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What’s the value of knowing the Vegas shooter’s motivation?

Police tape blocks off the home of the Las Vegas shooter in Mesquite, Nev. The shooter killed dozens and injured hundreds at an outdoor country music festival in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

What was your motivation for the stupidest, most shameful thing you’ve ever done?

Maybe you even got arrested that one time. You know, back in the day. You’re not proud of it, but it happened.

I keep hearing about motivation over and over again with the Las Vegas massacre story. There seems to be a national obsession, at least with the people covering the story, to figure out the motivation of the shooter.

To what end? What exactly will the takeaway be?

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I understand the necessity from a law enforcement perspective. If there were other people or entities involved, they should also be brought to justice. If there are clear ties to terrorist organizations, that would be useful information.

But what’s the reason for everyone else?

Here’s a sampling of front page headlines today:

The Seattle Times: Did Vegas gunman target other music festivals?

The Washington Post: Shooting motive remains elusive as new details emerge about attack

The New York Times: Gunman led a ‘secret life’ for decades

You get the point. But what’s the point? Is there some kind of national “ah-ha” moment that we are expecting? Will an email, or Facebook post, or hidden journal entry cause us to collectively slap the table and say, “Oh, well that explains it.”

Many people find solace in quickly placing this killer into the box labeled “crazy” or “evil.” They shut the lid on it and don’t have to think about it anymore. I don’t believe in that either. That has always seemed intellectually lazy to me. Maybe he was crazy, maybe he was evil. But how does a person live a competent, successful life for 64 years if they are crazy? That simplistic label offers me no solace.

The only reason that motive would have any value to the average person reading the news is if we would use that information to be able to spot the next killer and stop him. But I have to be honest. Before this weekend, I had never even imagined the possibility of this type of carnage. Even if I knew this guy, even if he showed me his weapon collection, I don’t think I could have seen this weekend coming. Unless he spelled it out for me, I don’t know if I’d be able to divine that kind of dark ambition.

But the quest for motive marches on. I guess I’ll read about the findings if and when investigators make a conclusion. Then I’ll wonder, what am I supposed to do with this?

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