For background and context, please see Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3. Part 1 is especially important because that’s where I explain that I’m not literally going to become a “lone wolf terrorist”, but am rather using this expression as a figure of speech, if that’s important to you.
I Have A Lot In Common With Adam Lanza…
…For starters he was a male, like me, and after all, a great deal of violence is perpetrated by men. I also have two hands and both have the fingers required to pull a gun’s trigger. Then there’s the striking fact that Lanza didn’t own a kangaroo as a pet.
I have never owned a kangaroo!
I could go on — teeth, eyes, hair, legs, internal organs, nerves, bones: he had them, and so do I. I’m also sure Lanza spent much of his life in one school or another, not to mention all of the supermarkets, playgrounds, and living rooms he frequented — as I have done and continue to do. We both grew up in the “Civilized West”, on the East Coast of the United States of America. We both endured the G.W. Bush administrations, suffered the effects of the 2008 financial crisis, etc. Truly the resemblance between Adam Lanza and me is uncanny for sure.
Oh, right, and he was autistic in some sense, as am I. And did I mention that neither of us has ever owned a kangaroo?
If one knows anything useful about Autism, one knows that it is highly variable in how it manifests in the actually autistic. This is what I mean when I say that Lanza was “autistic in some sense”. This is why the DSM-V now calls it Autism Spectrum Disorder, where the word spectrum is meant to capture this idea of variability across the population of autistic people. This is what I mean by the term autistickish, because there is no single, static way of being autistic — rather, we are all of us more or less autistic-ish. Every one of us autists develops his or her own unique and highly idiosyncratic way of being autistic. It is often said that “if you’ve met one autistic person, you’ve met one autistic person.” Clearly there are resemblances too, similar to the way resemblances exist between penguins and vultures — both are birds, after all, which definitely means that one can learn a great deal about vultures by studying penguins. But in the end, if it’s really vultures that interest you, then at some point you are going to have to study vultures, not penguins.
Likewise, if you are worried about the Adam Lanzas of the world — the real lone wolf terrorists, like, in the literal sense of the term; the ones that choose actual Glocks over mocks (or cocks); and especially those that are autistic — then in the end, you’ll have to go study them. Someone like me — i.e. a lone wolf “terrorist”, figuratively speaking — can only take you so far in your learning.
What We Might Call ‘Autistic Alienation’
I actually know quite little about Adam Lanza. I’ve read a few articles about him and his schoolhouse massacre. For me he is more of an Urban Myth, than a real person. In saying this, I hope I don’t seem insensitive to the families of his victims. I do understand that for them he was and remains horrifyingly real. But for all I know he was nothing at all like I imagine he was. If I’ve made any factual errors in referencing his case, I hope you will point them out to me so I can correct them.
But despite all of our obvious differences (he had easy access to an armory and wasn’t repulsed by guns, whereas I abhor guns, and therefore avoid them), and of course our wholly irrelevant similarities (he was also a male with hands and feet), there is at least one characteristic that I share with Lanza and which I believe is highly relevant; and this in much the same way, perhaps, that a penguin and a vulture both have wings. Both birds have wings, of course, and this fact is highly relevant to their both being birds, but the structure and function of those wings differ in important ways. Whereas a vulture’s wings are structured and function for flying in the air, a penguin’s wings are structured and function for swimming, or as I’ve written elsewhere, flying in water (flymming).
Regarding Lanza, the characteristic that I’m referring to here — that I’m quite sure he must have struggled with and that I still struggle with and which I believe is highly relevant to the general topic is something we might call autistic alienation, by which I mean the persistent and pervasive sense that I don’t really belong anywhere, that I am forever some sort of an outsider.
An image that I like to use and which captures this feeling is that of a walrus, lost in a city, with no water or ice anywhere, completely out of place, lumbering and lurching slowly down the middle of a street, angry drivers honking furiously at him from behind to get out of the way and to let them pass. Although I hesitate to speak for all autistic people on any point, I simply must guess that this sense of being both trapped and excluded is a characteristic we all have in common. Please let me know if you disagree, but it just strikes me as a natural consequence following from the fact that Autism is fundamentally a communication disability. Feeling connected to people demands a certain kind of communication and therefore communication ability — one that I know I lack, and which I have to assume is lacking in all of us.
To be continued…