The Monsters Among Us
“Hey!” Steve Martin’s character yells to his boss in the 1979 comedy classic, The Jerk. “These oil cans are defective!” And, he chuckles as he watches them, one by one, spring leaks. His boss spots the bumbling, rifle-toting assassin across the street on the hill and yells back, “We don’t have defective cans; we have a defective person over there!”
We are in the “defective people” business. Whether the people we deal with are permanently defective or just temporarily defective, it is we, the police, who ultimately have to ascend the hotel, floor by floor, or scour the woods, or go to whatever lengths we have to go to find – and neutralize – the defective person and end the havoc they are wreaking. We have learned after two centuries of American policing that defective people will always be around. We know, too, that it doesn’t matter whether that person gets his hands on one gun, 27 guns, or even a dull machete, there’s a defective person out there and there’s little anyone can do about it if they want to “snap.”
In my 22 years of investigating homicides, I saw people murder other people with anything and everything they could get their hands on, or just their bare hands. I had a case in which the weapon was a pair of Channellock® pliers. (One lucky strike to the head is all it took.)
Being defective, as we all know from our police experience, has nothing to do with believing in any kind of political party or being a gun nut. It doesn’t even have to do with “hate.” It has to do with being human. We can be amazingly creative, brilliant and caring. And, we can be monumentally stupid, destructive and…defective.
In spite of this, there are many people who believe that we can really fix this. They believe that there are laws you can pass or studies you can conduct which will solve the problem of defective people. But, if such a thing were true, it would’ve happened already, don’t you think? We’ve studied monsters from Jack the Ripper to Hitler to Ted Bundy to Kim Jong-un and back again, and we still haven’t figured it out. We’ve built machines which have gone as far as Saturn and Pluto and sent back photos of our little planet as a tiny blip of light in the distance. We’re starting to figure out mysteries of the universe. But, we can’t get our heads around, well, our heads. One can even make the argument that being human has become more – not less – of a puzzle.
After all the various breakthroughs in technology, there doesn’t seem to be a magic potion or genetic tweak we can perform on people at birth which would prevent some of these folks from going berserk. Until that breakthrough arrives (if it ever does), we are relegated to the helpless fact that defective people move about us, every day and everywhere. Most of them don’t harm anyone, but, every so often, one has a collision course with fate, and then – wham – what happens in Vegas not only doesn’t stay in Vegas, it becomes the shots heard ’round the world. We are no better at identifying these people today than we were 100 years ago, when psychologists were coming up with all kinds of theories about our mothers and coming up with fancy names like schizophrenia. The next lone wolf could be next door to you or at the stoplight or in line at the grocery store. We’re not even close to getting a read on who it might be. We’ve even learned that defective people can end up working with us with a badge on their chest. I knew a guy on our department who was outgoing, laughing and pretty smart. He ended up being a serial killer and he’s now sitting in a prison out West.
If we can’t identify the next Sandy Hook, Las Vegas or Pulse nightclub shooter, then how can we protect against him? No one has that answer, either. You can’t stop having hotels, nightclubs and elementary schools. The only thing you can do is become North Korea and have a society where citizens have nothing and every movement is watched. No one wants that, but no one has been able to design a system of social control where we can be happy. We don’t even like the sound of phrases like “social control.” Other countries don’t have the answer, either. Far-left socialist countries like Sweden are having bombings and stabbings all over the place now.
I think most of us are surrounded by decent people most of the time, so we still want to believe in the inherent goodness of mankind and we still can’t fully accept that someone we’ve never met, who knows nothing about us, would so easily start firing rounds out of a hotel window to kill us.
Steve Martin’s simpleton character in The Jerk couldn’t fathom it, even after he realized it was a guy with a rifle putting holes in the oil cans. He couldn’t accept that the guy was trying to kill him.
“He hates the cans!” he yells in a ridiculous panic. “Stay away from the cans!”
Are you ready for me to get all touchy-feely? Because I really think that the only answer is what Mother Teresa said, “If you want world peace, go home and love your children.” It’s immense in its simplicity, right? So much so that it is probably unattainable, but it’s the only formula which has ever made any sense. If everyone on the planet really did just love and bring up their children with decency, maybe, just maybe, we could wipe out defectiveness.
I know, I know…wake up, Nyberg, you’re dreaming again.
Ramesh Nyberg retired from law enforcement in November 2006 after 27 years in police work. He now owns his own private investigation agency, Nyberg Security and Investigations, and can be reached at Ramesh@NybergPi.com. Ramesh would like you to visit and read his blog at www.nybergpi.com/blog.html and sign up for his free newsletter. He enjoys getting feedback from readers.