Can They All Be Crazy?

My friend Paul Dusza, who I had the pleasure of spending Thanksgiving with, posted this on Facebook:

My Heart goes out to the people who have suffered a loss due to the shooting in Arizona the other day. People ask how did such a person get a gun? I have to ask everyone (anyone) has there ever been an assassination or a shooting or an attempted shooting that was perpetrated by an individual that was considered to be of sound judgement and moral character?

I’d replace gun with weapon (of any sort) because this type of thing has been going on since the earliest days of mankind, and then ask, can they really all have been crazy, insane, deranged, maladjusted or any other term that describes someone of an unbalanced nature?

I am not trying to justify (and would never) anything that any of these people have done, but I am wondering if we are mis-categorizing them?

By default we are not gentle creatures. We are violent. We strike out as children. We cry, we kick, we bite, we scream, and not being violent is a learned response. We are thought it by our parents, disciplined if we don’t stick to the rules and not being violent has become the socially excepted norm.

The matter that we have more evolved brains than the rest of the animal kingdom in no way belies the fact that we are, at our core, animals. Mammals to be more precise.

We have core survival instincts, fight or flee responses and we have been hunter-gatherers for nearly 1.8 million years.

Intellectually and through learned behavior we suppress the baser urges that exist within all of us. We suppress the aggression to avoid violence, the sexual desire that could lead to sex crimes, the alpha dominance that would in a more pack like society allow us to simply take what we want – if we can.

People don’t entirely repress those urges either. We find outlets for them and call these outlets sports or entertainment. The hierarchy of alpha dominance is still readily apparent in any group of people, men or women, if you leave them together long enough.

Violent expression is a part of our nature, albeit one that we have intellectualized into repression.

We fear death.

Death is perhaps the greatest shared fear amongst humanity and is the cause of, if not a very large contributor too, a large part of our supernatural beliefs.

It is easy to see why, when someone perpetrates an act such as murder, which brings our greatest fear to the forefront of our minds and goes against the established social norms, that we would call them crazy, insane, deranged, etc…

The unfortunate reality is that these people may be perfectly sane, however despicable their crimes are. They may simply have a different method of achieving their goals. A method which is socially unacceptable, but in a different, time or circumstance may otherwise be perfectly rational.

Socially unacceptable does not always equal crazy. Just because you can’t rationalize it doesn’t mean that it cannot be rationalized.

I find it difficult to rationalize and justify a belief in religion for example, but it does mean that I consider those of religious belief to be crazy. It also does not mean that I am crazy because I cannot make the leaps of faith required to be religious.

These crimes are never acceptable in any form and are horrific.

It may be time that we stop labeling the perpetrators of such crimes with terms such as crazy, insane and deranged  and start looking for other terms that actually apply.

There are many example of mass murders who were deemed legally sane, but still called crazy. Some like, George Banks:

”suffered from a mental defect” but ”was legally sane and competent to stand trial.”

A mental defect? I wonder if that was the courts way of saying : ” We don’t know what’s wrong with him. He’s sane, but he has committed a horrible crime that we cannot rationalize so he must be mentally defective”.

The fear that a sane person could have perpetrated these crimes may have prevented them from saying: “This guy committed a terrible crime and it is all the more atrocious because he knew exactly what he was doing and why he was doing. He is perfectly sane and that scares us to death”.

Some times it’s easier to slap the “crazy” label on instead of dealing with that fear.

On the flip side you have Andre Thomas, who plucked his own eyes out.

The court deemed that:

“Applicant has a severe mental illness. He suffers from psychotic delusions and perhaps from schizophrenia,”

But despite that statement Thomas was still found to be legally sane under Texas law:

Thomas “is clearly ’crazy,’ but he is also ’sane’ under Texas law,” Judge Cochran wrote.

In todays world, the media and public alike, have little trouble interchanging words like crazy, insane, mentally ill and deranged in order to express their fear and uneasiness, or to achieve a political goal or even just to drive the ratings up. Nothing drives viewers like watching and hearing about the crazy guy.

Again, I’m wondering if we should use more appropriate terms that accurately describe the mental and social well-being of people who commit these crimes  and not leave it to the lay people and especially the lay media to decide that someone was crazy.

To be honest, it’s far more frightening and disturbing to hear about the actions of the perfectly sane mass murderer than it is about the crazy one. At least the crazy guy has an excuse – he’s batshit crazy. Right?

2 thoughts on “Can They All Be Crazy?”

  1. I agree. I sometimes worry that people use the crazy excuse to avoid getting fried though. There is obviously something wrong with him, but this guy does not deserve to live.

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  2. I agree. I sometimes worry that people use the crazy excuse to avoid getting fried though. There is obviously something wrong with him, but this guy does not deserve to live.

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