It turns out that in many cases, it doesn't take much to penetrate the illusion that you're fighting an abstract idea rather than murdering humans. I will never get tired of reading about the teacher who stopped a school shooting by hugging the shooter. And we can make these life-saving changes of heart more likely by giving would-be perpetrators as many ways out as possible. Erez pointed out in her article that these groups seek to push recruits to a point of "no return," where they feel like dying in an attack is the only option left to them.
When I asked Shane about that point of no return, he told me, "I remember talking to people when I was a teenager, 'if we want to get out of this, where do we go?' There was no neutral zone. ... The only place available was prison or being shot dead. For young teens looking for a way out ... what difference might it have made ... if there'd been a 'get out' opportunity? ... Quite a few people in the IRA would've pulled a cord on that escape hatch."
Hundreds on both sides have died. How many could have been saved?
Obviously there is no easy way to cure the world of mass murder. But virtually every problem, from plumbing leaks to brain tumors, is better when addressed early. Our culture tends to be all about stopping things at the last, most dramatic moment (an armed bystander stopping an active shooter) or after the fact (bombing the shit out of the shooter's home country). Culturally, it seems like we are very bad at nipping mass murder in the bud. That's what needs to change, somehow.
To any angry, armed people currently moving towards that point, Jack would like to say:
"When you're backed into a corner and everything seems like it's over, it's not. You can come back from anything. I've gone on from that incident and have ... a normal life, a decent job, a kid. ... All the things I never thought I could accomplish in that moment, I've done it."
Or as Shane puts it, "No matter how deep in the shit you are, it's better to turn back."
Robert Evans runs Cracked's Personal Experience article team, and he also has a friend who needs help affording her dog's surgery.
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