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

Last Sunday Jim David Adkisson, a 58 yr-old 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 associates who had come to see their youngsters in a church play. The news set off a sequence of associations for me, as a result of I am a Unitarian-Universalist, and, like these mother and father in Knoxville, I had often sat in the sanctuary of our church, the Unitarian Church in Westport, Connecticut, watching my children, clad in makeshift costumes cobbled from previous curtains and junk jewellery, struggling to recollect their strains and overcome their shyness as they tromped throughout the stage, performing out some parable they’d cooked up with the youth advisors, celebrating themes dear to their coronary heart corresponding to social justice, love, and respect for all individuals of all types and shapes and colors. In the present day my kids have grown and moved away, but I still find solace in a Unitarian Universalist church, this one in East Greenwich Rhode Island. My spouse is pastor there.

The shooting additionally drew my consideration as a result of, as a professor at a school of social work, I devote a lot of my time to the examine of violent incidents. Having lately accomplished a ebook about school rampage shootings, I discovered myself, like so many others, attempting to grasp what had pushed Adkisson to perform such a desperate act. While this had elements in frequent with “office shootings,” it also resembled many of the varsity shootings I write about in my book. Others may categorize it because the work of a “Residence grown terrorist.” Perhaps these classes have more in widespread than criminologists have supposed.

I argue in my e-book that as a result of the varsity shooters had been adolescents, they had been concerned in that psychosocial disaster which the psychoanalyst Erik Eriksson referred to as “identification formation versus identity diffusion.” They decided to commit an act of violence in opposition to themselves (and others) as a result of they saw no future within the grownup world. Adkisson was 58, in the middle of the stage which Eriksson referred to as “Middle Adulthood,” whose psychosocial crisis he outlined as “generativity versus stagnation.” By generativity he meant not simply having kids however contributing to the institution and steering of the following era. Such work may involve educating, main a youth group, or serving on the board of a not-for-revenue. Stagnation may discuss with a worker who remains in a job that has misplaced all that means, or a wife trapped in a loveless marriage. The following stage in Erikson’s schema, the disaster of old age, consists of “integration versus despair.” Erikson made the purpose that each one these crises are occurring at every age, but some take precedence during sure periods of an individual’s life. In keeping with some sources, Adkisson was alcoholic and subject to lingering dark moods. Alcoholism is often related to getting developmentally “caught,” on the age when the drinking began. Was he an adolescent walking around in grown-up cothes

Information reports suggest that Adkisson was a man for whom life not seemed price living. Faculty shooters attain this state after years of being bullied, abused physically or sexually, and rejected by peers and girlfriends. Social awkwardness, psychiatric problems and learning disabilities additional aggravate the state of affairs. Adkisson had failed in relationships (he had lately been divorced by his fourth or fifth wife) and failed vocationally (he had misplaced his job and couldn’t find another.) His food stamps had been terminated, making survival troublesome.

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

When someone 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 it all. That is a horrible mixture, being suicidal and wanting revenge. That’s at the center of a lot of the workplace and school mass murders of the last 20 years. (Park Dietz, as quoted within the Hook, December four, 2003)

Third, Adkisson had created a “sham ideology,” a idea to help the violence he was prepared to commit. For school shooters, this often consists of some garbled “philosophy” justifying homicide. It is normally compounded from a misreading of Nietzsche and Ayn Rand, and too many viewings of the Oliver Stone movie, Pure Born Killers. Adkisson’s manifesto, a 4 web page letter left in his SUV, blamed Liberals much the nation’s woes. Those of us who have followed the Bush administration’s unraveling of the security net and re-allotment of the Federal budget to corporate welfare and the war in Iraq found ourselves scratching our heads. The information that Adkisson’s most current ex-spouse had once been a member of the congregation he had attacked provided a clue to how these antithetical concepts might have grow to be conflated.

Black and white thinking oversimplifies the world in harmful ways. Clever spin doctors have been driving a wedge into our physique politic for decades, convincing us that Liberals assume about everything a method, and Conservatives one other, and there is no overlap. But this can be a lie designed to polarize voters. Even within Unitarian-Universalism, the religion Garrison Keillor evokes every time he wants to make a joke about Lefties gone wild, individuals hold views that range all across the political and cultural spectrum. There are professional-life atheists, and theists who support assisted suicides. Many of the varsity shooters were raised in bible-belt communities where conduct was similarly divided into extremes. You could be good otherwise you could be evil. You might be a part of Team Jesus, or play for Satan.

Yet another factor motivated Adkisson: the hope that he would be killed by regulation males during his Sunday morning assault. He said in his letter that he hoped he wouldn’t 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. Some of the school shooters dedicated suicide after finishing 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 able to offer for his or her families are deprived of the privilege, they typically question the which means of their lives. Generally they contemplate suicide. A falling Dow-Jones traditionally correlates with a rising suicide rate, and vice-versa. A recent Huffington post by Barbara Ehrenreich investigates the issue of suicide and the current monetary crisis in depth. Between unemployment, the sub-prime mortgage crisis, the weakened dollar, a swelling nationwide debt, a vanishing security net and a expensive war, the outlook is grim.