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Adkisson’s Assault On A Unitarian Church Stirs Recollections, Raises Questions

Last Sunday Jim David Adkisson, a 58 yr-outdated unemployed truck driver from the city of Powell, Tennessee, entered the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church in Knoxville with a 12 gauge shotgun and started firing at parents and friends who had come to see their kids in a church play. The information set off a sequence of associations for me, as a result of I’m a Unitarian-Universalist, and, like these dad and mom in Knoxville, I had usually sat in the sanctuary of our church, the Unitarian Church in Westport, Connecticut, watching my children, clad in makeshift costumes cobbled from outdated curtains and junk jewellery, struggling to remember their traces and overcome their shyness as they tromped throughout the stage, appearing out some parable they had cooked up with the youth advisors, celebrating themes pricey to their heart equivalent to social justice, love, and respect for all people of all types and shapes and colours. As we speak my youngsters have grown and moved away, but I still discover solace in a Unitarian Universalist church, this one in East Greenwich Rhode Island. My spouse is pastor there.

The taking pictures additionally drew my consideration because, as a professor at a school of social work, I dedicate much of my time to the study of violent incidents. Having just lately completed a book about college rampage shootings, I discovered myself, like so many others, attempting to know what had pushed Adkisson to perform such a desperate act. While this had elements in widespread with “office shootings,” it additionally resembled many of the college shootings I write about in my e-book. Others would possibly categorize it as the work of a “Dwelling grown terrorist.” Perhaps these classes have more in frequent than criminologists have supposed.

I argue in my book that because the varsity shooters were adolescents, they had been concerned in that psychosocial disaster which the psychoanalyst Erik Eriksson known as “identity formation versus id blue stone island polo diffusion.” They determined to commit an act of violence in opposition to themselves (and others) as a result of they noticed no future within the grownup world. Adkisson was 58, in the course of the stage which Eriksson called “Center Adulthood,” whose psychosocial disaster he defined as “generativity versus stagnation.” By generativity he meant not simply having youngsters however contributing to the institution and steerage of the following technology. Such work may involve teaching, main a youth group, or serving on the board of a not-for-profit. Stagnation may refer to a worker who stays in a job that has lost all which means, or a wife trapped in a loveless marriage. The subsequent stage in Erikson’s schema, the disaster of old age, consists of “integration versus despair.” Erikson made the purpose that all these crises are occurring at each age, but some take priority during sure intervals of an individual’s life. Based on some sources, Adkisson was alcoholic and subject to lingering dark moods. Alcoholism is usually associated with getting developmentally “caught,” at the age when the drinking started. Was he an adolescent walking round in grown-up cothes

Information stories counsel that Adkisson was a man for whom life no longer appeared worth residing. College shooters reach this state after years of being bullied, abused bodily or sexually, and rejected by friends and girlfriends. Social awkwardness, psychiatric issues and learning disabilities additional aggravate the scenario. Adkisson had failed in relationships (he had lately been divorced by his fourth or fifth spouse) and failed vocationally (he had misplaced his job and could not discover another.) His food stamps had been terminated, making survival tough.

Second, he wanted revenge against those that had deprived him of his work, his social stature, his technique of survival. Faculty shooters long to get again at the children who tormented and excluded them, and teachers who handled them unjustly. The eminent criminologist Park Dietz has spoken of the hazard inherent in this case:

When any person has so little to lose, in order that all of it seems meaningless to them, then they’re likely to think about revenge as having considerable value. They could think of suicide as an escape from all of it. That is a terrible mixture, being suicidal and wanting revenge. That’s at the guts of a lot of the workplace and faculty mass murders of the last 20 years. (Park Dietz, as quoted in the Hook, December four, 2003)

Third, Adkisson had created a “sham ideology,” a concept to assist the violence he was ready to commit. For school shooters, this normally consists of some garbled “philosophy” justifying homicide. It is usually compounded from a misreading of Nietzsche and Ayn Rand, and too many viewings of the Oliver Stone film, Pure Born Killers. Adkisson’s manifesto, a 4 page letter left in his SUV, blamed Liberals a lot the nation’s woes. Those of us who have adopted the Bush administration’s unraveling of the security web and re-allotment of the Federal price range to company welfare and the struggle in Iraq discovered ourselves scratching our heads. The news that Adkisson’s most recent ex-wife had as soon as been a member of the congregation he had attacked provided a clue to how these antithetical ideas might have grow to be conflated.

Black and white pondering oversimplifies the world in harmful ways. Intelligent spin doctors have been driving a wedge into our physique politic for decades, convincing us that Liberals suppose about every thing a technique, and Conservatives one other, and there is no overlap. But it is a lie designed to polarize voters. Even within Unitarian-Universalism, the religion Garrison Keillor evokes each time he needs to make a joke about Lefties gone wild, people hold views that vary all throughout the blue stone island polo political and cultural spectrum. There are professional-life atheists, and theists who help assisted suicides. Many of the college shooters were raised in bible-belt communities where habits was similarly divided into extremes. You could be good otherwise you could possibly be evil. You can join Staff Jesus, or play for Satan.

Yet another issue motivated Adkisson: the hope that he can be killed by law men throughout his Sunday morning assault. He said in his letter that he hoped he would not leave the church alive. In other phrases, the place we see a tragic, meaningless murder of the innocent, Adkisson, beneath the brittle shell of his narcissism, saw a suicide try. A few of the college shooters dedicated suicide after completing their shootings while others hoped the police would do the job for them.

Suicide by cop.

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When men who derive their self-respect from being in a position to supply for his or her households are deprived of the privilege, they often query the that means of their lives. Sometimes they contemplate suicide. A falling Dow-Jones historically correlates with a rising suicide fee, and vice-versa. A recent Huffington put up by Barbara Ehrenreich investigates the issue of suicide and the current financial crisis in depth. Between unemployment, the sub-prime mortgage crisis, the weakened dollar, a swelling nationwide debt, a vanishing security web and a costly war, the outlook is grim.

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