Perpetrators too often labeled insaneThe recent Navy Yard shooting in Washington, D.C. was an unexpected attack by a delusional gunman. On Sept. 26, the FBI revealed that Aaron Alexis, who worked for a military subcontractor, suffered from delusion and auditory hallucinations. A note stating that he was being controlled by “an ultra-low frequency attack” was also released. The authorities claimed that his psychological condition is a likely motivation for the mass murder.
In a way, that conclusion has been expected from the early stages of the incident. The FBI and American media focused on the metal state of Alexis from the day of the attack. They tracked down information about his background, the neighborhoods where he grew up and acquired statements that he had problems controlling his anger. While some said he was pleasant and normal, he was labeled as having an anger management problem.
As the rampage that left 13 people dead at the center of the American capital was being called the abnormal behavior of an insane person, other social issues were left hidden. The news no longer mentions that the perpetrator was unhappy with the wages, welfare and contract with his employer.
The military security issue is not highlighted enough when it poses serious concerns. People seem to feel that it is fortunate that the perpetrator was mentally insane. They want to believe that such a tragedy can only be committed by an unusual person in an extraordinary circumstance.
When a shooting incident or heinous crime occurs in the United States, similar patterns are repeated. The perpetrators are labeled with various conditions. If there’s no clinical condition to associate with a criminal, he is branded “a loner with no friends.” When that’s not enough, clues are sought even from the kind of music the perpetrator had listened to. It may be my personal prejudice, but Americans seem to have preconceived ideas that a criminal must have a mental condition.
The perpetrator of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in which 20 children were killed in December was thought to have had developmental and personality disorders. Twenty-year-old Adam Lanza grew up in a well-to-do family and was smart, but he did not get along with people.
However, the motivation of the rampage remains unknown because Lanza killed himself. It is believed that he had suffered from mental illness and committed the crime impulsively.
Last month, a 20-year-old man attempted to commit a similar crime at an elementary school in Georgia, and a similar diagnosis has been given on him as well.
If the responsibility is put on an individual, the public can avoid panic temporarily because it is not a “structural problem” that individuals cannot run away from. But when the society is not held accountable, similar incidents will be repeated. Can we say shooting incidents happen so often in the United States because there are more insane people there?
After the Navy Yard shooting, U.S. President Barack Obama advocated a stronger need for gun control, but it was met with little support. Guns are not the only issue.
The latest major crimes in the United States are related to social frustration or discord. However, individuals are always blamed. If the systematic problem is not addressed, reform is not possible.
*The author is a Washington correspondent of the JoongAng Ilbo.
By LEE SANG-BOK