The Binghamton Shooting: The Shape of Things to Come?
While the media is busy probing the mental health state of the shooter in the tragedy in Binghamton, New York, a more mature and encompassing analysis needs to be advanced, one which looks at the cultural and economic factors which instruct and inform the killers in incident such as Binghamton. The killing of 13 people at an immigrant center, to be sure, is not an isolated occurrence, but the choice of protest and attention-getting. Week after week the nation is shocked and surprised by carnage which has become all to common- San Diego Metropolitan Transit, Illinois Church and Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church shooting, the school shooting at Virginia Tech and Northern Illinois University, and the to onslaught of murder-suicide shooting in which whole families have been slaughtered.
All of these shooting reflect not just the sickness of the individual, but the pathology of our society and the culture that produces this pathology. No doubt the individuals in each of these incidents shoulders responsibility. However, as Eric Fromm warns us in his work, “The Sane Society”, a society can be sick and that “by introducing better methods of mental hygiene we are sure we shall improve still further the state of our mental health, and as far as individual mental disturbances are concerned, we look at them as strictly Individual incidents, perhaps with some amazement that so many of these incidents should occur in a culture which is supposedly sane.” He goes on to say that too many of us hold that the “problem of mental health in society is only that of the number of unadjusted individuals, and not that of a possible unadjustment of the culture itself.” In this period, when Americans, men in particular, are out of work, stripped of meaning and dignity, the country is at high risk of random shooting becoming a way of these persons expressing their anger and dismay. To absolve our society of responsibility for these acts of violence is to ensure that shooting and killings will continue.
Whether the media and or elected official have the will and insight to engage the nation in a discussion of the role our society is playing in the upswing in random shooting will in large measure depend on the willingness of communities and citizens to engage their own communities and elected officials. The nation’s attention deficit hyper-disorder (HDHD) will ensure that tomorrow’s national topic and discussion will shift to something else-no doubt the economy or terrorism. Yet, unless we have courage to rise the issue of what kind of society have we become and what can of society we want to be and put in motion the policies and practices need into bring this new society, the specter of another Binghamton will visit us again in a different city with the same results.