I once wrote a column for the Athens Daily Review, in which I stated that I am fascinated by people that carry out horrible acts.
I still hold that fascination. It is just so incredibly difficult to understand how someone can do something horrible to another, that ends the other’s life, or maybe even worse.
But when you look at the top of the table, and consider some of the psychological facts, perhaps it is not so difficult to understand.
I remember something that happened, like it was yesterday. But, from recollection, it was from the early 1970s, when I was in my early 20s.
I was sitting in my automobile in Houston, a city where I was taking college classes. I was resting after a day of study, sipping on a glass of Coke. It was late in the night, and I was by myself, with the radio turned on.
It was at one of those drive-in restaurants that feature wait staff – or carhops – that walk to the driver’s door, and take notes on a pad about what you want to eat or drink. A strong majority of the time, that wait-staff person was a female. It’s just the way it was.
I remember that sometimes the carhop serving food and drink to the vehicle would become friends with the person in the vehicle. Sometimes, it was natural that the young woman would decide to date the driver.
I remember sitting and drinking that Coke, when the carhop across the lot, who was in direct eyeshot from where I was sitting, fell onto the pavement beside the car where she was serving, and was screaming. I thought maybe she had just tripped. But next thing I knew, the driver of the small car was getting out of the car, and stood over her, firing a pistol.
He shot her several times, making her body quiver with each bullet that cut into her flesh. A river of blood was running in several directions.
The drivers across the lot reacted with starting their engines, or screaming. This was something few of us had ever seen – a woman shot with bullets until the gun was empty.
The man who delivered the shots, threw the pistol through the driver’s window into his car, entered the car, and sped quickly to leave the scene.
Many people got out of their vehicles, and went to get more information on what had happened.
Apparently, someone inside the structure of the drive-in diner had called emergency crews. Very shortly, an ambulance with its siren blowing, and its lights at full capacity, arrived at the scene.
As I stood there on the lot with others who came to the drive-in eatery, I didn’t see the victim move as paramedics checked her vital signs. I thought maybe she was just hit so hard by pain, it caused her to pass out.
There were some paramedics that were shaking their heads side-to-side. And, when the ambulance left with her inside, there were no lights or sirens. That should have told the crowd something.
During a short visit from the Houston Police on the parking lot, they listened to our stories, one-by-one, each a close repetition of the one they had just heard.
The next morning, I lay in bed, wondering what was going on in the minds of the people who had just seen what I also witnessed. Also, were there any children who saw the mess that took place?
Then, I picked up a copy of the Houston Chronicle. The story, it turned out, was inside, about Page 5. It told of a man who had allegedly known the woman. To my recollection, the story mentioned that she was about 30 years of age.
The man who knew her, and allegedly killed her, was captured, the article said. It mentioned that after the incident at the drive-in diner, he had traveled to an area outside of town, parked, and walked to a bridge where there was so little traffic, it was almost abandoned.
He reportedly went to the center of the bridge’s roadway near the railing, and jumped off.
I do not know how high the bridge was, or if there was water running under the bridge. It’s been so long, I don’t remember that much about the report.
What I do remember about it was that he survived the jump he made off the bridge, and was in a hospital. He would be waiting for his court date.
That’s the last I heard about it.
It appears the man who shot the woman was very angry at her. But, what could allow someone to shoot another repeatedly? I asked myself: Have I ever been that angry?
According to an online definition offered by Wikipedia: “Anger is an emotion related to one's psychological interpretation of having been offended, wronged or denied and a tendency to undo that by retaliation. Videbeck describes anger as a normal emotion that involves a strong uncomfortable and emotional response to a perceived provocation.”
Apart from the Wikipedia definition, I believe there is such a person within all of us. However, we are taught as children to treat our feelings in different ways.
For instance, some of the parents I talked with as a child told me that when someone does something you don’t care for, just pop the person in the face.
My parents, however, told me to analyze the situation, and make a determination as to what to do about it, if indeed, something really needs to be done about it.
The “pop them in the face” fellow probably more closely matches the feelings of the guy who shot the young woman to death. Perhaps the shooter believed he had been wronged, when it was something that could have been talked out. Since he did know her, I doubt the problem was he didn’t like the food he was being served. It was probably something he believed she had done to him when not at work.
He probably only thought what she had done was so wrong that it took more than talking about it, or popping her in the face.
So why do we perform some totally violent act?
I believe it either stops or starts in the home, early in life, perhaps age 5, on up to being a teenager.
I believe we, as children, do what we see done.
I also believe that the method of resolving problems is also watched through the eyes of a 6-year-old boy or girl.
If that child sees one parent strike the other, it is in time probably believed that it must be the proper reaction to one’s anger – to just take that hammer, and swing it into the other’s head.
After all, at the time the child saw it happen in his own residence, the victim’s spouse or friend may have gotten up off the floor unhurt.
Though they were bloody, they walked and shouted, just like they did before they were hit.
And, it appears – thinks the child – that the original problem was solved.
In the case of the shooter, I speculate that the child, now all grown up, left the scene of the crime at the drive-in diner, thinking he had done something that needed to be done, yet had his doubts about the fairness that would bring the next episode (prison), and walked to the bridge to jump off, to get it off his mind.
We should get it off the minds of children much earlier. Say... from the time they are born, until they can recognize what their parents are doing – then, and beyond that time.
They need to get an early start in life, knowing that drugs are not the answer. Neither is violence, and anger and getting back at those who did something wrong.
We need to lead them, and set their psychological, as well as their moral view of the world, in the right place.
Jeff Riggs is Editor of the Athens Daily Review.