I’ve been trying to understand some things lately without much success.
The way some people get their kicks today has taken an ugly turn, because their “pranks” have been killing innocent victims.
As I read about these incidents, I wondered if the people who committed these acts were criminally stupid.
Four teens were charged with murder in December after they allegedly dropped sandbags and other items off a freeway overpass in Toledo, OH, killing a passenger in a car.
In another case in Michigan last October, five teens were accused of dropping a 6-pound rock off an overpass, killing another man. The sheriff stated he believed the same teens had dropped other items, including a shopping cart, off overpasses in the days prior to the fatal incident.
Another type of “prank” in December that began with a “swatting” hoax involving a phony 911 call ended with the fatal shooting of an unarmed man by police in Kansas.
Finally, to round the month out, an incident in Iowa captured national attention when vandals smashed 50 beehives, killing an estimated 500,000 bees.
Although this incident did not directly result in any human death, it caused an estimated $50,000 in damage to the family-owned business.
It is especially noteworthy because bee populations in the US have been rapidly declining, and bees are essential to the production of many major food crops. So, although this wasn’t a direct attack on a human, it was an attack on anyone who relies on food to survive, which is, of course, everyone.
There is a bright spot in that story, however. When word of the destruction got out, fundraising efforts quickly raised more than $35,000, which will allow the company to rebuild and survive.
My first reaction when I read these stories was anger. Actually, that was my second and third reaction, as well. I couldn’t believe anyone could be stupid enough to commit such senseless acts of violence as some sort of a sick joke.
I wondered what the world was coming to if people have to endanger the lives of strangers for their own entertainment.
A wise friend pointed out that some people were not raised to value empathy and compassion. Sadly, this is true. It must be much more difficult for some people to learn these things if they’re not exposed to them as children.
I’m reluctant, however, to give them a free pass based solely on environment. There are many people who grew up in unimaginable circumstances who have spent their lives picking others up, rather than dragging them down.
Perhaps these senseless acts of violence give the perpetrators a sense of power or control in a world that seems out of control. If that’s the case, how can we make people see there are many positive ways to take control of their lives that don’t involve killing others or destroying their property?
My first angry response when reading about these cases and others like them was that the people responsible should get a dose of their own medicine the old “eye-for-an-eye” response. But I realize that won’t solve anything.
It wouldn’t bring back the husband, son, brother, or father who was killed. It would not help to heal the families whose lives were torn apart.
We can prosecute those who have committed senseless acts of violence, and that will at least take those perpetrators out of circulation.
The real victory, though, will come if we can find a way to prevent this kind of thing in the future.
Perhaps the only way to change the behavior of those who place no value on human life who have not learned the value of empathy or compassion may be to practice empathy and compassion ourselves.
It’s possible that the only way to change shocking and unacceptable behavior may be to try to understand it.
If we allow our anger to guide our response to these acts, we risk sinking to the level of those who committed them.
At the end of the day, violence does not cure violence.
We need to find a better way, no matter how difficult that may be.