There is a real danger that the real lesson to be learned in the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School will be lost in the brouhaha and politics over guns. Dozens of article on the subject have already been published in every newspaper in the country. Dozens of so-called psychiatric experts have been interviewed by Lou Dobbs, Bill O’Reilly and other TV journalists who have genuinely sought to understand the link between evil and social estrangement.
The answer in a nutshell is you can’t. These individuals are a-social. They have little or no investment in humankind, not even in their own kin. They are consumed with anger and hatred. They are dangerous!
As a psychoanalytic colleague pointed out, they steadfastly refuse to look people in the eyes. It’s as if they have already symbolically wiped them out. It is behavior we should understand. If we are truly furious at someone, we can’t stand to look at them.
Such individuals are not treatable. Not Ted Bundy, the Unabomber, Jeffrey Dahmer, not Seung-Hui Cho, not Eric Harris or Dylan Klebold. The mental health establishment has failed abysmally in their efforts to educate themselves and the public about evil. It is dangerous to live with the delusion that psychiatric treatment helps everyone. It does not. Neither Hitler, Stalin or Mao would have been treatable. Nor would the Hillside Strangler or Lyle and Erik Menendez.
To not accept this reality is not only dangerous, it could be fatal. To have a gun in the presence of such folk would be the only hope you have to save your own life.
R. Claire Friend, MD
Assistant Clinical Professor in Psychiatry and Berhavioral Medicine, UCI