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	Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pennsylvania)

	August 7, 2009 Friday  



	LENGTH: 784 words

	Tuesday's horrific massacre at LA Fitness Center in Collier, like
	countless others that have occurred over the years, reminds us
	painfully that no place is absolutely safe -- not a restaurant or a
	school, not a church or a shopping mall. And now, apparently, not a
	health club, a place that so many Americans consider their oa-sis for
	working out the stresses and frustrations of daily life.
	Of course, for George Sodini, the health club was nothing more than
	another venue for feeling rejected, particularly by the young,
	attractive women crowding the weight room. The club became, as a
	result, the very spot he chose deliberately to work out his
	frustrations, not with weights and a treadmill, but with a loaded 9
	mm. Mr. Sodini's victims may not have known him very well, if at all,
	but that is precisely part of the reason why they were targeted. He
	sought revenge against women, the youthful athletic types who never
	took the time to know him. 
	There are so many features about this shooting spree that are
	tragically textbook. Like most mass killers, Mr. Sodini struggled
	through a long history of failure and rejection, from childhood, with
	a brother he re-garded as a bully and a father he saw as distant and
	unconcerned, through middle age after decades without consummating an
	intimate relationship. It reached the point where life was absolutely
	meaningless and the future seemed to promise only more of the same. 
	Rather than take responsibility for his own inadequacies in
	relationships, Mr. Sodini -- in typical mass murderer fashion --
	externalized the blame, projecting his problems onto all the young
	beautiful women -- 30 million of them by his estimate -- who ignored
	him. Plus, he blamed black men for stealing away all the good-looking
	white women he had hoped to date.
	As the classic loner, Mr. Sodini wrote in his blog about being
	"isolated," about having no "close friends," about spending so much
	time by himself. From his viewpoint, it wasn't only women who had
	rejected him; it was all of humankind. In his extreme loneliness, Mr.
	Sodini was without emotional support and comfort. There was no one
	there to help him deal with his demons, to encourage him to do the
	right thing, or at least to help him gain some perspective on his
	If George Sodini was so much like the archetypal profile of a mass
	killer, then could -- or should -- others around him have seen the
	warning signs? The irony is that had anyone been truly close with him,
	close enough to understand his profound frustrations and despair, then
	the result may have played out very differ-ently. However, in his
	state of virtual isolation, Mr. Sodini was alone with his thoughts --
	and his blogful of pathetic rants.
	Aside from the gunman, the real culprit in explaining mass murder can
	be found in society itself and in a trend that has affected millions.
	During recent years, there has been an eclipse of community, a
	dwindling of social relationships -- family ties and neighborliness --
	that had protected former generations of Americans from succumbing to
	In an earlier era, family or neighbors could be counted on to assist
	in times of financial ruin or emotional distress. But today you're
	basically on your own. Many Americans simply have no place to turn
	when they become desperate. Their misery has no company. Without
	options and without support, mass murder can sometimes seem like the
	only way out.
	At the same time, growing numbers of Americans are opting for the
	solitude of telecommunicating and the Internet. They avoid traffic
	jams on the highways but also give up interaction with co-workers.
	Their neighborhoods no longer provide them with a source of friendship
	and camaraderie. More typically, Ameri-cans don't even know their
	neighbors' names and faces -- only the e-mail addresses of faraway
	acquain-tances whom they have never met. They are quick to communicate
	at a superficial level with total strangers in chat rooms or blog
	exchanges, but too busy to sit with their neighbors and share a beer
	and conversation.
	While traditional and real social networks have contracted, the online
	versions, such as Facebook, have grown. However, these represent only
	virtual communities. And even online, some unfortunate souls remain
	The sad truth about mass murder is that there is rather little that we
	can do to prevent it. But we must still make an effort, perhaps by
	reaching out to the seemingly isolated stranger sitting alone at the
	next table in the restaurant or working out with an iPod at the next
	treadmill in the gym. We may, in the process of trying, enhance the
	well-being of others and begin to repair our lost sense of community.
	We might even avert a tragedy or two.

	LOAD-DATE: August 8, 2009


	NOTES: THE LA FITNESS SHOOTING/ James Alan Fox and Jack Levin are
	professors at Northeastern University in Boston and co-authors of
	"Extreme Killing: Understanding Serial and Mass Murder."/