On Valentine’s Day 2018, 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz entered his former school with an AR-15 assault rifle and killed 17 of his former classmates and teachers, and shot and injured another 17. It was one of America’s most high profile and deadly school shootings since Sandy Hook, and it has resulted in a nationwide debate about gun control featuring walkouts, protests, and endless online discussion. But, in a recent article CNN helps expose one small aspect of this huge story that is, in many ways, distressing for entirely different reasons.
The amount of mail Parkland shooter is getting is unreal https://t.co/zNRU0nD3We— CNN.com (@CNNedition) 29 March 2018
The Parkland shooter has received an unprecedented amount of positive fan mail, numbering so far over two hundred. Government officials say no other high-profile shooter or domestic terrorist has received similar support from the public.
“Dear Nikolas, Know that you are prayed for. We are a Girl Scout Troop. May you realize the wrong you did. We will lift you up and all those that you changed their lives on that day. May God Forgive,” reads one letter, signed by a troupe of 15 girl scouts.
“I have freckles like yours,” reads another. “I think your beautiful. Even if you don't write back feel free to ask me anything.
“Oh and I forgot to mention that I'm a girl lol.”
CNN asked Dr. Robi Ludwig, a psychologist, why Cruz might be receiving so much sympathy:
“There are some people who are more co-dependent in terms of mind set that think, 'Oh, this poor soul. I can fix him. I can be important in his life,'” she said. “They're attracted to the danger. They like somebody who is dangerous. They grew up in violence. They're desensitized to it and, in some cases, it's vicariously thrilling.”
But this response feels unsatisfactory. It is no less true for any number of high-profile criminals. Was the Manchester bomber not a violent individual? Was the Orlando shooter not also violent? Did these high profile killers not offer a means for dangerous, vicarious, thrills? Why has Nikolas Cruz, more than any other school shooter or domestic terrorist, received so much sympathy?
“Nikolas I care about you please talk and don't hurt yourself,” reads one letter from New York, sent on a card with a picture of a German Shepherd.
“Just wanted to write to you again. Not sure you are receiving your letters yet or not, but I wanted you to know that you and your brother are still on my mind. I will be happy to send money for your commissary to get stamps and such,” reads another from California.
CNN also reports that many people have sent Nikolas Cruz sexual photographs. Many of them are young women, some are older, all of them express sympathy and attraction.
Reading the CNN article is a quietly haunting experience, but it’s also quite angering. Whatever has driven people to identify with Nikolas Cruz, and seen fit to make themselves fawn over him like sad schoolgirls, I hope they grow out of it soon. Because there are so many people in the world who deserve sympathy, and an adult man who shot and killed 17 people is not one of them.