Tag Archives: mass murders

Suburban and Rural Living Can be Hazardous to Your Health

Back in 1994, The Curmudgeon was living in a working-class neighborhood in Philadelphia and his brother and his brother’s wife were living in the high-tone suburb of Cherry Hill, New Jersey when there was a murder across the street from his brother’s house.  The Curmudgeon called his brother and joked, “You’d better pack up your wife and stuff and move back to the city where it’s safe.”

The murder, as it turned out, wasn’t another example of how crime can occur even in the best of neighborhoods.  Instead, it was a sensational case in which a serially philandering rabbi hired a hitman to off his wife so he could be with his mistress.  The case captured the attention of the regional and, to a degree, the national news media and has been a source of entertainment and amusement for many people – aside from those who loved the victim, of course – for nearly twenty years.

But that conversation between brothers two days after the murder, when it was still thought to be a robbery gone bad because the victim was known to carry large amounts of money home every night from her place of business, is a fair reflection of the typical American perception of crime and its environment:  cities are dangerous, suburbs are safe, so if you want to feel secure in your own neighborhood and in your own home, get thee to a suburb post haste.

We hear it all the time:

“Detroit is murder city, USA.”

“Washington, D.C. – the most dangerous city in America.”

In the region where The Curmudgeon lives, Philadelphia is considered very dangerous.

A professional soccer team plays in Chester, just minutes south of Philadelphia, in a bright and shiny new stadium, but many people won’t attend games there because Chester is considered so dangerous.

And of course, Camden, New Jersey is, according to at least some of the ways authorities measure such things, truly the most dangerous city in America  – and made all the more dangerous in the past year because it laid off much of its police force when the city ran out of money and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie told them that he feels their pain but all he’s prepared to do is sympathize.  Not to say Camden is dangerous, but years ago, when The Curmudgeon’s brother’s commuter train broke down on his way home from work, discharging passengers onto the mean streets of Camden to fend for themselves, his brother called his wife and asked her to pick him up.  “No,” she replied, and that was the end of that.

For this reason, The Curmudgeon finds himself fascinated by the recent history of mass shootings in the U.S.  The latest example, of course, is the July shooting in Aurora, Colorado:  12 dead, 59 wounded, a true tragedy.

But that got The Curmudgeon to thinking:  where have the other major American mass shootings occurred?

Of course he remembered Columbine:  13 school students killed in 1999.

And the first shooting spree The Curmudgeon remembers:  Charles Whitman gunning down 14 at the University of Texas, in Austin, in 1966.

And 32 killed at Virginia Tech University, in Blacksburg, Virginia.

And just a few years ago, the army psychologist who killed 13 and wounded 42 others in Fort Hood, Texas.

The Curmudgeon then did a little research and found a few more cases in which the death toll reached double figures:  14 killed by the postal worker in Edmond, Oklahoma whose actions led to the coining of the term “going postal” in 1985; the man who killed 23 and wounded 20 at a Luby’s restaurant in Killeen, Texas in 1991; 21 killed and 19 injured in San Diego in 1984; and 13 killed by a gunman in Binghamton, New York in 2009.

Notice anything interesting here?

Sure you do.  Except for San Diego, none of these mass shootings took place in large cities.  Oh, The Curmudgeon knows, you think Austin is a big city, and it certainly is now, but back in 1966 its population was less than 200,000 and it was little more than a big college town (now, its population is more than 800,000).

In other words, all this mass gun violence is taking place in small towns and suburbs and rural areas, not in the big bad cities that everyone thinks are so dangerous.  These places in the American heartland that are supposed to be the very models of good old-fashioned American values are, it turns out, pretty serious breeding grounds for psychopaths and homicidal maniacs – and worse, Sheriff Andy Taylor and Deputy Barney Fife are in no way up to the challenge of identifying these guys before the powder keg blows.

Oh, sure, you might get mugged in a big city, you might get your purse lifted or your pocket picked, you might have someone break into your car, but it looks like you’re far less likely to meet your maker as a result of being in the wrong place at the wrong time when someone decides to kill everyone in sight.  In other words, it looks like, after all is said and done, the people in this country who are supposed to reflect “true American values” are more a reflection of Bundy values or Kaczynski values or Charles Manson values than they are of anything else.

So mamas, tell your babies to grow up and live in cities.  If you’re not in one now, it’s time to get moving.

Your life may depend on it.