Sunday, February 10, 2008

Kirkwood MO City Council Shooting Like Domestic Violence

When I heard about the shooting rampage in Kirkwood, Missouri where 5 people were murdered and several more were injured at the city council meeting before Charles Lee "Cookie" Thornton was fatally shot by police and I learned that Thornton felt victimized by city officials, I was reminded of the dynamics in so many domestic violence murder/suicides.

One of the key similarities is in Thornton's reported suicide note which said something to the effect of "the truth will come out" which shows that his thinking was so distorted that he assumed that when the violence was over everyone would take his side and see that he was the only true victim. I've seen this in family murder/suicides and unfortunately too many people do assume that the victims drove the murderer over the edge.

The only cases where this is even a possibility is where the person who killed was trapped by extreme violence. This wasn't the case in Kirkwood and it isn't the case in most spousal murder/suicides.

Some of these people mimic the distortion of the murderer -- wives as thieving gold diggers for example -- while others want the illusion of safety by telling themselves that they would never drive someone in their life to murder them.

Whether city officials always treated Thornton fairly is unknown, but even if they did treat him worse than others in that city, in no way was his violence an act of justice. The just penalty for too many parking tickets and too few city contracts and being wrongly arrested for disorderly conduct is not death. When his federal lawsuit against the city was thrown out this act of violence was not his only remaining option.

You don't prove your innocence through a spree killing.

Those who commit these horrific acts of violence wrongly limit themselves and others so that violence seems more sensible than it really is. All those involved become one-dimensional. Those shot by Thornton were not viewed by him as being fully human so it became easier for him to shoot people to death one by one and then continue on until he was stopped by an outside force. From the note he left, he wasn't planning on living to face the consequences of his decisions.

This disortion preceeding violence is where so many men decide that it is okay to shoot their wives or their girlfriends or their exes. Those who think that these types of people are only a danger to immediate family and therefore it is a private family matter have it dead wrong. This distortion happens in non-family relationships such as employment relationships and as the shooting in Kirkwood shows this distortion can happen anywhere people interact.

In a small town near where I live a man murdered his wife and stepdaughters after being accused of sexually abusing the girls and he made similar statements about the truth before killing himself. Like Thornton, this man was sane. Getting so caught up in a grudge or a feeling of resentment that murder/suicide seems like the logical next step is not insanity, it is a shortsighted sanity.

The possible ways to make yourself look right or innocent does not include committing cold-blooded murder. I believe that more men commit these types of crimes by a wide margin than women because men are frequently encouraged to have a more brittle, less empathetic view of the world. This doesn't make men hapless victims in these sorts of crimes, they had choices and with the help of how they think and feel, they made violent choices.

I suspect that in these murder/suicides that the victim or victims become representative of every slight or wrong in the murderer's life. The victim ends up taking the fall for pent up feelings about people like a 4th grade bully.

If we are trying to be supportive of someone we know who feels wronged, we need to be careful that we aren't being supportive of one-dimensional thinking or the channelling of cumulative rage. All of us will be wronged by someone in our life. Most of us never decide that the way to respond is with murder.

We do need to think about how we can help defuse that dangerous thinking pattern before it escalates to murder. However, those who are the potential victims will likely have the lowest chance of success at getting through to people like this because they have been placed in a mental cubbyhole as the "enemy" and once that happens everything that person does is suspect even when they are trying to be reasonable and kind.

Too often those who are at risk of being murdered are given the greatest responsibility for the actions taken against them. We must remember that the response is not caused by the stimulus. The response is caused by how someone thinks about the stimulus. Someone who is not linked to that stimulus will have a much better chance at helping the potentially violent person start seeing the situation in a less distorted way.

When people talk about this case, they are likely sending a message to those who are potentially violent so it is important for each of us to think about how others will take our words.


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posted by Marcella Chester @ 9:58 AM   0 comments links to this post


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