Monday, October 5, 2015

Take another tack on mass shootings

Another mass shooting. Another nine people dead. Another nine families grieving. It is beginning to become routine.

And America, despite its billions of dollars spent on law enforcement and mental health services and dispute mediation, not to mention the ever-vigilant National Security Agency, seems unable to do anything about it.

Columbine, Newtown, the Washington Navy Yard, Aurora, Gabby Giffords, Umpqua. The names have become routine. The shock has worn off. When the "breaking news" alert sounds, we are no longer surprised when it's about a gunman. More Americans die of gun violence than residents of any other country in the world. What's worse, nearly all of these firearm murders are senseless. A loner who has trouble fitting in and lives in a fantasy world decides he'll make his mark by killing children in kindergarten or high school students or community college students. Any grouping of defenseless people will do.

Efforts to bring about sensible limits on the gun culture that facilitates the homicidal rage of mentally ill or simply angry young men with an arsenal of weapons have been torpedoed by the National Rifle Association, which grows rich on its fearmongering over imagined government plots to "take away our guns."

Let us resign ourselves to the fact that limits on the Second Amendment are not going to pass a Congress that is largely in the pocket of the NRA. So we can either give up on feeling safe in public places, such as elementary schools, or we can attack this problem from another angle.

It's not just guns that are feeding these murderous rages. The deranged murderers are also products of a culture of violence that is unabated and largely ignored by politicians and mental health professionals. College and professional football games (a violent sport in and of itself) are interrupted by commercials for video games that feature mass killings, rapacious creatures, weapons of all kinds, all of them used to kill anything that stands in the way of the player. An entire genre of music extols a culture of drugs, sex, violence and death.

Is it any wonder that young men raised in this culture take out their frustrations and their grudges in the same way they destroy the computer-generated enemies on the screen? The "Me Generation" distills an ethic that makes anything that benefits "myself" moral and acceptable. Digital cameras are not pointed at the wonders of the world or at the needs of society but at "self." Public schools were encouraged to concentrate on youngsters' self-esteem, regardless of their discipline or educational achievement.

Reared without moral standards and unwilling to be disciplined, this generation finds it only a short step into making your "self" really important by killing a dozen people whom you didn't know anyway and wouldn't have cared about if you had. No, "Love your neighbor as yourself" and "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you" would not be seen as ancient wisdom by this generation but as antiquated foolishness. After all, it's all about me.

Changing the way America raises its children and entertains them will be a monumental task, but it might be easier than breaking the gun lobby's lock on Washington. Until we change, the shootings will continue.

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