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It hasn’t taken long for us to drift far from the America in which most of us grew up, a nation that cared about the needs of others and inspired young people to “be all you can be” to make the world a better place.

That was the America that existed when Simpson was still a hero. But just as Simpson’s out-of-control sense of self turned him into someone unrecognizable, gradually, we have watched — and sometimes enabled — our society to transform into something else as well.

The America in which we now live is driven by instant gratification, unhealthy, mean-spirited competitiveness and affirmation of one’s superiority over others.

Those who doubt the sociological connection between our narcissistic, virtual culture and the increase in youth violence should consider the nonchalant, indiscriminate and thoughtless way that Lane was killed.

To his accused killers, Lane was not a real-life human being with feelings. Pulling a trigger was just as easy as deleting a ‘friend’ on Facebook. With the flick of a finger, he was deleted from every real person who ever knew him.

Why?

Because like so many impatient, self-obsessed young people today, the defendants were bored and wanted instant gratification. They wanted to feel empowered. They wanted to feel like stars. Like O.J. Simpson, they believed they were entitled to do whatever they wanted, to whomever they wanted to do it.

The underlying mentality of these three, ruthless young men and the other young people who embrace our new, narcissistic culture is all the same: “I don’t care what happens to anyone else. It’s all about me.”

Jeffrey Scott Shapiro is an investigative reporter and a former prosecutor in Washington, D.C.