Archive for December 19th, 2012

So, it took this- the deaths of twenty innocent children- for Americans to begin to discuss the problem of violence in our nation.

I am glad that people are willing to admit, in increasing numbers, that the ready availability of assault weapons is a sort of national insanity. No one needs such things for self-defense or hunting; they are made for one thing- killing many in haste-  which they do well. I am also aware that no law will keep someone intent on destruction from killing, but for that matter, rape laws do not stop rapists. Laws against stealing do not prevent robbery.

So? Law is a teacher, and it also is a reflection of a culture’s values, and the current loose laws regarding weapons reflect an ease with destruction that is chilling.

And yes, I am aware that this violence does not exist in a vacuum, that it is related to drone strikes and abortion and to every other symptom of our violent society. But when you post things like the meme I saw on Facebook the other day, which had an array of abortion scalpels and the caption “Little abortion tools like these kill far more children than guns” I can only gasp at the tone-deafness. What is your point? That gun deaths are not “really” so bad? Or to give the viewer some “perspective”?

Spare me. When you try to bring abortion up in every discussion about everything you just look callous. And obsessed.

And while I am glad that the nation appears, however briefly, more reflective than usual, I wonder how deep this will go. My favorite conservative, Ross Douthat, has one of the best reflections on Sandy Hook here , but even he examines the mystery of evil rather than the mystery of America’s love affair with violence.

For we, as a nation, are obsessed with redemptive cathartic violence.

The Lone Man with a Gun is a central figure in our national myth. From Shane to Gary Cooper in High Noon to Rambo to Dirty Harry, time and again it is the brave loner who makes things right by killing the bad guys, restoring order by the ordered chaos of righteous violence. And while I don’t know what is taught today, when I was a boy it was instilled in us that the nation was won by a violent westward march, taming the savage land and its savage inhabitants. As a natural contrarian I never bought it; my sympathies were always with the Indians, but to many this was formative. Is it any wonder that unstable people seek their end in a blaze of imagined glory? That the Sandy Hill shooter found his “glory” in the killing of small children speaks volumes about the depth of his illness and/or depravity.

And we as a people remain violent; look at the sales of the latest violent video games, or the lines at movies featuring gratuitous gore.

I am generally a hopeful person, but when I look at the evidence I am doubtful that any substantive change is likely in our collective psyche.

I fear the roots of the thing are far too deep for that.

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