Monday, November 13, 2017

Mainly about the Trimet stabbing

In May I took my mother to Italy for a week to spend time with her hospitalized sister. I have written some things about that trip, but those focused on family. This is more about the world.

We left on May 22nd. While we were at the airport, I heard about the bombing in Manchester. There were flight delays for different reasons, but while in line to fix our itinerary issues I had just been talking to a man going home to Manchester. I immediately thought about him and his wife finding out that they would be going home to that, and all of the thoughts and worries they would have while still thousands of miles away. It cast kind of a pall over the trip, but that was about to get worse.

On May 27th I logged in and started seeing alarming tweets about Portland and TriMet and that's when I found out about the stabbing the day before. Now we were the ones thousands of miles away. It's not like I would even have been able to do much being home, but it does increase the feeling of helplessness.

I tried to catch up on everything when I came back. There was one article that quoted former FBI agent Joe Navarro and mentioned his book, Dangerous Personalities: An FBI Profiler Shows You How to Identify and Protect Yourself from Harmful People.

Even though I questioned some of his conclusions about the suspect, I decided to read the book. It was disappointing, but that was okay because when I looked it up the library suggested another book, Why Does He Do That? Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men by Bancroft Lundy, and that was really good.

The problem with Dangerous Personalities was that it gave a checklist of 120 or so traits for each of four personality types: narcissist, paranoid, unstable, and predator. If a person had more than 60 of the 120 for any of the types, they were probably a dangerous personality.

If you think those lists would get tedious to work through, and wonder if it wouldn't be easier and more accurate to just work with the Hare checklist for psychopaths, yeah, I thought so too. Navarro can spot a dangerous person, and can be an effective agent, but it felt like he did not have a deeper understanding of why everything interacts the way it does. I think that's why he needs such long lists.

The original article talked about the stabber's history, and what led him to this point. Navarro and another author, David Neiwert (who writes about far-right extremism) both talked about mental illness, especially relating to paranoia.

Navarro said that it would be a mistake to reduce the crimes to an outgrowth of mental illness. I agreed with that.

There was a lot in there about the stabber's life path that showed a pattern of low achievement: high school dropout, menial jobs, living in a friend's basement for a couple of years. He was into comics and mythology and metal, but those are positives for a lot of people, even if they show up with people who are less positive as well. (Tattoos showed up on all of Navarro's checklists.)

Navarro and Neiwert both acknowledge the appeal of groups and special knowledge, which can make certain groups more attractive when they embrace you (like white supremacists). However, there was nothing in the article about how sometimes there is such a dearth of anyone embracing  the low achievers except for white supremacists. There was nothing about how society pressures men to win, or what that does for someone who seems incapable of winning in any other way than violence.

I'll tell you something else: when you look at those backgrounds, the Trimet stabber sounds a lot like the Charleston church shooter, or the person who ran over Heather Heyer in Charlottesville. They would sound a lot like the Vegas shooter if he didn't have money, but maybe that's why he needed to be such an overachiever with his plans.

No, I am not using their names. I am also not trying to stir compassion for them necessarily, but I do think we need to try and understand. That doesn't come from shrugging our shoulders at mysterious lone wolves, not when they seem to be coming off of an assembly line. It will not come from talking about mental illness if the symptoms they exhibit are not aberrations from the societal norm but rather exaggerated reflections of it.

Now we are talking about toxic masculinity.

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