We deify killers, not heroes

The tragedy in Connecticut raises many of the same questions we’ve argued about for decades.  Mostly we talk about guns, violence in our entertainment and society, school safety, and increasingly, mental health.  However, one area Pagans can add a unique and valuable viewpoint is how our culture has stood deification on its head.  We deify killers, not heroes.

In some ancient Pagan cultures, persons who did magnificent deeds or were founders of cities were honored after death as divine beings.  Their names were known to all, their likeness spread, and every tidbit of their lives were told and retold.  They became immortal.  Persons who did unthinkable acts, on the other hand, were erased.  Their name was no longer spoken.  Their name was stricken from all official record.  All images of them were destroyed.  When they died, they ceased to exist.

This is how it should be and yet, we do the exact opposite.  We have wall to wall coverage of the shooter, his photo is on every tv, phone, and computer.  Most every person in our country, and many outside of it, will know his name.  We will learn every detail of his life and all of that information is passed along on social media and discussed in person among friends, family, and co-workers.  There will be books about him and generations from now, people will retell his story. They’ll be on the TV 24 hours a day.  That is a powerful honor to bestow.

Psychologists note that persons who do mass killings, such as what happened last week, crave the attention even though they may choose not to be alive to experience the attention after the act.  They fantasize about being on the news, knowing their name will live on long after their death.  They know this because they see how we glorify past mass murderers.  In fact, we usually surpass their wildest dreams.  Each new killer receives greater and longer attention.

I don’t advocate legislation to make it illegal to speak mass murderers’ names or display their photos, but I do believe if we voluntarily adopt the ethics of our religious and cultural ancestors, we will have fewer of some types mass murders.  It will not be so attractive to those focused on writing their name in the sky.  If the media, as they do with a few other specific types of criminal cases, stopped publishing their name and photo, that would help.  If we placed our focus on the victims and heroes, passing along their photos and stories and saying their name aloud, that would help.  If we deified heroes, not killers, that would help.

8 thoughts on “We deify killers, not heroes

  1. Jude says:

    So true Cara, so true. I thought about this when the ‘Dark Knight’ theatre shooting occured. Why are we giving him all this publicity? That is what he wants. Lets not give it to him! A friend once showed me a survey where it asked ‘ Would you want to be remembered for doing something horrific or not remembered at all?’. I don’t remember the exact numbers but I was surprised how many people (over 25%) wanted to be remembered even if it is for doing an extremely terrible thing, including my friend. She’s in Hollywood working on being remembered. Hopefully the worst thing she’s remembered for is being in a bad movie.
    I know we need to study the situation so we can prevent or at least minimize this happening again. Discussions on why and how this happened will take place but maybe we should just refer to the shooter as the ‘Grade School Killer’ and not say his name. Or would that even be too much? I have thoughts on how and why this occured, and ways to prevent (?) it in the future but they are for other discussions.

  2. christacuups says:

    If newspapers would substitute “the killer” for the name, at least after the first reference, it would be a start. Perhaps we could all write to our local newspapers, etc., forwarding this post.

  3. Z Budapest says:

    Attention is a form of love. Giving attention to guns and weapons and solving problems with shoot outs is saying we love them. Many men adore their guns,compensating for low self esteem. Women who own guns feel safer but there is not truth to that guns have ever helped a woman under attack.I had a gun, i even learned to shoot 8 s, thankfully i never had to use it, it was stolen one summer when i was in Europe. The other day twenty years later my gun showed up in a crime shoot out, and the police showed up at my house to ask me since i was the legal owner of the gun. I told them how it was stolen. I told them distroy my gun, i don’t want it back.
    We do not live in the movies with special affects. This is real lives, real people, real children and women.

  4. C.P. says:

    Z; I respectfully disagree with you on several points. Granted, I don’t know all the particulars. Going backward:

    You should have had your gun in a locked gun safe. If the Mother of the Elementary School Shooter had kept her guns in a locked gun safe he couldn’t have used them. Granted he may have gotten them from a different source but legal sources may have stopped him or delayed the shooting to a point where someone could have intervened before he fired a shot.

    If your gun was stolen you should have immediately reported it to the police and maybe they would have given more attention to the break-in(?) and you would not have been held responsible for the gun 20 years later. Like I said, I don’t know the particulars.

    There are plenty of documented cases where a woman with a gun has prevented or stopped attacks. Contact the FBI, NRA or any respectable group that deals with such statistics. As with any form of self defense it is best when you have formal training in that discipline.

    A gun does NOT need to be fired to stop an attack. Just pointing the gun at a perp can stop an attack. But you do have to be prepared to fire it if they keep coming. A friend (w/ legal carry concealed permit) pulled his gun (and told the perp to ‘Stand Down’) when a would be robber, hopped up on who knows what, came at him with a huge knife and the perp took off. No bullets were fired and the description my friend gave led to the perp’s arrest as he was cruising for more victims.

    Getting into a shoot out is sometimes a necessary evil that must be done to protect loved ones or society as a whole. That is why police are trained to win a shoot out. They do not want to do it and they definitely don’t Love doing it. There are times when only a gun can stop someone from shooting their gun. We could get into the discussion on what would have happened if the prinicipal or someone else at the school would have had access to a gun and proper training.

    Holding a gun can make a person feel powerful and some people (male and female) probably use it as a self esteem boost. As an advertisemnet once said, “God made man but Colt made them equal”. But holding a gun should also make one feel responsible for whatever happens with that gun.

    Honestly, I adore my guns as much as any other person adores any other inanimate object, like a car or IPhone. I don’t have them because I have low self esteem. They are my tools. I use my guns (and bow and arrows, and sling shot) for hunting and I have put lots of meat on my table and shared my good fortune with the community. Many people have benefitted from my guns. Guns are tools and like any tool they can be used for good or bad purposes. As can baseball bats, knives, frying pans, wrenches,,,, or the most deadly tool around,, the automobile. I am also very glad that I have never had to use a gun against another person.

    This is reality. Guns are inanimate objects that shoot where they are pointed. First Rule of Gun Safety; Keep the muzzle pointed in a safe direction. Guns don’t have a conscious, morals or the ability to do harm on their own. They need ammo put into them and someone or something to fire them. We need to find a way to help/deal with, the would-be shooters before they shoot. Whether that is stopping the bullies, making someone feel like they matter, helping them feel less isolated, and/or better ways of dealing with mental illnesses. It would be great if we could see what is in the minds and hearts of people and predict the future, but we can’t. Maybe better back ground checks? I don’t know what the solution is but, at least, the discussion has been started.

  5. ccsummer says:

    So true. I refer to him only as “the killer”. The world will remember his name long after it has forgotten even one of the names of the children and adults he murdered.

  6. Horizon says:

    Statistically, a gun in the home is most likely to be used against the owner or one of the family. Not against an intruder. Whether it is having an intruder find it and use it against you when you get home, or being used for suicide, or having kids and/or others accidently shoot themselves–the figures don’t lie. Having a gun makes you far more likely to be the victim of gun violence that not having a gun.

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