“This is not normal. We can’t let it become normal,” President Obama said just a few days ago after the shooting outside the Planned Parenthood in Colorado, but he’s wrong. Since Columbine in 1999, there have been over 20 school shootings, several mall shootings, a movie theatre massacre, and many more including church, café, and market shootings. Mass shootings is the norm, and will continue to be if we don’t redefine our sense of what feeds a healthy community.
David Covey, in his profound New York Times Best Seller, The 7 Habits of Highly Successful People, states, “When we open our mouths to describe what we see, we in effect describe ourselves, our perceptions, our paradigms.” Mass shootings provide a deeper us a window of opportunity to evaluate our perceptions, our paradigms, and ultimately, ourselves. Since Columbine, nothing much has changed, so we need to look deeper. We need to get to the root of the problem.
What is the root? Is it guns? President Obama said, “The last thing Americans should have to do, over the holidays or any day, is comfort the families of people killed by gun violence.” And I agree, but attacking gun violence is simply cutting branches off of a destructive shrub. It may solve the problem for a while, but the roots remain. The branches will grow back. I live in a country where the branches have been shaved cleanly off; there are extremely harsh restrictions on guns and major penalties for those who wield them, but mass killings still occur. They just use knives, bats, and machetes, because the roots are still there.
Getting rid of guns won’t solve the problem (stop cheering all you NRA folk, because I’m not done yet), but does keeping them? Col. Jeff Cooper, a firearms pioneer advocates that they can. He states, “The rifle itself has no moral stature, since it has no will of its own. Naturally, it may be used be evil men for evil purposes, but there are more good men than evil, and while the latter cannot be persuaded to the path of righteousness by propaganda, they can certainly be corrected by good men with rifles.” This too is a chopping off of branches, but perhaps even worse because we are merely masking the problem with forced behavior, with behavior modification. This reinforces dependence on a system; it doesn’t get at the root of the problem.
So what does?
President Reagan once said, “We must reject the idea that every time a law’s broken, society is guilty rather than the lawbreaker. It is time to restore the American precept that each individual is accountable for his actions.” I don’t think anyone would have much of an objection to this, but that doesn’t mean we all agree because in order to be “accountable for [our] actions”, those actions must be measured against something that is the standard of expected behavior, a common root.
In the US, all branches stem from the Declaration of Independence and the self-evident truth that “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” This is what marches people down main streets parading their disapproval of various political, religious, or what have you ideologies. This is what allows students to stand against injustices (whether perceived or justified), what allows people to rise above social classes, and what brings hundreds of thousands of people from around the world to our borders. Because at the root of this country is Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness. But this root isn’t as strong or healthy as it appears.
“Life, Liberty,” and “Happiness” are intangible words that sound good but mean very little. Their meanings and how they are lived out shifts and changes depending on the who, what, when, where, and how’s of this country. They are shakable.
Since their inception in Philadelphia over three hundred years ago, we’ve been arguing and dissecting their meaning and application ever since. This most recent shooting in California is an act over the very disagreement about Life itself, a large percentage of Americans believe that they in fact do NOT have “the power or scope to act as one pleases,” and how one pursues happiness is as shifty as it is attractive. The self-evident truths are no longer self-evident, nor is the one who endowed them.
In the late 1800’s, Nietzsche stated, “God is dead,” and he has been unfairly ridiculed and unjustly damned ever since. Nietzsche wasn’t saying that God is literally dead, rather, that He was no longer the credible source of absolute moral principles. And in that, Neitzsche was right. He was right then, and he’s right now.
Don’t think so? Listen to how we talk, how we make decisions: “Just follow your heart,” “do what feels right,” “follow whatever makes you happy,” and many more of the like. God and His words are no longer the credible source for much of what happens in the states, we are, and how we feel. What we want. And what we think we’re entitled to.
President Obama said, “This is not normal. We can’t let it become normal,” and then San Bernardino happened.
If we want to change, if “Enough [really} is enough,” we have to change the way we’re going about this. If we really want the community that we’re striving for, we have to redefine our sense of what feeds a healthy community – we have to cure the rotting root.
Guns won’t do it. Neither will police, harsher penalties, or presidential speeches. The only way to truly conquer something, as every great philosopher and geneticist will tell you, is to love it.
The Baby Boomers ushered in what Tom Wolfe called the “Me Generation,” and they gave birth to the My Life, My Liberty, and My pursuit of Happiness generation; the Igeneration. We’ve put ourselves at the center, gave our feelings the right to dictate our actions, and are now confused when there’s an inconsistency with the standard of goodness.
We’ve had enough of the Igeneration and the destruction it brings. The Declaration of Independence was built upon the ideas of a God that loved and gave Himself for other, not one that worshipped Himself. When the Declaration of Independence states that, “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness,” it seems to imply that we are to help one another achieve rights, support those who are struggling to find them, and ache for those who do not have them. We are to think of others as more important than ourselves.
For the next generation to survive and grow and produce quality fruit the root needs to be strengthened and it needs to be healthy, it needs it needs to forgive, love, and have compassion, what Christopher McDougall calls “character.”
President Obama claimed that, “Enough is enough” and he’s right. We’ve lopped off enough branches and we’ve wasted enough time believing that cleaning up the mess is solving the problem. Our communities are dying. It’s time we get at the root of the problem and start looking outside ourselves.
Enough is enough.