It seems not a week goes by without reports of a youth commiting murder. Teachers, classmates, parents, and friends are fair game when the nexus of rage and the overwhelming need for control is reached. After these incidents occur, babbling commentators and experts speculate endlessly about how these things could possibly occur in their perfect world.
Shielded by fame, wealth, and power, the talking heads are blind to their own hypocrisy. Young people, however, are quick to spot hypocrisy. They are also quick to perceive a world that often makes no sense. Many young people face a future of uncertainty, a declining standard of living, and a life that they have little control over. So, afflicted with angst and confusion, a youth acts out violently. And we, as a culture, politely pretend to wonder how this could happen. Maybe these children are merely doing what they have been taught.
How can we stop the killing in America when we no longer believe in the most basic precept of virtually every religion : thou shalt not kill? That simple teaching, unlike the laws made by our leaders, does not contain a schedule of exceptions paid for with political contributions. We have created a culture of death.
Our culture is in denial of its moral hypocrisy. In this culture, many say it is morally wrong to kill, but this statement is usually followed by the word "except". Often, those supporting the death penalty oppose abortion and those opposing the death penalty support abortion. Criminals are shot down needlessly, the state conducts executions, children carry deadly weapons, professionals assist others in suicide and abortion, and the media constantly informs us of murders and war.
Our leaders spend billions of dollars accumulating weapons of mass destruction, in contemplation of killing. Guns are produced at the rate of one every 20 seconds. Our culture is entertained by TV shows and movies depicting death. Children are entertained by songs about death and violence. Parents look on as their desensitized children brutally kill large numbers of "enemies" while playing video games. The leaders we support see fit to pay farmers not to grow food while there are starving children in the world. They protect corporations that produce deadly pollution. They promote international arms deals that ultimately lead to death and destruction.
Life has become cheap in the American culture of death. We applaud when our leaders choose to bomb foreign nations to achieve some political or economic advantage. If we truly believe in the sanctity of life, then why do we spend so much time, money, and energy on being entertained by death and on preparing to kill? Perhaps if our culture was not so obsessed with death, murder would not be so prevalent.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: I wrote the article above in 1999 after the Columbine incident. It came to mind after the massacre at Virginia Tech and I found it on my computer. At first I thought not much has changed since then, but actually quite a bit has changed. America, now engaged in a global war on terror, justified killing Iraqis and Afghanis after some Saudis attacked the U.S. on 9/11. America now has the largest prison population in the world. America has secret prisons where torture is conducted.
The police have become more militarized than they were in 1999. Reports of small children being handcuffed and taken to jail are not uncommon. Lunatics on talk radio rant about nuking Iran to prevent them from nuking America. Movies and video game are more violent than ever. The popular TV show "24" features torture in nearly every episode.
America continues to teach its children to glorify violence and the use of force - now, more than ever. The political hypocrites from left to right will wring their hands and offer bromides to solve the problems of society over the coming days and weeks. But banning guns, video games, violent movies, abortions, "hate speech", or further eroding liberty and privacy will not end the culture of violence. Ending the glorification of war and violence might.
Americans should brace themselves for more violence in the near future as young kids sent off to kill or torture "terrorists" return home with PTSD and no qualms about killing human beings. We have already seen some of the things these poor souls are capable of.
All of this reminds me of what Butler Shaffer wrote last year:
There is a way to end all wars, and the means of doing so can be stated in the following words: we must learn to love our children and grandchildren more than we do the state.
It also reminds me of what Walt Kelly, the creator of Pogo, wrote many years ago:
We have met the enemy... and he is us.
This article contributed by Tom Blanton of Richmond, Virginia.