I want to cry. Or sigh. Or... something. I don't know.

Humanity has let me down again. Another day, another school shooting. I feel disgusted, disappointed, frustrated... I am horrified that the sanctity of the classroom has once again been violated. I am glad of only one thing: That it still hurts. I do not know what life will be like once I have become immune to the hurt.

As I...studied the process of killing in combat from the standpoints of a historian, a psychologist, and a soldier, I began to realize that there was one major factor that was missing from the common understanding of killing in combat. That missing factor is the simple and demonstrable fact that there is within most men an intense resistance to killing their fellow man. A resistance so strong that, in many circumstances, soldiers on the battlefield will die before they can overcome it.

To some, this makes "obvious" sense. "Of course it is hard to kill someone," they would say. "I could never bring myself to do it." But they would be wrong. With the proper conditioning and the proper circumstances, it appears that almost anyone can and will kill.

Dave Grossman - On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society

If you haven't heard the news yet, there's been another school shooting, this time in the wonderful world of Cleveland, Ohio.

Dave Grossman makes the assertion that most people "obviously" have an absolute aversion to lethal violence enacted against other people, but that the boundary may come crashing down given "conditioning" and "circumstance". First, a little about the man and his book. Dave Grossman retired a Lieutenant Colonel in the United States Army. He had achieved, before retirement, a position as professor of psychology at West Point. His research for this particular book included statistical information from WWII troops on all American fronts that indicated that only twelve to fifteen percent of soldiers were willing to fire their gun at the opposing armed forces, even during a Banzai charge. This is in all respects, an astonishing realization. Dave Grossman's research has led to advanced training used by the United States Army to prepare troops for the violence of warfare. Needless to say, people might disagree with the man's assertions and/or methods, but his credibility is damn near unassailable. Anyway, enough of this particular train of thought.

It stands to reason that, if Grossman's works are correct, there are three potential causes of school violence: the perpetrators are not "most people", they have been involved in abnormal events which have conditioned them towards violence, or particular circumstance has led them to such violence. Where is the failure? Humanity or society? I cannot believe that anyone in particular is to blame for the atrocity of such an event, but surely the cycle can be interrupted somewhere, somehow.

The power of video games to condition youth to violence, also while disputed, is exploited by the United States Army. No joke. If games are potent enough to condition potential soldiers, surely the development of more and more realistic video games with more and more violence have aided in the erosion of propriety. But are they entirely to blame? I sincerely doubt it.

In this most recent incident, the line was crossed after the student had been suspended. I don't know of anyone who's experienced suspension and found it enjoyable. Nevertheless, I cannot fathom that this alone would be impetus for such egregious acts of violence. In a world where suspension resulted in penalties of injury or death, utter chaos would reign.

The only other conclusion would be that every action of scholastic violence would be at the hands of people who were lacking the natural aversion to heightened violence. Does this mean that there is a higher incidence of people sans restraint in our society currently? I realize there is great acceleration in the velocity of change, but I think it's a fair assumption that ultimately, the fabric of humanity is tremendously static. I don't think people are generally more or less predisposed to anything now than they were hundreds of years ago, let alone a few decades ago.

This is why I'm so confused. Why is there such an explosion of violence in the past decade? I have no answer. All I know is that today, one more life was lost than was necessary, and it's tremendously sad. My heart is broken, and no salve is available.

I was flipping through the Signals catalog (even though I have zero interest in touchy-feely warm-fuzzy inspirational decor and doodads) and came to a page where they offer geography-related items, including shirts and a doormat customized with one's latitude and longitude.  Kind of a neat thing to a GPS-using guy like me, that doormat, and they even offer to  figure out the coordinates for you - just give them US city or zip code. The only problem is that their example is wrong twice!
The coordinates are shown in degrees and minutes, with the example doormat reading "Welcome to 40°75'N  73°99'W" which looks fine until you consider that there are only sixty minutes in a degree.  The values of 75' and 99' are completely invalid.  Maybe they should stick to candle holders and wind chimes.


Just for grins, I punched the corrected coordinates (41° 15'N, 74° 39'W) into Google Earth and found they point to a farmer's field in the northernmost corner of New Jersey.  Could this be where Jimmy Hoffa is?

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