The Lack of Hope Is the Disease
Oh, yeah? Another mass shooting? How terribly desensitized we’re becoming to this trend.
There will likely be more calls for increased gun control and rightly so. The obvious availability of high-powered machine guns, let alone every other type of automatic weapon as well as pistols is, without question, a contributing factor in massacres like this. Unfortunately, if someone wants to kill people, he doesn't need a gun to do it and curbing his access to high powered weapons will not deter him.
Like the War on Drugs and the War on Terror, the War on Guns will be ineffective. There is still plenty of drug use and drug availability, no matter how many one-time marijuana users we incarcerate and, thus far, our hard stance against terrorism has resulted in an increase in the number of terrorists worldwide and domestically.
This is because these hardcore banning of — whatever — do not address the problem. Rather, these calls for restrictive measures merely address the symptoms of the problem and, like the recycling program in Chicago (studies show that 96 percent of the recycled blue bags end up in the landfill with regular trash), only succeed in making us feel like something positive is being accomplished.
If banning things really worked, no one would use the n-word — ever.
So, what exactly is the problem?
When you get down into the trenches of public education, one thing is striking — we're housing the fourth or fifth generation in a row for whom the promise of getting an education has been broken. The bill of sale says that by studying hard and doing well scholastically, one has a leg up on the kids who do not; those who focus, behave, and excel are virtually guaranteed success in life, at least on the employment front. The reality is that drug dealers make loads of money and that working the fry station at Burger King sucks ass when it comes to having a drop of self-respect after getting A's in calculus.
Additionally, ethics haven't been taught in public schools for forty years and it is showing — and the arts have been marginalized in public education despite the countless studies linking a participation in the arts and an increase in general happiness, life satisfaction, and better performance in school.
It is the responsibility of our society to educate our children to face the pragmatic realities of the world they live in and we are failing in this charge miserably.
Value of the Individual Rather Than the Group
There is an essential disconnect in a society that wages national debates on the welfare of deported immigrants or that we need to stop killing the babies and then turns around and ignores the health of the 43 million Americans without any health insurance at all (no plug to pull there) and discards those millions of Americans too mired in poverty to adequately feed themselves, let alone their children.
Economic disparity is one source of great tension in our enlightened society — the fact that our leaders (and I don't just mean the millionaires in public office) can break the law and suffer no genuine consequence because they have $470,000 a year salaries is appalling to the man who is tasered and beaten for refusing by police to leave a public library because he works for $7 an hour. Twenty years ago, going "postal" was all the rage in public massacres. Amazingly, once the base pay for postal workers went up and more postal employees were hired nationwide going "postal" became a thing of the past.
In other nations, thousands of folks are openly slaughtered in near genocides. That can't happen in America because we are all bred to want more and to believe in our individual rights, no matter where we are (think white privilege except for everyone raised as an American.) When the reality that our rights are only good as long as we go along to get along, that the underdog-beating-the-system fable is great for the movies but is mostly legendary horseshit, that the man firing you (along with thousands of others) has a Golden Parachute and gets to keep his multi-million dollar home and surgically enhanced wife, that your birthright as an American worker has been sold to the lowest bidder overseas — that you do not count — sinks in, who can blame you for grabbing the nearest weapon and gunning down a couple of nameless, faceless people? If you are nameless and faceless then everybody is, right?
In the endless coverage of gun violence incidents, I hear more than a few talking heads mention that the killer had to be insane or unbalanced to open fire on so many strangers. How about assuming, for just a minute, that his response to the crushing weight of a thousand slights was not the act of a nutcase but the result of obvious problems in our national character? I know no one wants to do this — we can't even admit that the attacks on September 11, 2001 were likely the result of decades of America fucking around in the Middle East and that we bear some sort of responsibility for the carnage or that the very real fact of global warming is our fault. For just a moment, let's assume that these senseless acts make sense in some awful way and ask ourselves how we are culpable.
FDR had it right — in the absence of hope, there is chaos. If you can't give a man hope, give him something to do and allow him the dignity every man deserves. In his final State of the Union address, Roosevelt proposed an Economic Bill of Rights. In the address, he states "We have come to a clear realization of the fact that true individual freedom cannot exist without economic security and independence. “Necessitous men are not free men.” People who are hungry and out of a job are the stuff of which dictatorships are made."
The more things we ban, restrict and regulate in terms of individual freedoms while ignoring the basic issues of equality, dignity and hope, the closer we come to that totalitarian state of which he warned.