Richard Hickock, Perry Smith, Eric Harris, Dylan Klebold, Adam Lanza, Nikolas Cruz, Payton Gendron, Salvador Ramos, and Robert E. Crimo III were never Student Body President or Homecoming King. Never labeled “Most likely to succeed,” their infamy eclipses all other faces in their high school yearbooks. Friendless, fearful, furious, these young men became Mass Murderers!
From a Kansas farmhouse to Columbine High, Sandy Hook Elementary, Marjory Stoneman Douglas High, Tops Supermarket, Robb Elementary, a Highland Park Fourth of July Parade, and doubtless beyond, in the name of God and Humanity, why do they do it‽
Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood recounts Hickock and Smith’s slaughter of Kansas farmer Herbert “Herb” Clutter, wife Bonnie, daughter Nancy, and son Kenyon. Their ages and choice of victims make Richard and Perry outliers, but comments Capote attributes to the pair offer an explanation why some young men murder total strangers. As memory serves, cryptically, “Somebody had to pay.” Capote quotes Smith, “(Mr. Clutter) was a very nice gentleman. Soft spoken. I thought so right up to the moment I cut his throat.”
Human history is permeated with individuals and groups striking out against standards of civil behavior. In America, apart from circumscribed, depression-era gangland assassinations, multiple murders were unheard of. Then, around two decades back, precedent, economics, and technology converged. Harris and Klebold invented the model. A profit-motivated, Arms-Industry/NRA/ Conservative-Congressional Cabal made military-grade assault rifles the, cliched, ticking timebomb.
I’ll wrap this up once again citing social psychologist, psychoanalyst, and philosopher Erich Fromm’s The Anatomy of Human Destructiveness. Fromm argues man needs to “make a dent.” If nowhere else, sometimes he makes it “in someone’s head.“