- Cullman, Alabama


April 30, 2013

SOUTHERN STYLE: What kind of mind?

As I sat at my computer last Sunday night, just about ready for bed, but glancing over Facebook just one more time, a post from someone I know in Decatur caught my eye.

It said “Bomb threat to CRMC” — news at 10... Those words galvanized me, wide awake now, into action, pulling up The Cullman Times for breaking news, emailing people I know at the hospital to find out if they were okay. Wondering what in the world?!

It was a while before there was any other word on the crisis — just pictures that would pop up occasionally, showing ambulances transporting patients to other, safer places.

As I continued to surf the ’Net, hoping for word that this was some kind of pathetic hoax, it occurred to me that this kind of thing often happens after a bombing like the one in Boston. And that thought led me to wonder what kind of mind could conceive of such things?

The conclusion I came to, sitting here in the dark, staring at a blue computer screen, is that there are some people who lack the compassion that most of society possesses. Some short circuit that by-passes the switch that prevents sane people from crossing that line into a realm where there are no social or moral boundaries, no moral compass that differentiates between right and wrong, no guiding principals learned in kindergarten about fair play and respecting others.

What kind of mind can make a phone call that could, potentially, cause the death of someone they don’t know, have never met, and have no grudge against.

What kind of mind holds human life in such little regard? Is there a totally opposite chemical makeup in the brain of a doctor who saves lives, and a person who pushes a button that will destroy them?

Maybe their own lives have such little meaning that they can’t understand the importance of living to the rest of us? Have they no thought of the babies being born at that moment, of hearts just mended or brains just recovering from the trauma of surgery, whose lives might tip in the balance when moved unnecessarily?

What kind of mind works in opposition to the values by which the general population is governed, be that ethically or morally? Is there just a void where the part of the brain that makes a person stop short of committing such a monstrous act of cruelty? Or does a mind like that feel more powerful or more superior because for a moment he is in control?

I’m not sure of the answer to these questions. Maybe a priest, a psychiatrist could answer them, but for me, the truth might lay in the heart more than the mind….the kind of heart that is cold and bereft of feelings for other human beings. A heart that is hardened, empty and feels no compassion, no empathy, no love in it for anyone.

It reminds me of the narrative voice at the beginning of an old radio show, “Who knows what evil lurks in the minds of men?” The answer to that question was, “The Shadow knows…”

That might well be the only entity who does know, because normal citizens can’t begin to understand what motivates a few people to commit such horrific acts against innocent bystanders.

Maybe an FBI profiler might explain this phenomenon, this question that begs an answer. What kind of mind would be so careless of people who might have given him hope, love, warmth and a place to lay his head if he were ill and uncared for? How little does he understand that he targeted the very places that might have helped him to overcome the void in his mind, where he might have found an answer to what must be a lonely and miserable existence?

What can we do to help? For one thing, we can nurture our children, especially the ones who come from troubled homes. We can start early to make sure that every child knows that there is someone who loves and will protect them from harm.

Each church, medical office, teacher and daycare worker, police officer, athletic coach and neighbor must learn the signs of child abuse, and we as a society must demand better resolutions for these children.

Not all sociopaths fit into that category, and of course, some have the mistaken idea that they are doing this for religious reasons, but past studies of the minds of these unfortunate people have shown that they lacked morals because of some gap in their childhoods. Some unplanned and unforeseen turn or twist in their formative years that sets them on a path of destruction.

We must be ever vigilant. We have grown complacent about our security. We learned lessons that never should have been necessary when 9/11 struck, but we took for granted that there were others out there who intend to do us harm. We must, from here on out, be more aware in every walk of our lives, we must notice the unusual, the little things that might make the hairs on our neck prickle, and we must follow our instincts when this happens. Better to be safe by crying wolf than to be forever sorry.

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