Answers after another mass shooting

Here we are again.  Yet another nutcase decompensated in his life—probably a pathetic one—and killed innocent human beings, leaving us to wonder what are the causes and what are the solutions.  Contrary to the claims of gun control advocates, a great many of us on the side of gun rights do care.  We hurt as much as they over the outrageous loss of life.  And we desire solutions just as much as any other group of honest people in this country.

Living in reality, though, we understand that there may not be any answers or that the answers might be of such an extreme that they can’t fit into a free society.  Consider the exchange between Charles C. W. Cooke and Mark Halperin on the Morning Joe.  For those of you not familiar with this show, it’s an opportunity for Joe Scarborough to wear sweaters and for Mika Brzenzinski to cluck her tongue and shake her head on television.  Cooke repeatedly challenged the hosts and other guests to name what they saw as solutions.  None had an answer, other than to say we need to come up with ideas and be passionate about it.

Passion is an interesting subject.  It sounds intense and active, but note how the word shares the same root as passive.  In other words, when you’re passionate, someone else is doing the driving.

And “we must do something” too often sounds like code for “impose more gun control,” giving a good idea of who’s hoping to steer the discussion.  But when pressed, advocates on both sides of the debate have to acknowledge that obvious answers are elusive.  Would I prefer to have a handgun with me in my classroom if my campus is attacked?  Certainly.  But I also know that would not be a guarantee, nor would every good person have the skills or the willingness to be armed in a manner that can stop a determined attacker who doesn’t care about dying.  And as the attack on the Charlie Hebdo office in Paris showed, strict gun control doesn’t stop such people, either.

So what do we do?  For one thing, as I’ve said many times before, we have to stop turning these loser killers into celebrities.  Of course, that’s merely a symptom of a much broader problem, namely our obsession with celebrity, period.  We have a cultural problem when people can’t develop any worthwhile talents but yearn to be famous anyway, then believe that their only paths to stardom are on reality television or the six o’clock news.

More than that, we have a deep cauldron of rage boiling in this country.  We’ve been in this condition before.  The Civil War and the riots of the 1960s were the result.  We’ve seen the latter repeated to some degree in Ferguson, MO, and Baltimore.  We see this rage erupting in football games in which referees are attacked.  For whatever reason, lots of Americans are angry, and in that climate, taking out one’s frustrations on innocent people seems like a good idea to one killer after another.

Before I move on, I must say right here that no, it’s not all—or even in large part—Obama’s fault.  Presidents come and go, and he has done nothing exceptional and nothing that hasn’t been done in some manner or degree by his predecessors.

What I see as the cause of our anger is a disaffection with the twenty-first century.  Our rights of all kinds are under threat from governments and corporations.  Our jobs are threatened by robots or by workers in other countries who will do the same work for pennies an hour.  The ratio of noise to signal coming over the airwaves and the Internet has gone so far out of balance that it’s a wonder whenever a fact or intelligent opinion gets through.  It’s as if the novels 1984 and Brave New World have merged into one monstrous training manual for those in power.

In this environment, the only things we can do is be informed about what is going on, be vocal about our rights and our values, and be resistant to demands that we must embrace every piece of proposed busywork or jump on every passing bandwagon.  Some specific solutions I’ve suggested before are better access to mental healthcare and to quality education, while ending our foolish War on Drugs.  Another answer would be a reformed criminal justice system that makes criminals pay for their crimes, but also restores them to full and worthy citizenship in the end.

Another answer is to insist that you don’t have to be like me to be a good person.  While it’s easy to blame disaffected young men for these killings, it’s harder to recognize the pain caused to the vast majority of that group who harm no one, but endure scorn for being different.  Valuing and being fascinated by astrophysics, songwriting, or computers is no less important than playing football or following the exploits of one’s favorite team, no matter what the cliques in high school told us.  And it’s  a duty of each of us to extend to others the same courtesy we wish to receive.

The mood of the country can be pulled back from the brink of insanity, though doing so will take the combined effort of all good people.  As often in life, this is not an easy answer.  What has taken decades to create will not be corrected before the next mass shooting.  But if we want to do more than look productive when the boss comes around, what I’m suggesting is one road out of our problem.

The views and opinions expressed in this post are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the position of

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