How Do You Know?

I knew this guy once who used to say, when he was angry with the world in general, that if he had a gun he would just "walk into a bank and blow them all away." He had great admiration, at the time, for most any and all of the current rabid responses of the American left-wing "revolutionary" armies.

He didn't join any of them, and he didn't have a gun. He was a loner. He didn't like people much. I remember him saying that he wanted to found a town where everything against the law was the law. In other words, you were supposed to speed. Walk on the grass. And never wear helmets or safety belts. Not real sure where he stood on the serious stuff. He was the one with the bank fantasy. Come to think of it, he probably fit the profile of any one of the disaffected crazy people who actually do walk into banks to "blow them all away."

For a while, especially after I lost track of him, I was afraid that he might become one of those people. Because sometimes people talk so much crazy talk, they think they should walk the walk. I was afraid that he might think himself so much a failure that he might need to walk that walk.

But he didn't. Eventually, he moved out west and did some ranch work and got married. He wasn't a failure. One of the last times I talked with him, he spoke rather ruefully about his youthful passion for revolution, for living the true and beautiful life with nature, for forging a place that lived up to his ideals. Life was more complicated than that, he realized. It wasn't as bad as he had imagined it to be. He still liked the wilderness better than towns. He still tried to live a code of his own. But he had put his anger away. He wasn't going to be shooting up any banks. Not in this lifetime.

I like to think that if he had truly been one of those people for real, that I would have known it. That I would have done something before it was too late. But I'm kidding myself too. Because how many people who have known the killers among us say, he was a quiet guy, kept to himself, but I never dreamed he would do anything like this.

What motivates those who do. What final thin line is crossed between "Wouldn't it be cool to blow up the marathon?" and "Hey, we can do this thing." And then they do.

I don't know. Because nobody I knew ever did.