Seriously, can humans become feral?

Lately, I’ve been thinking of Yoshihiro Hattori. Thinking of him a lot.

More than 30 years, the 16-year-old Japanese exchange student was on his way to a Halloween party in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. He went to the wrong house. For that honest mistake, he was shot to death by the homeowner.

Hattori had only been in the United States for two months. As his Halloween costume, he wore a white tuxedo imitating John Travolta in the movie “Saturday Night Fever.”

“We’re here for the party,” Hattori said to the homeowner. 

“Freeze,” replied the homeowner as he pointed his .44 Magnum revolver at the 130-pound teenager and fired at a distance of 5 feet.

The bullet pierced the upper and lower lobes of Hattori’s left lung. He died in an ambulance from blood loss.

Initially, the Baton Rouge Police Department  declined to charge the man with any crime because — in their view — he had been “within his rights in shooting the trespasser.” 

Eventually he was charged with manslaughter, but the jury acquitted him after deliberating for three hours. Later, a civil trial found him liable for the death of the Japanese student and he was fined $650,000.

Killing of Yoshihiro Hattori – Wikipedia

Hattori’s death wasn’t much different from the shooting of a Black teenager last week in Kansas City, Missouri.

Ralph Yarl, also 16, also went to a wrong house — to pick up his younger brothers.

Yarl was shot in the head and then was shot again. Miraculously, he survived those two gunshot wounds. Police haven’t decided yet if a crime of any sort was committed.

There is this other recent incident, in the small town of Dadeville, Alabama, where four people were killed when gunfire erupted during a ‘Sweet 16’ birthday party. One of the dead is a high school senior who had signed with Jacksonville State University to play football.

Less than a week earlier, an employee of a bank in Louisville started shooting at his co-workers, killing five and injuring nine others.

It’s still April. So far, the total of Americans killed by gunfire has risen to 12,369. That includes 5,307 deaths due to homicides, murder, and unintentional causes, as well as 7,062 suicides, according to the independent group, Gun Violence Archive.

I only mention mass shootings in the United States as a lead up to my real reason for writing. If you know me, you know this might take a little longer.

Last week, enroute to play golf in Middlebury, Indiana, I saw at least a dozen Amish buggies being pulled by stately standardbred horses that are also used in harness racing. The sight of these gorgeous creatures trotting elegantly is enough to stir the soul. 

We’ve all seen Amish farmers in their cornfields walking behind plows being pulled by powerful Belgian or Percheron horses. 

Try standing next to gentle giants. You can do it. They won’t hurt you.

I’ve attended a few horse sales in and around Shipshewan a and Topeka. I had no qualms about petting Amish-raised horses. They are so docile. 

But try petting a wild horse running free in the plains of Wyoming or Montana, and it’s a whole different ballgame. You’ll remember the moment — if you live.

I’m getting closer to my point.

As a former farm journalist, I have been inside more than a few hog confinement buildings. Once I leaned over wooden fencing to watch a sow feed her piglets. The sow was unconcerned about my presence. I had no fear for my safety. 

But I do know that hogs that escape confinement on a farm will turn feral in a matter of months. A boar — a non-castrated male swine — will grow tusks and thick hair. Worse, it becomes aggressive. 

They charge toward people with lethal results. Nobody can outrun a hog on the loose.

In its natural  environment, hogs experience a change in the expression of certain genes. These changes don’t alter the DNA sequence itself, but they can change how cells “read” genes. 

This boar’s babies undergo further morphological changes. Just a generation removed from a domestic existence, feral piglets will gain extra weight, grow tusks and develop a longer snout and flatter forehead to facilitate rooting.

I’ve come full circle and put forth this question: 

Can humans become feral? And, my bigger question, is morphological regression the reason that the United States has become the murder capital of the world, by far. 

Are there conditions that cause some Homo sapiens to revert to their uncivilized beginnings? 

Why haven’t scientists under the auspices of the United Nations and the World Health Organization sent experts into the United States of America to probe deeply into the American male psyche? Would they find hormonal changes, or genetic changes? Or changes in the neurochemical structure of male brains?

These feral men appear to have reverted to their distant ancestry, a time when sharp stones were used as cutting tools. Are their snouts longer? Has anyone witnessed rooting behavior? 


Why have some Americans turned feral? And lethal? 

It didn’t take much study for animal scientists to figure out the genetic transformation of domesticated hogs that have escaped and returned to their wild behavior. 

The science of human behavior is far more advanced. Why aren’t we paying attention to the mind frame that killed Yoshihiro Hattori, maimed Ralph Yarl and left bodies strewn around the Louisville bank?

During my undergraduate days in the “rat lab” at Purdue University, I was given a white lab mouse and a Skinner box to conduct my own experiments. I sent pellets down a feeding chute. I switched a light bulb off and on to see how the little mouse would react. 

In retrospect, it could have been a more useful experiment if I had turned that meek mouse into a mean, ugly, vicious and murderous creature, replicating the behavior of so many American males. 

And so I propose that the United States be used as a laboratory — a testing ground — to determine the conditions necessary to turn humans into killers.

Lock us all up in Skinner boxes until we figure this out. The world would become a safer place