Things are still fluid with the London Terror Attacks on the weekend, but the bones of the story are simple enough: 7 dead, 48 injured, 3 attackers killed by police. Yesterday and today saw police raids at various apartments across London and several people taken into custody.
Add to this the twenty or so other arrested after the Manchester suicide bombing a couple of weeks ago. The UK Police have a couple of score of jail cells full of questions on their hands, rapidly drawing the lines from A to B to C for various charges. As best we can tell, nobody is asking the critical question: Why?
Crazies we understand; they are by definition ‘crazy’ so the usual rules of common behavior don’t apply. If you are missing certain neurotransmitter chemicals in your brain, things go off the rails. We have personal experience with this issue. Jeffrey Arenburg, killed a former colleague of mine, Brian Smyth. Arenberg was diagnosed a paranoid schizophrenic, off his meds, and was certain the station was broadcasting the thoughts in his head. He murdered Smitty in the parking lot at CJOH in 1995.
By contrast, the Oklahoma City truck bomber, Timothy McVeigh, was not a crazy, but perfectly sane. McVeigh was deeply annoyed about the 1993 Branch Davidian Waco Siege and deliberately drove a Ryder truck bomb up to the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City and detonated it, killing 168 people. There were no voices in McVeigh’s head telling him to do it and McVeigh was duly executed a few years later.
We will even add a category: Religious Fervor. Every religion has had their rabid adherents with a violent twist. We don’t need to remind you about the Crusades or the Inquisition, or a goodly piece of the Old Testament. Even Buddhists, supposedly the most peaceable of organized religion had a few intense people. Monks used to set themselves on fire in public to protest various goings-on in Viet Nam in the 1960’s.
Crazy we understand. Angry we understand. We even understand religious fervor. Humans are capable of all kinds of madness in the name of God.
What we’re missing is this: Why would young men, supposedly well-raised, from at least modestly prosperous families feel so disconnected from the society they live in, presumably with future potential to make something of their lives, that they would deliberately drive a rented van over people, then start slashing at them with knives, until the police shot them dead. Were they that disgruntled with their lot? Were they treated like shit for so many years that all it took was a few lectures from a religious leader to push them over the edge?
A few lectures, some religious fervor and a disassociated relationship with society. Petty, imagined wrongs, a dash of intolerance, a broth of economic hardship, coupled with a media pipeline dedicated to the next vile outrage and you’ve got London. Or Barcelona. Or Kabul. Or San Bernardino. Or Manchester. Or Baghdad.
Every religion has blood-soaked hands and there will always be that tiny percentage of adherents to any religion who feel that violently striking back in the name of their particular deity, is acceptable.
We demand retribution, an eye for an eye, avenge the wrongs, cause fear and mayhem among your enemies, kill their eldest male children, enslave their daughters as whores, beat their bodies, hang them from the strappado, behead them, burn their fields and plow salt into the earth so they may starve to death.
Where we fail, as a society, is teaching tolerance for each other. Every religion has an equivalent of “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” That’s a fact Jack and we all have it as a spiritual teaching regardless of our particular religious affiliation.
Crazies we have mechanisms, however flawed, to deal with them. Deliberate violence, we have other mechanisms that work, usually after the fact. Religious madness? Not so much.
Tolerance, that most elemental trait of humans, is harder.
We have to try.