Targeting Vice

News: Commentary
by Fr. Paul John Kalchik  •  •  July 14, 2022   

Deadly warning signs ignored

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Following the horrible Fourth of July shooting — which resulted in eight deaths and more than two dozen injured in Highland Park, Illinois — Democrats are again ranting about gun control. But the solution to such horrific violence is found by looking at the attacker himself and not simply by blaming his weapon of choice.

Just hours after the shooting and even before the suspect, Robert Crimo III, was apprehended, President Biden posted: "Jill and I are shocked by the senseless gun violence. ... I recently signed the first major bipartisan gun reform legislation in almost 30 years into law, which includes actions that will save lives."

Robert Crimo III

The president, instead of simply offering condolences to the families of the shooting victims and offering support to bring the perpetrator to justice, used the tragedy to promote even more federal gun legislation. This prompts many to question whether Biden has any respect for U.S. citizens' Second Amendment right to bear arms.

As I write this article, the media is just buzzing with easy solutions to end gun violence and so forth. The sad truth is that, in this fallen world, there are no easy solutions to prevent young men from going bad when they reject any belief in God or regard for human life. 

What is truly troubling is that the alleged shooter, Crimo, had been posting disturbing content on the internet for years. His videos clearly demonstrate how psychologically and spiritually messed up he is. And not much was done to derail Crimo before the planned Fourth of July tragedy played out.

Where were this young man's friends to say, "Robert, you really need some help! How can we help you?" or a teacher to say, "I have scheduled you to meet with our school psychologist to talk about what you posted last week."

Of course, speculation about things that should have or could have been done is pointless now, as eight people are dead and dozens are still recovering from being shot. That ship has sailed.

Some will be blaming Crimo's parents for how badly he has turned out. They'll ignore the fact that this young man — made in God's image and likeness — has free will, and is, therefore, responsible for his own actions.

Others, like Democrats, will be calling for stricter gun laws. But what's the good of more legislation in a society that has largely rejected all law? God's natural law and this country's civil laws are not even considered by large parts of U.S. society. For the slim minority that applauds the end of Roe v. Wade, there still remains a sizable bunch that mourns Roe's end. And the millions that mourn Roe's end only recognize those laws that support their own purposes. For them, human life — which has intrinsic worth, made, as it is, in the image and likeness of God — is of no value.

Texas governor Greg Abbott 

One irony in Highland Park's parade massacre is that although the state of Illinois has some of the most stringent gun-control laws in the country, it's having a record-breaking year in homicides caused by guns. Just recently, Texas governor Greg Abbott made the claim that Illinois' tough gun laws are a complete failure and have done nothing to curb the city's burgeoning rate of violent crime.

Governor Abbott is not the only politician critical of Illinois' ineffective gun control laws. After the Uvalde school shooting, former-president Donald Trump spoke at an NRA conference in Houston, Texas. In addition to noting that stricter gun control laws are not the answer, he added:

We need to drastically change our approach to mental health. All of us must unite, Republican and Democrat, in every state and at every level of government, to finally harden our schools and protect our children. What we need now is a top-to-bottom security overhaul at schools all across our country.

These are wise words from our former commander in chief. Even casual observers like Trump can see that mental illness among Americans at large, and even more so among the youth, is growing at exponential levels. One contributing factor to this increase is the internet.

One big downside of the internet is that people can share their personal stories with the world at large without being censored for behaviors and ideas that are "off." Instead, they receive validation from like-minded individuals for their disordered behaviors and errant ideas. This perverse notoriety can lead to drastic outcomes like the Highland Park massacre.

One contributing factor to this increase is the internet.

Just a generation ago, a lot of this weirdness (now accepted as normal behavior) would have been given very short shrift by a person's family and acquaintances. Nowadays — with unfettered internet access in our indiscreet society — a youth's weirdness, instead of being nipped neatly in the bud, is exacerbated.

Take a close look at the picture of Crimo above. Here's a young man with pink hair and aviator goggles who is seeking attention. It's tragic that no one gave him the attention he so desperately craved before it was too late.

News Report: Showdown on Guns

I taught for many years at Abp. Quigley Preparatory Seminary in Chicago, where I encountered many similar young men. For various reasons, these individuals screamed for attention in their behavior, dress and schoolwork. By God's grace, I was able to help some of these attention seekers, moving these boys beyond the loneliness, isolation and purposelessness they suffered.

However, I failed to reach some of these boys, and their problems only got worse over time. One smart boy from a well-to-do family went to prison for dealing drugs shortly after his graduation. He started pushing drugs not to make money or to get high, but for the sheer thrill of it! He did something he knew was wrong just to spite his parents and God. It was bad behavior, but it wasn't a form of mental illness. 

Unlike with schizophrenia, borderline personality disorder and depression, there are no diagnostic tests for screening individuals who are spiritually troubled.

It would be criminal on our part not to reach out to these troubled youths.

Sociopathic individuals get their jollies from risky behaviors, without a thought in the world about their own safety or the safety of others. As a society, we must do a better job at reaching out to these attention seekers while they are still young and salvageable. It would be criminal on our part not to reach out to these troubled young people.

One of the ironies of our modern world is that, despite all the means of communication we now have (cell phones, the internet and so forth), so little true communication is really happening. I'm floored when I observe a family dining out and they're not talking to each other because they're all engrossed in their phones — how sad!

When reflecting on the young men at Quigley whom I helped get beyond their negative attention seeking, I realized that the one key to helping them was listening. This involves plain-old conversation, such as asking them to stay after class to chat.

After a short conversation with one young man, I came to find out that this high school freshman lived by himself. His mother had long since moved out of their home, and his father was too busy with work and other interests to have time for his son.

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The boys' cure was not some drug with a name you could not pronounce, or some high-priced psychologist, but simply to have some other human being to talk with. In time, I was able to get him involved in school clubs and volleyball. God then filled in the gaps for his great improvement. In time, the freshman brushed aside his weirdness in dress and speech, as it no longer served a purpose for him.

I hope this shooting will serve as a wake-up call for our country. We do not need any more gun-control laws or curtailing of the Second Amendment. What we need is compassion.

As Catholic men and women of faith, we need to take some initiative and look compassionately at the young men and women out there — even those with scraggy hair, mismatched clothes, nose rings and ghoulish tattoos — and offer them an ear. We may be able to connect with some of these individuals. Developing a relationship with them may help them move from weirdness to normalcy.

The other day, when waiting to check out at the grocery store, there were two men in front of me in line, and both were "repping" the trend of having their pants hanging off their backsides. When one turned my way, I asked him, "Do you only wear your pants that way when you wear designer shorts?" He mumbled back, "It's the style."

I responded, "But what if you snag them and make a hole?" He laughed, and both boys, without saying a word to one another, pulled up their pants, and we carried on a conversation about how no one works in grocery stores anymore, as the lines were stretching to the back aisles.

I don't know if I will ever see either of those young men again. But a connection was made, a conversation was carried out, and perhaps the next time they run into a priest, they will see him as a potential friend — as opposed to anything less. 

Sept. 11, 2001

In the lawless, uncivilized nation wherein we now live, more indiscriminate killings will likely occur. The 9/11 catastrophe taught us that evil people can improvise weapons of mass destruction, even out of passenger airplanes. One way to curb this trend is by actively reaching out to the oddball characters whom God puts in our path and engaging with them to find out what they are really about.

Some of the reports suggest that Crimo had talked for some time about the dark plans that he had for his community. It's too late now, but if just one person had taken him seriously and talked him down, this massacre may never have happened.

Today, in addition to praying for the dead and for all those families destroyed by this tragedy, let us also commit to reaching out to all the marginalized within our communities, who, by their words, dress and behaviors, are crying out for help.

If we don't help the flamboyant, pink-haired attention-seeking boys, they will be further perverted by the freaks that troll the internet seeking to spark mayhem. We can change this — and we must.

--- Campaign 31877 ---


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