Why Understanding the Back Story Helps You Solve the Problem

Whose photo would you rather see on the news, the killer or the hero?Newspaper rack

Should we be deconstructing the life of a murderer?

Or honoring the lives of the heroes?

In the aftermath of the Boston bombings many have suggested that the media attention paid to the killers is playing into their evil and that we should instead learn more about the lives of the heroes.

I disagree. It’s a false choice.

Here’s what would be the most helpful: A side-by-side comparison. I’d like to know why some young men in the crowd ran towards the victims, while two other young men planted bombs and ran away.

I’d like to know what their parents and extended families did differently. What were the differences in their friends, their schools, their churches?  How were they treated by their peers and the world at large? Did they watch different TV shows? What kinds of books and movies were they exposed to?

I want to know why two boys went down one path, while others, who lived in the same community chose differently.

To suggest that the killers’  behavior was solely the fault of their parents or religion ignores the complexity of human nature.

Human behavior is the result of millions of influences, from our first grade teacher to our DNA.

Why are some teens overweight? Is it fast food’s fault or is it the parents?  It’s all of it, fast food, their parents, their DNA, their family history, the home’s proximity to McDonalds, the product placement embedded in their video games, too much couch time, mega high schools where average kids can’t make the sports team, the bible study teacher bringing donuts, and the school (and their friends’ parents including me) who order cheap pizza every time a group of three or more teenagers gather in one place.

The two young men who committed the Boston bombings may have been violent evil literalist extremists. But they were violent evil literalist extremists who attended our public schools, and lived alongside our kids.

It’s not morbid curiosity that propels me to try to understand their lives. It’s a sincere desire to solve what is becoming a recurring event.

Because let’s be honest here. These two aren’t the only young men who are killing people.



Virginia Tech.


How much longer are we going to keep pretending that we don’t have a societal problem?

How many more young men are going to kill people before we’re willing to look at this holistically and start addressing all the root causes of this horrific problem?

I don’t have sons. I have two daughters. I’ve never had to say no to violent movies and video games. I’ve never had to explain that hands are not for hitting. Neither of my two girls ever picked up a stick and pretended it was a gun.

BostonBut yet my sweet gentle 20-year-old daughter was standing 200 feet from the bomb blast in Boston.

If she had made a different decision coming out of the subway, she could have been the Boston University student who died. As it was, she saw both the evil and the heroes.

My baby is fine. But a lot of others aren’t.

Nobody gives birth to a child hoping that one day they’ll be a killer.

Twenty something years ago several babies were born. Some of them wound up creating violence; others tried to save people from it. I want to know why.