Whenever a tragedy of the magnitude of the horrific Las Vegas massacre occurs, there is always rampant speculation which usually turns out to be at least mostly wrong. It seems to me to be very possible, however, to piece together what really happened with regard to the motivation of the killer, Stephen Paddock.
On the surface, his profile seems baffling to us, mostly because it does not fit what we expect in this situations. He had no terrorist connections, no overt political agenda, had lived a perfectly normal and rather successful life, was an old white guy, and had no apparent history of mental illness, or even criminal activity.
That someone with this profile could do something so horrendous is both shocking and particularly disturbing to us. This is mostly because we can’t easily make sense of it, or safely compartmentalize it in a way which doesn’t cause us to question nearly everything about our existence.
It appears to me that what happened here was not nearly as complex as we would like to think. Sadly, it is also not all that surprising, and I expect to see similar situations in the future.
This whole thing appears to have been a very sick and elaborate plot for Paddock to end his life in what he thought would be the most “entertaining” way possible.
We already know that he had a love for gambling, country music, and guns. It is hardly a stretch then that he simply decided that a country music festival (taking place just below a perfect sniper’s lair) in Las Vegas would be the “perfect” venue for his final weekend of life before he exited after engaging in the ultimate, though clearly evil, gun experience.
Most of us, thankfully, have elements of our life which prevent us from ever even thinking about committing such a horrible act. Among those, these are the most impactful:
– Having a basic sense of right and wrong and a belief that such things matter.
– Being young enough to where we have something to look forward to in the future.
– Having a spouse, or kids.
– Believing in an afterlife where you will be severely punished for evil acts on earth.
While we don’t know for certain about Paddock’s opinions on the first item on that list (though it sure seems like there were major issues there), we can come to some legitimate conclusions based on the other three factors.
At 64, Paddock may very well have felt that he had lived long enough to suit his hedonistic purposes. It would not surprise me if we learn that he was not in good health.
While he had a girlfriend, he apparently had no wife or kids, the existence of which would make ending your life in such a disgraceful manner far more difficult and unlikely from a person who was not medically insane (I acknowledge that was Paddock did was obviously inherently “insane,” but I don’t believe someone could live a productive life for 64 years and then suddenly go “nuts,” without something catastrophic having occurred).
Finally, according to his utterly stunned brother, Paddock was not a religious or political person.
Obviously, someone who was not insane and thought there was even a remote chance that they might spend eternity paying the price for how they lived/ended their life would never consider doing something like this. It is then fairly safe to conclude that Paddock did not believe in an afterlife and that this freed him up, so to speak, to end his life in whatever way he desired, knowing that he would never suffer any real consequences.
I am someone who grew up in a very Catholic family, but who now considers himself to be an “agnostic” with grave doubts about the existence of an afterlife. Counterintuitively, it has always greatly concerned me that more and more people in our society appear to be losing their faith that there is something more to our existence than just what is here on earth.
You see, I know that my very strong adherence to the first item on that list is what has always kept me (even before I had a wife and kids) from doing things that are clearly wrong. But I also know that relying on just that flimsy glue to keep the rest of our population of highly flawed humans from tearing apart is extremely risky and, frankly, rather naïve.
I have always believed that a healthy fear of an afterlife was the strongest factor keeping us from descending into total anarchy. As this belief/fear has quickly dissipated among significant parts of our country in recent years, I have often predicted that we would eventually see a substantial increase in serious crime among older people who, with no moral foundation, suddenly have nothing really to lose.
It sure seems that Paddock fit that profile perfectly. In him I fear that we have seen the very beginning of a potentially very dark future.
John Ziegler hosts a weekly podcast focusing on news media issues and is documentary filmmaker. You can follow him on Twitter at @ZigManFreud or email him at email@example.com.
This is an opinion piece. The views expressed in this article are those of just the author.