Why do we blame others for our own shortcomings? When great tragedy strikes, we cover up our contribution to the tragedy yet the collective responsibility for society’s ills rests with each of us. Our nation is in turmoil. National stress and social disorders are epidemic. Our nation is heaving in the ulcers of psychological trauma.
Statistics point to an alarming trend:
•1998: 13 and 11 year olds kill 5, injure 10, Jonesboro, Arkansas Middle
•1999: 18 year old kills 13, injures 24, Columbine, Colorado High
•2001: 15 year old kills 2, injures 13, Santee, California High
•2005: 16 year old kills 9, injures 7, Red Lake Indian Res.
•2006: 32 year old kills 5, injures 5, Nickel Mines, Penn Amish High
•2007: 18 year old kills 5, injures 4, Salt Lake City, Utah Shopping Mall
•2007: 23 year old kills 32, injures 17, Virginia University
•2007: 19 year old kills 8, injures 14, Omaha Nebraska shopping mall
•2008: 27 year old kills 5, injures 16, Dekalb, Illinois University
•2011: 22 year old kills 6, injures 11, Tucson, Arizona shopping center
•2012: 24 year old kills 12, injures 58, Aurora, Colorado movie theater
•2012: 40 year old kills 6, injures 3, Oak Creek, Wisconsin Sikh Temple
•2012: 22 year old kills 2, Clackamas, Oregon shopping mall
•2012: 20 year old kills 28, Newtown, Connecticut elementary school
This is a slice of violence not tied to terrorism, not tied to political power, but to individuals reacting to their own inner emptiness and in the midst of socioeconomic shifts and cultural upheaval. We have always had evil acts. We have always had violent actions by disturbed individuals. Yet violent acts of disturbed young people intending to victimize multiple school aged innocents as a way to control socioeconomic and cultural shifts’ upheaving their own lives seems to be an escalating cultural phenomenon.
Could it be this data suggests that we are a nation inflamed? Could we have denied our national culpability for so long that it now makes perfect sense to blame guns, or terrorists, or the Church, or extremists, or anyone but ourselves for such a national trend? Screeching out for gun control is a narcotic for the pain of such senselessness but it will not cure the ills we have allowed to fester.
Yet, rather than face our sickness, we take the innocence of our children and lock them behind our home’s fortress. Rather than deal with what causes us to anesthetize our nation with illegally obtained drugs, we wage war on our border and allow our inner cities to buy gang violence. Rather than allow those that want to commune together to find their God in town squares, we battle to silence omnipotence from the public domain. And when one of our nation’s children becomes polluted enough by our environment to syncopate his chemical imbalance or psychotic stress into an orgy of horrific violence, we point to guns as the reason for such destruction.
Just one day before our tragedy, a man in Shanghai walked into a similar aged school and slashed 22 children with a knife, not the first of such knife slashings in China. The incident adds fuel to the confusion surrounding gun control. In China for instance, the intent to harm in such a horrific way is erupting in a country without such gun access. Access to guns was not the issue in the implementation of such violent reactions. Yet, in the US shooting, most of the children were inflicted with multiple gunshots and died while most in China did not.
The outcome differences between China’s grade school attack and ours tends to suggest that automatic weapons should be confiscated or at least more tightly controlled. Yet the similarities between the two countries’ incidents suggest rather than discussing unwarranted solutions, we both should focus on our lack of abilities to holistically correct underlying root causes. These attacks crossed cultural boundaries of the fading and ascending hegemonies of the U.S. and China. Our two country’s similarities rather than our differences were violent catalysts in these mass casualty events occurring simultaneously across the oceans. The problem of mass youth murders emanates from a broader system flaw than we are currently defining.
We know that disturbed individuals will act out with or without guns. Yet we have 300 million guns in America, a bigger removal fantasy than illegal immigration. Therefore, limiting access to automatic weapons would most likely not curb the actions of would be mass murderers. That result will only necessarily be reduced by dealing with root causes not symptoms. Gun control discussions, however, really miss the target as a solution to our violent children ills in America. We are trying to cure this disease by sucking our national sickness symptoms out of the body America with gun leaches.
We know a few symptomatic statistics. Our population and greatest access to weaponry and amongst the greatest wealth to pay for them. America has the most guns, over 300 million. But why do we stop there as if it is the panacea of symptoms?
We have the largest sustained military budget. 40 percent of the homeless in America report that they were in our military at one time. Our returning vets have amongst the highest rate of PTSD in the world estimated as high as 35%.
We have by far the largest percentage of incarcerated citizens in the world, 7 times the rate of Canada to our north. We have more incarcerated individuals than all of Europe. 67% are incarcerated for serious crimes and half will return to prison for serious crimes.
Our divorce rate is the fifth highest in the world, only behind countries from the old Soviet Union. As a result, 27% of our children live in single parent households. 76 percent of those are fatherless homes and 40% are in poverty.
Our population is the greatest medicated in the world for mental disorders with 1 in 5 on some sort of mental health drugs. One study suggested 40% of foster children were on some mental health prescription and 25% had no mental status diagnosis. Our suicide rate is not as bad as one might think. 33 countries have higher rates than America. Yet our obesity rate is double the world average and by far the worst in the world at over 30%.
We have a glorified death culture. The U.S. has the highest murder rate in the world yet only 15% of our murders are from people that do not have some relationship with us. We have the highest rate of death from child abuse and of child abuse in general in the world, a statistic that trends as a cause of later violent crimes. Our gang violence and gang murder rates are only second to those Central American and Caribbean countries associated with our supply of illegal narcotics.
These are but a few of the statistics that point to an inflamed America. We ignore these symptoms at our peril yet we rise up to deflect our dazed population from the truth every time a horrific outlier points us back at our symptoms. So how do these disparate data point to cause and effect? How do they suggest that the greatest solution that should confront our legislative body regarding America’s health is gun control? Cursorily it seems that pointing to gun control as a solution to mass murders is like pointing to sunscreen creams as a solution for third degree burns.
So we need to dig toward root causes. Some might say there is an inverse correlation between personal freedoms in a society and tragic moral consequences. Is historical legislation intending to corral morality an outcropping of multiple milleniums of trial and error in which optimum balance of curbing social inflammation necessarily restricted social freedoms? Is mankind incapable of peaceful anarchy unfettered by insanity?
Some point to the break down of the family as one of the root causes. Most of us support the age old transference of values within the household and extended family from one generation to the next as the glue that holds a society together yet statistics show our societies are not holding to that prescription. For instance, 50 years ago, only 9% of children lived in single family households as compared to 40% today. And while we can control the level of outside influence our children receive while in our homes, we cannot alter the flow of such information elsewhere.
We count on others in our community to hold to a cultural edict of preparing the next generation yet America’s preparation has faltered along an alarming trend line. Similarly to the financial riptide that pulled most of middle America out to sea, we have a social riptide that is pulling not only those that are not upholding age old traditions of family values but also those that are into the sea of social chaos. It is not good enough to suggest we are doing our part while ignoring root causes of the entire system.
It is this earnest digging toward root causes that will ultimately drive us to successful solutions. Human nature could easily allow most to choose to succumb to the social riptide and to engage in opportunist predation or exploitation. We could alternatively focus only on our own personal responsibilities to ensure that our direct contributions to the community are covered. We can superficially support causes that seem to be somehow tied to the symptoms of our societal disorders, or we can find root causes and erect community responses to this torrent of social disarray that is attacking the fiber of our country.
We will need to commit to root cause analysis and system corrections and we will require our national tools of root cause analysis and solution to be healed in order to conduct this critical work. Similarly to the hard work of taking back our House of Representatives as a prerequisite to effecting positive economic changes, America does need a large enough, effectively compromising body to effect societal changes as well. This should be our national forum to take prescriptive action. Yet if we allow it to be a broken body, we may well see our representatives prescribing medication such as gun control that does not even begin to address our nation’s root cause of social ills.