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Thursday, March 30, 2006

The One and Only

Posted by on March 30 at 13:45 PM

This is the crux of an op-ed by a mother, Danette M. Will, of a young man who survived the Capitol Hill shooting:

I’m not angry at the things everyone is talking about, though. I’m not angry at the guns; the guns did not shoot at my son and kill his friends. I’m not angry at the after-hours parties, because billions of people of all ages have survived them. I’m not angry at the raves, drugs, alcohol, teenage rebellion, knives, bats, cars, etc., etc., etc.

I’m angry with Kyle Huff. Kyle Huff decided he wanted to end my son’s life. Kyle Huff decided to kill all of those kids. Not his arsenal, not his family, not alcohol, not drugs. Not anything or anyone except Kyle Huff. I’m angry with everyone who is trying to make themselves feel better about this by blaming anything or anyone except the person responsible.

The one thing I hate about American ideology, or basic American thinking, is that it places way too much emphasis on the individual. Only the one (instead of the many) is seen as largely (if not entirely) responsible not just for their crimes but also their standards of living. This Ideology pictures America, the land of opportunity, in this way: Everyone gets set, gets ready on the mark of the same white line and, at the sound of the bang, they are off to their careers. (I use “career” in both the old and modern sense of the word.) And so it is up to you—and you alone—to make it or break it. It is this kind of thinking that is responsible for the embarrassing lack of mental institutions, proper welfare services, a sensible safety net for all the citizens of the richest fucking country on the planet. Huff was less an individual and more a social being. He was a composite of others and not an isolated soul whose thoughts, emotions, drives were derived from nowhere else but himself. If the society is emphasized then society can change; if the individual is blamed than nothing happens to the power structures that govern our coexistence.

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That is such fucking bullshit. Huff was hardly a "social being." Huff was a giant fucking pussy who couldn't deal with his identity and internalized his phobias to the point where he finally convinced himself that it was ok to go down a path of destruction towards innocents. Yeah, sure, blame it on society (i.e., Montana) if you want, but the bottom line is we all know the rules. It's not morally acceptable to kill innocent people for any reason, least of all because you are having a bad day.

That is such fucking bullshit. Huff was hardly a "social being." Huff was a giant fucking pussy who couldn't deal with his identity and internalized his phobias to the point where he finally convinced himself that it was ok to go down a path of destruction towards innocents. Yeah, sure, blame it on society (i.e., Montana) if you want, but the bottom line is we all know the rules. It's not morally acceptable to kill innocent people for any reason, least of all because you are having a bad day.

Bad day? He's talking about a bad LIFE.

DAY, meaning LIFE, as in, speaking metaphorically... oh jeeze, nevermind.

I'm With Charles.

Individual responsibility is not at all an ontological given. It's a concept that's derived from social interaction, an expectation that your brain works similarly to everyone else's: therefore, if you can discern right from wrong, so can everyone else. And no, a percentage can't, just as a percentage of us can't stop switching letter order in their heads even if they try real hard.

Personally, I don't want to place my life in the hands of a sociopath's battle for self-control just to shore up some essentialist notion of individual identity. I'd rather battle for gun-control first, and conduct the philosophical debate unarmed.

So, what, precisely, should "society" emphasize in order to change crazy? How does "society" prevent crazy? You can't. We cannot create a happy fuzzy bunny world where everyone is huggy-wuggy woo-woo and no one ever flips out for NO REASON and starts shooting harmless silly kids. We're primates. Sorry, I happen to think aggression is just too bred in the bone, and some of us have short-circuits in the neural wiring.

Saying we should somehow change "the power structures that govern our coexistence" is a nice phrase. What the hell does it mean in this context? How would changing societal power structures prevent crazy?

What you're saying is he was mentally ill, unstable, unable to function as a normal human being. Do you think we could have helped him or harmed him? If so, that's a 'social being'. Yes, he was a severely messed up individual, and yes, society does have a hand in that. Thank you, Charles for understanding that blaming individuals (especially those not around anymore to punish) just maintains the status quo. I am not angry, just sad. These kids wanted to be his friend. The quote I read somewhere of Huff's recurring question: "What is going on here?" during the after-party has an answer. They were having fun.

I lived in Germany for a couple of years, a society with a much, much higher regard of the effects of society on the individual, a place where the word for "individualism" is generally preceded by "American-style."

Every time some German sociopath does some fucked up shit and harms or kills people and it gets big headlines, the commentary tends towards, "What is so wrong with Our Society? How did We let this happen?" and they focus on the health system or the welfare system or whatever. And there might be a bit of legislation and some more social spending.

You know what? The sociopaths don't disappear. Shit keeps happening there too.

I like the "society" angle as we construct the identity of the murderer. Let's put a chunk of ourselves in there for good measure.

"Lonely wallflower", "Red State", "Gun owning rustic", "Product of our society". It's starting to come together.

What we're looking to avoid is "he's no different than you or I, and had he been recruited into the Army and shot brown Iraqi party goers, no one would have heard anything about it.

In times like these - Amy Goodman reported this morning that the FBI is now monitoring League of Women Voter's meetings - a fine murder can distract the public for weeks.

So yes let's keep up the discourse about our murderer. Terrible rage indeed, probably rooted in corporate society - capitalist competition...Lonely Outsider...Montana...

Keep that hum going for the time being we've got brown people to murder by the score, and even the league of women voters are onto what's happening...and here Microsoft is a huge defense contractor...don't want anyone sniffing around there...Ralph Reed...Tax Shelter in Ireland...Nothing here to see move along and read about the MURDER.

If only we could have a murder like that in every town...or a child beauty pagent contestant kidnapped that works just as well...hum... ...hum...

While you make good points, Charles, about humanity's relationship with the individual... sorry, dude, she's right. Kyle Huff did this and no one or nothing else. Millions have been in Kyle Huff's neglected shoes, and next to none of them ever got mad enough to cap a house full of ravers.

Blame, responsibility, etc. meet explanation once again. You can attempt to explain someones actions without implying that anyone else is responsible for them. Yet time and time again I read someone responding to such attempts by reiterating that the individual alone is responsible.
A negligent driver is totally responsible for the persons he or she kills. But one can explain how that driver came into a position to routinely handle a dangerous thing like a car in that way. No amount of explaining in that fashion in any way mitigatest the responsibilty of the idividual.
There are two entirely different levels of discourse going on here I think, and I don't think they are really at odds.

I agree with society's role in tradgedies like this only to the point that shit don't happen in a vacuum.... Yes, plenty of factors went into making Kyle Huff, just like enviroment molds us all. But in the end he was the final decision maker. We all are. Unless you have been totally brainwashed and totally isolated and all freedom of choice taken away (and he may have been somewhat self-isolated), the individual still has choices. He HAD choices. Yes,our society doesn't have the best resources for mental health care, but it is not impossible to find it either. He was not living on the street with an obvious lack of connection to reality. In fact I think he was quite connected to reality but very very detached from any perception of it but his own. He was not so marginalized by minority status, gender, class or orientation that he couldn't have found help had he wanted to try... as far as we know anyway. And,,, he has a twin brother folks! same genetic makeup and same upbringing and same background. True, we don't know if Kane is on the same edge as his brother at this point, but Kane didn't (or hasn't) gone off and become the Terminator. Why? In this case we have two people who DID start at the same "white line" and ran the race pretty much the same way. One didn't (or wouldn't or hasn't) cracked and the other did. So society's role is only a mitigating concern. Perhaps a larger factor, perhaps a smaller factor. But... Kyle made the moves and seems to have known just what he was doing. It is sad, no doubt about it, and I feel for him only in the sense that he spiraled down and down and down.... Many do. And too many go to the evil, dark, black and red place he went.... And at some point he spiraled beyond return. But he still held the power till the very end to stop what he eventually did.
So I can see what the original post was getting at. We are connected and it takes a village and all that, but the individual, especially in becoming a semi-random executioner (or rapist) has personal accountability. And you would have to show me some pretty extreme factors in society or community failure in this case to lure the majority of the blame elsewhere than with Huff. Doesn't mean there are not some factors that contributed that he didn't have control over, but I see no evidence so far that he wasn't ultimatley responsible. Leave the debate of society's responsibility out of this case. Good points were made about the down side of American indiviualism ideology, but not really workable here. Somewhat innappropriate also, but in this post it also weakens the better points made about an overall stronger social net
that is needed. I don't think such a net would have helped much as the person who compared German psychos with American ones pointed out......

Although I agree that western (not just American) thought is too focused on the individual rather than the influence/responsibility of/to society, stating simply that individualism is to blame for the rampages of sociopaths is insufficient. As long as the vast majority of the members of our society are individualists, there will necessarily be a marked lack of feeling of societal duty or dependence in individuals. The only way to change the way the western world functions is to change each person's mind (one at a time, individually).

Certainly we could stand to have a better support system for people who are ill, but nearly everyone who knew Kyle Huff has said he seemed to be normal. He apparently did not display any (not seriously, anyway) of the tell-tale warning signs of a sociopath. He had friends, people did not excessively tease him during his developing years, and I haven't heard anything about him pulling the wings off flies when he was a kid. People are very complex, and no institutionalized safety net is going to catch everyone. If we had one in place, Kyle Huff probably would have slipped past the alarm system. So would thousands of other people. A good portion of people with mental disease never seek help. What's the solution to that problem? Mandatory screening of everyone?

I feel that both the individual and society are at fault. Now we arent going to fix society over night and even if we tried it would be futile as nobody would agree as to what the problems are. The individual needs to be responsible for the actions. If you are too weak to deal with society then that is an issue. Society isnt perfect nor will it be changed over night.
In this case the perp took his own life. There will be no accountability on his behalf. What are the answers? We will never know. We are beings of opinion and each and every one of us feels our opinion is the only valid one.

The Kyle "society's product" story could fill a page or two. We'll need at least another full issue filled with About the Murder headlines.

But stay shallow as you think about "society". The "career competition is intense" is good, maybe something about people cutting in front of you on the freeway.

Don't want to scratch much beneath the surface, stay provincial in your perspective or you may run into problems. For example, one Dutch roomate of mine saw a gun at a house party we were hosting and was going to call the cops. Why? Because it's illegal to even posess a gun in Holland. It took me two hours to calm that Dutch guy down and explain to him that anyone can own as many guns as they like here. We must never allow the American public to realize other countries have sucessfully installed goverments going a completely different direction than ours.

As you well know your job in the Media, keeping the public numb and distracted about what's happening, would conflict with any kind of deep exploration of American Culture or where we're headed.

Your doing a good job with the impeachment nonsense. Keeping the focus on the figurehead will ensure no one goes after those around Bush who hold real not just ceremonial power.

In Seattle you need to be especially careful to distract attention from the richest man on the planet living nearby. In other countries, The Dutch especially, the public believes such great wealth is impossible without some kind of destructive ties to the military and government.

While you like to brag about the blue color of the Seattle map, I'm afraid there's a bright red dot across the lake in Medina and environs. The question we must avoid asking is - are one hundred Billionaire Republicans more powerful than ten thousand poor democrats?

The old media used to have a saying "follow the money". Newspapers would uncover all kinds of interesting stories that way.

I'm glad "New Media" doesn't have such old fashioned ideas. Thirty or forty billion dollars would be an awfully lot of money to follow, and what if some of that money was from military contracts? Ooops! Seattle suddenly isn't so liberal after all.

So by all means fill another issue with copy about the "Capitol Hill Murders of 2006". Host "dance protests" so people can prove to themselves that something bad happening isn't going to curtail their "freedom to party".

If you can convince your readers that the most important thing to fight for is their "freedom to party" while wearing an "impeach Bush" shirt, you really will have taken over the job of "Old Media".

just wanted to differentiate myself from the other dave not that i think anything wrong of his post, i just didn't realized there was another dave on this comments post...

People want to use this to push an agenda.. even here.

The social problems in America made him do it.. oh.. I see.. thats it now is it.

Initially with Kyle Huff The Stranger was saying "Here's a guy who's a known Fiberglass Moose shooter and the Montana Authorities just let him walk away."

I was hoping to read more along that line, we need stricter laws and more surveillance....

Why did you abandon the law and order angle?

The funny thing about sociopaths is that they are sorta the ultimate individuals. They believe their view is not only the right one, but that they are the only right person in a room filled with people.They feel different in a way that could be construed as a superiority complex. Somehow his feeling of difference, of utlimate selfdom, led him to believe that the people at the party were no better than animals.
It is a tragedy because this is a common sort of ailment. Dogma and blind conviction leave no room for other ways of being. Can we really read into his acts as any different than how we as a country conduct ourselves internationally?
It is normal to try to understand the incomphrehensible, but sometimes, things conspire in such a way, that horrible things happen. Worst case scenario's come to pass.

Bottom line: Americans generally do not take responsibility for their own actions and the harm they sometimes cause themselves or others. If I spill hot coffee on my crotch abd scald myself, it's the restaurant's fault for brewing it so hot. If I slip on an icy step in winter and cut open my head, it's the property-owners fault for not shoveling snow. If I go on a rampage and kill innocent people, it's not my fault, it's society's fault. Society made me who I am, and so causes me to make these decisions.

We are an individualist society only in the sense that each of us cares only for our own self-preservation. It's high time Americans started taking responsibility for themselves.

Well the individual may ultimately be responsible for his or her own choices, but society puts some boundaries around those choices. An individual who chooses to kill 6 strangers in less than 5 minutes would have a hard time implementing this choice without a gun that could shoot a lot of bullets really fast. There are a whole lot of social structures (someone had to make the gun, market it, distribute it, sell it, not to mention regulate it etc) between the wish for a gun and a gun in hand actually shooting people.
But even in Holland, where Stranger Fan reminds us there is a strong social effort to keep the gun and the shooter apart, crazy people DO sometimes get guns, remember the Van Gogh shooting? And even in the US, where guns are lying around everywhere, mass murders are rare events. Not as rare as in Holland, but still rare.

I'd love it if The Stranger caught up with Anthony Moulton to see what he thinks about all of this.

You remember Anthony, don't you? He's the guy described in police statements as the man who invited Kyle Huff to the afterparty so they'd have someone different, outcast and edgy to laugh up their sleeves at.

C'mon Anthony. What say you?

Amen, Charles.

Danette M. Will, mother of a survivor of this horror, deserves more than to have her expression of grief quoted and then disected and debated. Have you no decency?

Anthony is my friend and would never invite someone to his party to laugh at him. I think that's incredibly unfair. Anyone who blames the rave scene for reaching out to Huff is severely fucked in the head. Also, let's just say that typically, your "ravers" aren't exactly the "cool kids." Did it ever occur to you that most people see ravers as outcasts? Maybe not in Seattle, but in Montana, you betcha.

Come now, Molly. I'm simply paraphrasing Anthony's own statements made to the police and reproduced in their reports.

Being an outcast doesn't automatically confer any sense of exaltation or dispensation upon the subjects. Be it the jocks or the band geeks, a clique is a clique is a clique and quite often capable of the same remarkable mental cruelty.

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