Omaha Mall Shooting

isolated.jpg  “The heartland” experienced a horrible occurrence yesterday with a shooting rampage in an Omaha mall. Nine Christmas shoppers were indiscriminantly killed by a teenager who wanted “to be famous.”

It’s very sad, and people are shocked that it could happen here. But why wouldn’t it happen here? Sometimes it feels like we’re sheltered in farm country, away from the big bad world, surrounded by corn fields and simple good people. 

In The Adventure of the Copper Beaches, Sherlock Holmes talks about the sweet, innocent countryside: 

    All over the countryside, away to the rolling hills around Aldershot, the little red and grey roofs of the farm-steadings peeped out from amid the light green of the new foliage.

   “Are they not fresh and beautiful?” I cried with all the enthusiasm of a man fresh from the fogs of Baker Street.

   But Holmes shook his head gravely.

   “Do you know, Watson,” said he, “you look at these scattered houses, and you are impressed by their beauty. I look at them, and the only thought which comes to me is a feeling of their isolation and of the impunity with which crime may be committed there.”

   “Good heavens!” I cried. “Who would associate crime with these dear old homesteads?”

   “They always fill me with a certain horror. It is my belief, Watson, founded upon my experience, that the lowest and vilest alleys in London do not present a more dreadful record of sin than does the smiling and beautiful countryside.”

   “You horrify me!”

   “But the reason is very obvious. The pressure of public opinion can do in the town what the law cannot accomplish. There is no lane so vile that the scream of a tortured child, or the thud of a drunkard’s blow, does not beget sympathy and indignation among the neighbours. But look at these lonely houses, each in its own fields, filled for the most part with poor ignorant folk who know little of the law. Think of the deeds of hellish cruelty, the hidden wickedness which may go on, year in, year out, in such places, and none the wiser.”

Maybe I am overly morbid and cynical, but I’ve always agreed with Sherlock. There’s plenty of evil here in flyover country, just as everywhere else. It’s just not so obvious until an experience like yesterday startles us out of our complacency. 



One thought on “Omaha Mall Shooting

  1. Thanks for your post, Elizabeth. I really enjoyed it. The Westroads massacre has touched and changed everyone in the Omaha area. With still just under a million people in the metro area, it’s still small enough that just about everyone (myself included) knew someone killed or knew someone who knew someone that was killed. There’s really been only one or two degrees of separation with this tragedy.

    I agree with you and Sherlock. There have been many examples of man’s inhumanity to man in rural settings. Truman Capote’s tale of the Clutter family in western Kansas (IN COLD BLOOD) is a prime example. The Villisca axe murder case in rural Iowa,, is another horrendous example of what some people will do in a seemingly safe countryside area.

    When I lived out in the sticks of the Sandhills, my father always used to warn me, “You make sure you lock your doors. Charlie Starkweather (another Nebraska serial killer) drove down that highway.” I have always locked my doors, but it surprised me that someone who grew up in such a remote area would say that. A friend of mine who grew up in the Sandhills chilled me to the bone once when she said, “The Sandhills is the perfect place to pull off a murder. You dump the body in those hills and the wolves will get to it before the police ever will and no DNA will be left.” I suddenly knew I never wanted to get this person mad at me!

    I think it really is in part the pressure of public opinion in more densely populated areas that forces us to behave.

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