THE HEAVY cost of un­con­trolled anger.

The Dallas Morning News - - Front Page - The At­lantic Twit­ter: @jfloy­d_dmn

The two worst mass mur­ders in the U.S. so far this year were not com­mit­ted by ter­ror­ists. They weren’t linked to gangs or drugs. And they were any­thing but “ran­dom.”

Both mass shoot­ings were car­ried out by men en­raged at wives who were di­vorc­ing them; both claimed mul­ti­ple col­lat­eral vic­tims.

In May, a man in speck-sized Bogue Chitto, Miss., went gun­ning for his wife, who was stay­ing with fam­ily mem­bers. The woman man­aged to flee, but the gun­man mur­dered seven of her rel­a­tives, in­clud­ing an 11-year-old boy, and a deputy sher­iff who re­sponded to their fran­tic sum­mons for help.

The killer later told re­porters he was “sorry” about the deputy. He blamed his in-laws for “in­ter­ven­ing” by call­ing 911 when he started shoot­ing peo­ple, as if.

The other case, as we know, took place last week­end in Plano, when a self-pity­ing al­co­holic named Spencer Hight slaugh­tered his wife and seven of her cook­out guests be­fore he was shot by po­lice.

But for the body counts, these are hardly un­usual cases. I wrote ear­lier this week about the poi­sonous mix of un­con­trolled anger and ready ac­cess to guns, but a sig­nif­i­cant por­tion of that prob­lem can be fo­cused even more nar­rowly: men who go mur­der­ously berserk af­ter a breakup.

A ma­jor anal­y­sis re­leased by the U.S. Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and Pre­ven­tion in July found that 54 per­cent of the women mur­dered in this coun­try are killed by “in­ti­mate part­ner or in­ti­mate part­ner-re­lated vi­o­lence” — mean­ing, over­whelm­ingly, cur­rent or for­mer hus­bands or boyfriends.

Yes, men are mur­dered by part­ners, too. But, as

points out, sim­i­lar stud­ies in­di­cate that “in­ti­mate part­ner” vi­o­lence ac­counts for 5 per­cent to 7 per­cent of men who are mur­der vic­tims.

This is worth talk­ing about. I hope it gives pause to some of the over­heated anti-im­mi­grant rhetoric about “how ‘they’ treat their women.” “We” don’t ex­actly have a ster­ling track record our­selves.

By all ac­counts, Mered­ith Lane — the for­mer wife against whom Hight di­rected his ob­ses­sive rage — was by no means the help­less, cling­ing victim of pop­u­lar imag­i­na­tion.

She was smart, suc­cess­ful and pop­u­lar. Rel­a­tives say she tried to help her hus­band with his drink­ing and job­less­ness be­fore giv­ing up and seek­ing a di­vorce.

Even the most delu­sional blame-the-victim crit­ics can’t say that she did any­thing “wrong,” un­less it was her fail­ure to call the cops when — ac­cord­ing to her fam­ily — he roughed her up on at least two oc­ca­sions.

Sadly, that al­most cer­tainly would not have saved her life. Our op­tions for women deal­ing with vi­o­lent part­ners are mis­er­ably in­ad­e­quate. There are re­strain­ing or­ders, which don’t have much ef­fect on some­body berserk enough to com­mit mur­der.

And there are shel­ters — which, while a lit­eral life­saver for women ev­ery day, are a mea­sure of the des­per­a­tion ex­pe­ri­enced by some­one be­ing ha­rassed by a mad­man.

In the most ex­treme cases, we put the bur­den on vic­tims of ter­ri­fy­ing vi­o­lence to leave their homes, pull their kids out of school, quit their jobs and go into hid­ing.

If that’s the best we can do, we’re not be­ing par­tic­u­larly re­source­ful — or par­tic­u­larly just.

Yes, there’s more we could be do­ing. Of course there’s more.

In broad terms, we could (for­give me for re­peat­ing what I have writ­ten ear­lier) put a much greater cul­tural pre­mium on con­trol­ling our anger. An ex­plo­sive tem­per should be re­garded as a ma­jor prob­lem that needs in­ter­ven­tion.

We could im­prove the piece­meal, hap­haz­ard man­ner with which the jus­tice sys­tem han­dles do­mes­tic abusers. Here’s just one of, I don’t know, say, a bazil­lion cases-in-point: A Musko­gee, Okla., woman was ap­palled af­ter her for­mer hus­band, an ex-po­lice of­fi­cer, re­cently com­pleted his pun­ish­ment for kid­nap­ping her and hold­ing her at gun­point. (She re­ports he also sex­u­ally as­saulted her, a charge ap­par­ently dropped in ex­change for his “no con­test” plea.)

His sen­tence? Twelve week­ends in jail.

“I think that is un­just,” the woman said. So do I, and so should you.

We could view fam­ily vi­o­lence with the same stern in­tol­er­ance we re­serve for sex of­fend­ers and drug deal­ers. We could do a bet­ter job of us­ing “lethal­ity as­sess­ments” to iden­tify men who may pose the great­est dan­ger to for­mer wives or girl­friends.

And we could, once and for all, open up our eye­balls and look at what the ev­i­dence has shown us over and over again: A woman try­ing to leave or who has re­cently left a man with a track record of vi­o­lence and who owns a gun is at risk.

The late Spencer Hight said it him­self, more than once, ac­cord­ing to a friend.

“How can the one per­son you’re sup­posed to love more than life it­self end up be­ing the one per­son you hate more than life it­self?” That hate ate him up. It con­sumed him.

Well, he showed her. And he showed seven other peo­ple and their fam­i­lies, and their friends, and he showed an­other victim who was badly in­jured and faces a long road to re­cov­ery: that his rage, his hurt feel­ings, meant more than any­thing else.

It meant more than their lives.

Jae S. Lee/Staff Pho­tog­ra­pher

Teddy bears, flow­ers and notes were left near the crime scene on West Spring Creek Park­way in Plano af­ter Spencer Hight killed his es­tranged wife and seven other peo­ple at her home last Sun­day night.

Jfloyd@dal­las­news.com

JACQUIELYNN FLOYD

David Woo/Staff Pho­tog­ra­pher

Plano po­lice and the Texas Rangers were at the scene of the mass shoot­ing in Plano on Mon­day. Po­lice shot and killed Spencer Hight at the home Sun­day night af­ter he fa­tally shot eight peo­ple.

SPENCER HIGHT

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