Natalia J. Garland
During those first few days of shock after the attack on the
World Trade Center, people were describing the attack as
beyond comprehension. The human mind could not fathom
the mass murder of so many innocent people. Everyone was
asking why. Some people seemed to have a tendency toward
self-blame, perhaps in an attempt to comprehend the
incomprehensible. Other people renewed their patriotism, or
even discovered for the first time feelings of patriotism.
I am still trying to understand why, trying to grasp some
explanation for it with my social worker's mind.
What kinds of
feelings prompt someone to kill the innocent? There was, for
example, a mass-murder many years ago known as the Massacre of
the Innocents. All the babies were killed. It happened just
after Jesus Christ was born. King Herod feared that the baby
known as the King of the Jews would take over his position as
king. Herod sent out the wise men as spies to find out where
Christ was born. Upon finding the Christ child, however, the
wise men became believers and they did not return to Herod.
Herod then went into a rage over this. Herod had all the
children, under age two who resided in the Bethlehem area,
seem to defy diagnosis. Are they mentally ill? Are they, as
President Bush says, evil? Can they be both? Are mental
illness and evil mutually exclusive? If they are mentally
ill, then are they not to be held responsible for their
actions? Is it possible to put these killers into some sort
of category? If not, is it possible to find certain traits
which are common among these killers?
seem as likely to focus on an individual as on whole
populations of people. Back in December, 2001, there was an
article in the Irish News about Sister Philomena Lyons,
a 67-year-old nun from Ballybay. She was sexually assaulted
and murdered on her way to Dublin for the holidays. She had
been a teacher for 40 years, having spent 30 of those years in
Ballybay. What kind of person would kill a senior citizen
nun? And during holiday time? What does such a person feel?
Here are my
rough impressions which are by no means scientific. This is
just my own mind searching for a few pieces of the puzzle.
Some people seem to react to stress, to perceived or real
wrongs, with intense feelings of hatred and vengeance. These
people have possibly experienced deep narcissistic wounding
and are possibly very immature. They choose easy targets
such as babies, enormously tall buildings, and old nuns. They
do not retaliate against the ones who they believe have
wronged them, but choose a representative or symbolic person
would not fall into anything like the Battered Woman Syndrome.
Battered women resort to killing their abusers because they
believe it to be an act of self-defense. Perhaps this is why
our leaders refer to terrorists as cowards. It would seem to
take a lot of courage to fly an airplane into a building, a
lot of cool nerve to maneuver oneself through the airport.
But the target is innocent and easy. Such killers will
possibly be found to be self-righteous, arrogant, angry, and
desperate for narcissistic validation. I daresay, sadly but
necessarily, that we will have opportunities to get to know
and study such killers much closer. (Written 02/18/02 -
Revised 12/01/03: bibliography available.)
Until we meet