Among mass shooters in the U.S. Dylan Roof, James Holmes, Jared Lee Loughner and others have shared a characteristic: They never had girlfriends.
On CNN this evening, Fareed Zararia outlined the blindside experienced by governments from France to Russia by ISIS. There too, a prime characteristic was that young men recruited by ISIS typically have never had a girlfriend and are attracted by promises of a wife.
One message could be that women are good canaries in the mine about guys who seek deadly power. We sense the danger and say sorry. I have to babysit for my sister tonight.
Another potential message is that women should be more compliant and give these guys a chance. Your Grandma knew that much as you loved someone you could not make them change. Cute as he might be, you can’t cure crazy by going along for the ride.
Caril Fugate’s story illustrates that. The film Badlands (1973), with Martin Sheen and Sissy Spacek was based on the story.
The GirlFriend Factor is up for grabs.
I taught for awhile in a proprietary intensive ESL program. It was very expensive although it did not pay teachers very well. Some students were government-funded. Those who were not on scholarships came either short-term on their own hard-earned funds because for their own reasons they wanted a few months of intensive native-language contact or they came from wealthy and high-middle-class families.
Among the wealthy were some princes of a variety of middle-eastern families from several countries and emirates. They were nice kids who would move bookshelves for me, if I needed that done, because their dads told them they should serve the people. They were charming, handsome, and my Mexican and Japanese “Valley Girls” (there are Valley Girls from every country and culture) followed them around like groupies, but their heart-throbs were spoken for long ago.
Among the middle-class guys were the sons of cabinet ministers, professors, doctors, and lawyers. A few were from Syria and Lebanon. They were also handsome, very smart, and sweet. When the Venezuelan girls in class pressed them on dating, they said they did not. Their moms (physicians, professors, and lawyers) were looking for wives for them via classified ads back home. (This was long before the internet.) In a few cases, interviews (with the moms) were in progress.
That was their tradition, and they were quite satisfied with the method. The same was true for the princes.
The nephew of one of the princes sold me a flip-phone in BJ’s some years ago after the family had been ousted. He was adorable and charming. He was studying communication arts at the local community college, and I am quite certain he had more than one girl friend to take to the family parties he showed me on the video feature of the phone I was buying. I dated a guy like him from the wealthiest (Syrian) family on our main street when I was in high school. Romantically, it did not work out, but that was OK. Other girls were on line behind me.
One way or another, it seems the onus falls on women. Either we date them and go along for the ride, like Caril Fugate did, or, as mothers, we find girls for them. If they don’t ever have a girl friend, we are doomed as failures and they are doomed to become mass killers.
I know that all seems very simplistic. Thing is, Charlie Starkweather did have a girl friend. She could not or did not stop him. She was just a kid. She was not chosen by his folks for him and he killed her folks.
Whatever the GirlFriend Factor is, perhaps having one does nothing to forestall violence in young alienated men. It remains, however, a nexus among hopeless young men who somehow find a source of deadly weapons. They are angry with the world. They want out. They want to take us with them.
I am not all that certain that finding girl friends for them would help much. They do not need girl friends as much as they need help and hope.
Not proposing a solution here. Just proposing the problem. We need to solve this.
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