Out of Nowhere…

Along with much of the rest of the country, and perhaps the world, I have been thinking this past week about the apparently senseless stabbings at Franklin High School in Murrysville, Pennsylvania.

This outburst of mindless violence is certainly nothing new. The Columbine shootings from 1999 and the mass slaughter at the movie theater in Aurora, Colorado in July of 2012 are only two examples that come to mind, though making a long list of additional examples need not necessarily strengthen the point I want to make about the seeming lack of motive in such cases.

As “rational” beings, we crave reasons or catalysts for most occurrences, especially those incidents resulting in wanton cruelty and violence. As inappropriate and horrific as such attacks may be, we can begin to comprehend them if there is any reason for provocation, such as bullying or actual physical torment first. As unspeakably violent as war is, it usually remains a somewhat distant and safe abstraction for most of us, softened further by our clinging to “reasons” like, protecting our freedom or that of another country in distress.

We can’t quite get our minds around a seemingly unprovoked, haphazard attack on innocent people, especially those completely surprised and unequipped to defend themselves (larger example on a national scale might be Pearl Harbor in December of 1941). All of this goes against reason itself and creates short circuits in our sense of the rational. The attorney of the sixteen-year-old, knife-wielding attacker called the young fellow a “nice young man” with no history of psychotic outbursts or other violent behavior. That attorney went on to say that those knife attacks seemed to come “out of nowhere.”

One concern that continues to haunt me about those individuals, who tote weapons of any kind and suddenly go mad in attacking crowds of innocent people is that in so many cases no one around the aggressors seems to have noticed any odd behavior before the dreadful acts of ferocity began. Like most other people, I feel a terrible need to attribute a reason for such aggression, not because it can diminish in any way the grotesque results of the crimes, but because I have a human need to believe that our behavior happens in reasonable sequences, one leading to another through need or provocation. Horrible acts of violence that cannot be connected to any source or reason are perhaps as terrifying to me as asteroids changing their orbits for no apparent reason and heading straight for my home and those I love.    JB

About John

John Bolinger was born and raised in Northwest Indiana, where he attended Ball State University and Purdue University, receiving his BA and MA from those schools. Then he taught English and French for thirty-five years at Morton High School in Hammond, Indiana before moving to Colorado. He spends his winters in Pompano Beach, Florida. Besides COME SEPTEMBER, Journey of a High School Teacher, John's other books are ALL MY LAZY RIVERS, an Indiana Childhood, and COME ON, FLUFFY, THIS AIN'T NO BALLET, a Novel on Coming of Age, all available on Amazon.com as paperbacks and Kindle books. Alternately funny and touching, COME SEPTEMBER, conveys the story of every high school teacher’s struggle to enlighten both himself and his pupils, encountering along the way, battles with colleagues, administrators, and parents through a parade of characters that include a freshman boy for whom the faculty code name is “Spawn of Satan,” to a senior girl whose water breaks during a pop-quiz over THE LAST OF THE MOHICANS. Through social change and the relentless march of technology, the human element remains constant in the book’s personal, entertaining, and sympathetic portraits of faculty, students, parents, and others. The audience for this book will certainly include school teachers everywhere, teenagers, parents of teens, as well as anyone who appreciates that blend of humor and pathos with which the world of public education is drenched. The drive of the story is the narrator's struggle to become the best teacher he can be. The book is filled with advice for young teachers based upon experience of the writer, advice that will never be found in college methods classes. Another of John's recent books is Mum's the Word: Secrets of a Family. It is the story of his alcoholic father and the family's efforts to deal with or hide the fact. Though a serious treatment of the horrors of alcoholism, the book also entertains in its descriptions of the father during his best times and the humor of the family's attempts to create a façade for the outside world. All John's books are available as paperbacks and Kindle readers on Amazon, and also as paperbacks at Barnes & Noble. John's sixth and most recent book, Growing Old in America: Notes from a Codger was released on June 15, 2014.
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