Aaron Gillum's views of society, tempered with a quick wit and an acerbic writing style,
make his columns both fun, and unique. With each issue, Aaron offers a fresh perspective into
the catalysts that drive society; weaving these observations into refreshing, provocative
"The eye sees only what the mind is prepared to comprehend."
Henri L. Bergson
Somewhere in Columbus, Ohio sits a person responsible for at least
fifteen shootings along I-270, our outer-belt highway. One person
has died, and fourteen others have been shot at while driving.
The story has begun to creep into the national news.
What's really caught my attention is the sheer panic that's gripped
the area since the shootings began. I'm not speaking of panic caused
by fear of what this person may do next — that could be understood.
I'm speaking about the hysteria that gets passed along with every
newscaster who demonizes the shooter… every man-on-the-street who
makes him out to be huge, ugly, and larger-than-life.
At first, I thought this was a case of the media blowing something
out of proportion to inflate their own ratings… But as I watched
the coverage and all the interviews of citizens in the area, another
theory struck me as much more likely. We — as self-proclaimed normal,
healthy, mentally stable people — cannot cope with the realization
that the shooter could be one of us. We are desperate to turn him
into something else... anything but a human being like ourselves.
He's called a madman and a lunatic. Entire news segments are devoted
to showcasing him as a sociopath, without regard to any factual updates
of the case itself. Reporters pull out a parade of citizens terrified
to drive through the area every day. One would think a person willing
to spend twenty minutes telling a camera how threatened they feel could
find an extra ten minutes in the morning to drive around the "danger
zone" on their way to work.
Instead, most people act as if there is no tangible threat at all. Given
the opportunity to speak, however, they turn the shooter into a monster
with fangs and scales. A hideous creature so despicable it can't in any
way resemble us "good" people. It seems we are far more afraid of our
similarities to these "evil" ones than we are of the threat they pose to
I contend that we are more like these people than we'd initially believe,
with just one tiny thing separating us from them: our ability to tolerate
the stress and triggers that push us to the breaking point.
That's it. One small moment — a fraction of a second where your brain
either copes or shatters. I'm sure we can all agree that at one time or
another, we've been pressed a bit closer to our own threshold than comfort
would allow. The death of a loved one, betrayal of a partner, life-threatening
situations… they all can overwhelm our logic. Time stands still. Our head
swims. We feel like a passenger inside our own mind as the more animalistic
programming drowns out our human reasoning. Blood pounding and adrenaline
pumping, our brain battles with instincts long thought buried — our conscious
thought overcome by fight-or-flight instincts. We start to do something
But then... we pause.
That's the single difference between "us" and "them." We haven't hit our
breaking point, but they have. I assure you, however, that a breaking point
does exist for each and every one of us. We've been fortunate enough to not
cross the line, but it is clearly drawn somewhere inside us.
Who has never flown off the handle and broken something irrationally?
Who has never raised a hand in anger, only to have an internal safety
mechanism catch the cocked hand a split second before it is released?
Who has never daydreamed about planting a punch squarely on their
The truly frightening aspect is that we can never know how close we were
to carrying out those actions. The line is never clear until it has been
crossed, and for some, there's no path to step back to safety. That line
between idle ranting around the water cooler and real violence may be much
thinner than we'd like to believe.
Think back to an occasion where you have felt your blood boil, and thought
you were about to crack. How would you have reacted had you been unemployed
and facing financial ruin? What if you were being harassed relentlessly at
work or school? What if the difference between your breaking point and just
another bad day is nothing more than the added stress of a flat tire on the
My point is that we are all the same people. Good and bad. We all have the
same basic wiring. Luckily, some of us have stronger fuses and can better
cope with the things that bring stress to our lives. Some, tragically, seem
to have no fuse at all. The similarities we share with those unfortunate
few frighten us because we see them inside ourselves. Nothing is more
terrifying than a loss of control, and we seem to be willing to do anything
to convince ourselves that the mirror being held up to us is somehow warped
and twisted. It isn't the funhouse mirror we'd like to believe, but it is
much easier to pretend it is than to deal with the ugly reflection it presents
As the holidays come to a peak in the next few weeks, and we are inundated
with messages of love and understanding, let's save a bit of compassion for
those that we would normally push out of mind. Not to give them our sympathy
selflessly, but rather to face our own fears and give thanks that somehow,
some way, we haven't crossed our own personal points of no return. Let's
hope we never do.
Copyright © December 2003 Aaron Gillum and Low Carb Luxury
Title photo Copyright © 2003 Neil Beaty and Low Carb Luxury