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Thoughts about the Newtown Massacre

We are all trying to make sense of the terrible shooting spree that killed so many innocent children and adults in Newtown, Connecticut. Our efforts seem in vain. How can we make sense of what can only be described as a mad assault upon the core beliefs of human nature itself? We hope to find some assurance that, once the shock and mourning are over, we can safely return to the illusion of stability we normally hold onto.
    The truth is, there is no excuse or comforting rationale to be found in the murdering of innocent people - whether it happens in a school in Connecticut, or in mall in Oregon, or at a theater, temple, university, or workplace, or abroad in the streets or villages other nations, or as collateral damage in a war of precision bombing. Drive-by shootings and domestic violence happen every day and the majority of us scarcely take notice. 18,000 gun related deaths per year in the U.S. alone. We become numb to it, except when it kills one of our own or, like Newton, it goes beyond the pale of usual murders or terrorist attacks. When the casualties are mostly children in the supposed safety of a school, the questions loom large and we struggle to grasp their meaning.
    Could we make our schools safer? I suppose we could surround them with electric fences and armed guards. The question then becomes: is that the cost of supporting a culture of violence in the false name of freedom? What kind of freedom is that? Should our malls and theaters and churches look more like high-security prisons, with spotlights and sharpshooters on the rooftops?
    Some suggest that teachers should be armed. Or, if everyone carried guns, we would naturally be safer - just like it was in the old Wild West, where the assumption is that everything was supposedly civilized and serene. Here we see the reasoning brought about by too many movies that glorify violence, and power-hungry lobbyists who like to prey on our fears. As long as we are afraid, we push thoughtful, personal autonomy aside and become followers who will support anything that promises safety, no matter how irrational. Once that happens, we sacrifice what innocence remains on the altar of ignorance and fear, encouraging the very threats we hope to avoid. The value and beneficence of freedom is lost.
    A more productive response is to see things as they are, and work on changes that will make a difference. As gun lobbyists hunker down in defensive postures and gun control advocates hope their message will be heard, it is up to us to look to the problems in our culture that glorify and encourage violence in our everyday lives. It is up to us to make things right. No more excuses. No more burying our heads in the sand. We have to take the effort to see things for what they are and find real answers.
    How many movies plague the screen with bullets flying, bombs exploding, cars screeching recklessly through traffic, and people scheming to rip each other off? How many dysfunctional heroes has Hollywood created for young people to admire and emulate? How many reality shows focus on the crudest values and pass them on as normal? How many video games focus on killing? How many radio and television celebrities make their millions spreading irrational hate - and we say nothing in response? "What can we do?" people ask. "Freedom of speech protects them." Well, it protects us as well. The value of freedom is to propagate virtue, not hate. Evil falls away when we stop supporting it. If we do not speak out for sanity and reason and a better, safer world, who will?
    The best way we can respond to this tragedy, and make sure that the lives of so many victims were not lost in vain, is to dedicate our lives to fixing our broken culture so things like this never happen again. We should boycott movies and television shows that detract from civilized ideals. We should no longer purchase violent video games. We should take signs of mental illness more seriously. We should end our cultural obsession with guns and political extremism and focus on civilized pursuits instead. We should support positive role models.
If we do not, then let us then admit that we are part of the problem, in that we prefer to ignore what happens than to take a heroic stance for change.


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