When these atrocities happen, everyone asks, “Why did he do it?” Why did Steven Paddock fire ten minutes of automatic fire into a crowd of 2,000 people, kill 58, and wound around 500?
Some detectives have the theory that every crime must have a motive. Often if a prosecutor can’t find a credible motive, it helps the defendant get a “not guilty” decision in court.
Well, why did he do it?
Let’s think about it and see if we can come up with some answers.
One simple answer is that we can debate the existence of God and of heaven until the cows come home, but one thing seems incontrovertible: sin exists and evil exists. Most of us have experienced sin and evil, not only what others have done to us, but also in the secrets of our own hearts: the fantasies of hurting our enemies (or society at large), our temptations, our dreams, and our automatic responses (before they have time to be socialized).
Also, we can read about sin and evil in a newspaper every day. One of the main differences between Paddock’s shooting and the more ordinary, everyday sins is that Paddock was a very bright and competent man who had (it is said) millions of cash. The common criminal doesn’t have the wherewithal to buy 20 guns and thousands of shells, and doesn’t have the competence to pull something like this off.
This is the same argument that demonstrates that the Nazi’s didn’t do anything unusual during Hitler’s years. History is rampant with stories of genocide. Pol Pot in Cambodia, Stalin in Russian, Mao in China, and the Hutus in Rwanda are recent examples. In fact, the Old Testament is filled with stories of genocide: either the Israelis or their enemies killing every man, woman, child, and animal during their battles. It’ just that the Nazis had a more modern political machine and a higher developed technical war machine.
The story is as old as Adam eating the apple: man’s cruelty to man.
And we’re all guilty. We live in a democracy and we are responsible for our government. Who elects the representatives of the gun lobby?
And who’s responsible for global warming and what it did to Puerto Rico? (See article “Who’s responsible for Puerto Rico.”)
(Granted, there isn’t absolute evidence that man has created global warming, but 95% of scientists say this is the case, so we know as much about global warming as we know about anything.)
Does our conspicuous consumption and our draining the world of scarce, non-renewable resources have anything to do with the escalation of immorality in our society and in the world? Does Madonna imitating fornication and orgasm on stage have anything to do with the continuing AIDs and STDs crisis?
So, what can we do?
Perhaps we could get back to the 10 commandments, for instance: don’t kill, don’t lie, and don’t steal. Perhaps we can even add Jesus’ commandments: forgive to the same extent as you want to be forgiven; do good for evil; love your enemy; and sell everything you own and give it to the poor (OK, I agree, the last one is a little extreme.)
In other words, we could be a little more ethical in our individual lives. If you don’t like the commandments above, pick some that are better.
I once read a statistical study that showed the behavior of the average person affects the extremes of behavior. This seems to be the case.
When the average person cheats on their taxes, cheats on their wives, engages in irresponsible fornication, or chronically lies, in a mystical way, those people on the fringes of society do more extreme behavior.
For instance, when we have 1 million abortions a year, perhaps this influences a guy to buy automatic rifles, bust a hole in a hotel window, and kill 58 people.
Perhaps when we invade Iraq and kill up to 1 million innocent civilians, the assault and murder rates goes up in the U.S.
Poverty causes immorality
Paddock gives us some evidence against the argument that poor people have a moral blank check and an eternal excuse because their poverty causes dysfunctional behavior.
Paddock had it all. He retired early; his live-in girlfriend was madly in love with him; he lived a life of doing just what he wanted to do, when he wanted to do it; he was a multi-millionaire; and, with his intellect and work habits, he had unlimited opportunity to do what he wanted with his life. But he chose to kill 58 innocent people. He was angry.
Example isn’t the best way to teach a child, but the only way
Perhaps the fact that Paddock’s father was a career criminal influenced both he and his brother to be criminals. Perhaps the 70% legitimacy rate (that is, fatherless families) in the African American community has something to do with African America men having four times the criminality rate as other groups in the society. Up to 70% of the young African American young boys don’t have a loving and responsible male example on how to live.
We can’t dismiss biology
Genetic determinates are much harder to locate. Perhaps there is a criminal gene, or a pathological gene, which both Paddock and his father seemed to have. However, genetic causes of behavior and talent (even the talent to deceive others and commit crimes) is taboo in this society. We must believe that we all are born with equal opportunity, that is, equal genes.
Many biologists and psychologists say that even if Paddock had the psychopathic gene, he still had a choice on whether to allow that gene to express itself or to control it. We have a mystical aspect of our personalities called “free will.”
So, these are some possible reasons why Paddock did it. But shhhh, don’t tell anyone. Regardless of what we say, many of us don’t really want to live in truth.