversation” about it. But our national conversation is rather pointless because nobody can explain mental illness or define it. Our best answer is that a mental illness is something in your brain that makes you do extremely bad things. Therefore, anyone who does extremely bad things is mentally ill. The bad thing isn’t their fault; it’s the symptom of a disease.
The shooter’s defense team says the poor guy is “troubled” and they’re “exploring the possibility of autism.” I don’t personally care about his mental troubles or whatever alleged psychiatric disorder they can tag on him (and I’m sure they can tag him with several). Here’s the only thing we need to know: Did he know what he was doing when he did it, and did he know it was wrong?
Well, his defense team (stupidly) has also said that the shooter is deeply sorry for his actions and he understands the gravity of what he did. In other words, he’s not crazy. He’s fully responsible for his behavior. 100%. A crazy man is a man who has no concept of reality and truly does not understand that he isn’t supposed to kill people. You know a man like that when you see him. He’s sitting on a park bench yelling at himself. He’s not hatching a sophisticated assault on his local high school, complete with a pretty smart escape plan.
Sure, he’s mentally disordered. His mind is not properly ordered. Everyone’s mind is disordered. We are a deeply imperfect species with deeply imperfect minds. Flip through the latest addition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders sometime and you’ll find dozens of mental disorders that apply to you. They’ve got a mental disorder to explain every errant human behavior or desire ever conceived by man. They have completely medicalized evil, diagnosed it, medicated it, cataloged it. Yet even you, with your 20 or 30 mental disorders, would not grab a rifle and shoot up a school. This guy did. Why?
Because he made a choice. An evil choice. A choice rooted not in his brain but in his mind — that is, his soul. It was an act of evil committed by an evil man who had the same motivation as every other evil man in history. He wanted power, fame, revenge. He wanted a thrill. He wanted to punish the world for rejecting him. He wanted to punish God for creating him. He wanted the same things all bad people do. It’s really not so mysterious or difficult to understand. He made a choice.
And now all of the blame, anger, fury, resentment, should fall squarely on his shoulders and his shoulders alone.