Following the terrible tragedy of a few days ago in Connecticut, so many are asking why. They are searching for some semblance of reason, a motive perhaps. We long to understand that which is so patently senseless. We desire an explanation in the hope that we might avert a recurring scenario that could personally involve us or a loved one.
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The classic motive for homicide used to involve easily understood emotions like jealousy, envy, or uncontrolled rage. There were circumstances that connected victim with perpetrator. A marriage. A love triangle. A business venture steeped in greed and excess. They were the kinds of crimes that served as entertaining fodder for mystery and romance novels or motion pictures. Back then, the search for a motive was akin to finding a reason for the act of taking the life of another. It might not excuse the crime, but it helped those charged with determining the fate of the killer to come to a rational conviction or acquittal.
Like so many other social institutions, the face of homicide as we’ve known it has changed, perhaps permanently. The mass shootings that abound our malls, movie theaters, and schools are utterly irrational, disconnected, and cold, not unlike the lifestyles of large segments of people who we mingle with on a day to day basis. We may fail to notice that the tone and themes of our social culture at any given point in time have far reaching effects and touch every aspect of our existence. Like our present notion of sports or entertainment, even the way murder is committed has evolved into an inexplicable and incomprehensible extreme act.
Once upon a time, we were a nation of morals and etiquette. We valued behavior that was appropriate for the circumstances at hand. We even dressed accordingly. There was a moral code that defined decency and civility among us. A gentlemen treated a lady with deference and respect. Now, such gender-specific designations seem archaic and antiquated due in large part to the triumphs of feminism. Many women are reactive when a man merely opens a door to permit her to enter ahead of him. We now teach our children that gender doesn’t matter under any circumstances, from career choices to marriage and sexuality. We are taught to accept all deviations from the norm and not to judge them.
There was a time when we wore specific clothes depending on the formality of the occasion. Not so much anymore. It’s anything goes. Come as you are. Keep it casual. Why bother and run the risk of feeling the slightest bit uncomfortable even for a matter of a few hours. It’s acceptable to be lazy with our appearance. Individualism is encouraged. Pierce and tattoo yourself to your heart’s content. Wield wildly brazen hair colors and outrageous styles. The goal was shock and awe. The result? Boredom and indifference. Nowadays, even the young female clerk at the chain grocery store has limbs covered in ink to accompany the ring in her nose and stud in her tongue. No big deal.
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