I had the opportunity to play the game Trivial Pursuit the other day, and one of the question/answers in the Science and Nature category stuck with me. The question: What machine was invented to prove the theory of perpetual motion? For those of you that know the answer I congratulate you! For the rest of us, the answer is: The Roulette Wheel.
The game moved on, but the idea of perpetual motion stuck with me. What is it, exactly?
Per Wikipedia, perpetual motion is based on a type of machine that can perform indefinitely, without an outside energy source. A sort of prehistoric style of what is now the Roulette Wheel was one of the first machines invented to try to prove the theory of perpetual motion. It has now been proven time and again that such a machine is impossible; there is no source of energy, not even the sun, that can be relied upon to last indefinitely https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Perpetual_motion.
What if we changed the theory of perpetual motion to the theory of perpetual human behavior? There is no Wikipedia, or any other page, dedicated to this, but isn’t continuous, enduring and long-lasting behavior a part of our human make-up? From biting our nails to speeding we, as humans, tend to repeat behaviors.
Unless someone, an outside energy source if you will, says not to. A mother intervenes to stop a child from biting their nails and, if that doesn’t work, she seeks the advice of a pediatrician or counselor. A person is given a ticket with a hefty fine for speeding, and if the behavior is repeated enough times, has their driver’s license revoked. But, who, or what, is the outside energy force to stop not only repetitive, but escalating, violent behavior?
As I took in the 10 p.m. news last night, I, as well as many of you, heard the following: a man with an assault rifle, in Sutherland Springs, Texas, killed 26 people and wounded 20 more at the local church. Sutherland Springs is such a small town that in a matter of minutes, 4% of its population were dead. Two neighbors in a pick-up truck, one of them armed with a rifle, followed the shooter as he fled the church. The shooter died of a gunshot wound, though it’s unclear whether the man shot himself or was taken down by the good Samaritans. One thing is clear: these heroic men were the energy source needed to stop further bloodshed.
What do we know about the shooter? He was dishonorably discharged in 2012 from the Air Force after assaulting his wife and abusing his child. Though we don’t know all the facts yet, it is alleged that his ex-wife and her parents typically attend this church. His dishonorable discharge apparently did not preclude him from owning a gun, and, in fact, he owned 3 other guns.
According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, over half of all mass shootings are rooted in domestic violence. In one study conducted by the FBI, 1 in 10 shootings are rooted in domestic violence. Based on this, doesn’t it seem reasonable to assume that a man who perpetually conducts himself in a way that purports violence has the potential to cause extreme bloodshed? Why, in our society, isn’t an assault against his wife/girlfriend and/or children considered extreme? How have we gotten to the point where the behavior is not considered extreme until the man kills his wife, or worse?
We must attempt to determine what causes a man to be violent. We know that not all men are violent, but we still don’t know why some are. Is it a mental health problem? Is it PTSD? Is it a neurochemical imbalance? Is it a type of obsessive-compulsive disorder? Some sort of overproduction of testosterone and adrenaline? A physical change in brain structure? In other words, what are energy sources behind the behavior?
In addition to trying to determine the cause of the behavior, we must find a way to hold men accountable for their actions, must have as fail-safe a system as possible to prevent violent offenders from purchasing guns, and must find a way to offer true protection to women and their families when their lives are in danger.
I, like others, have a lot of questions and a few ideas, but no answers. My hope is that our society reaches a point where criminal justice interventions and serious research combine to become that outside source of energy needed to stop the manslaughter and murder that occurs because of domestic violence abuse.