A Murderer as Victim:  The American Blame Game

In all the vitriol, anger, and twisted logic in the debate on guns and violence in America, one vital aspect is kicked to the side, ignored and discounted; personal responsibility for one’s actions.

theymademedoitblogIn our single-minded focus on trying to explain why these things happen, and how to prevent them, we gloss over the one common element. Absent unmistakable evidence of mental incapacity–and almost every shooter who survives a mass shooting is judged competent to stand trial—the individual who pulls the trigger is responsible for his or her actions.

The fact is we may never understand why. We may never find a way to prevent it from ever happening again. We may never come to grips with America’s inexplicable fascination with guns.

We may never accept the demise of the balance of power between our early government—the one without a standing army– and an armed citizenry. Our embracing a concept no longer grounded in reality is one of the stumbling blocks to addressing part of the problem.

But that’s not the point of this piece.

The most important thing we can do is insist on personal responsibility for one’s actions. We need to focus on this from the earliest age, so the practice becomes second nature. Instead, we have parents suing school departments when their kids are taken off a sports team or barred from graduation for violating the rules.

“Oh, my poor (son/daughter) didn’t mean to break the rules, everyone else was doing it, it’s not fair they won’t get to play soccer/go to the prom/attend graduation.  I’ll sue.”

A tremendous parental example there.

The dearth of personal responsibility in America is illustrated by our penchant for blaming everyone else but ourselves for our actions. The most startling example of this is from the father of the shooter in the Santa Fe Texas school shooting.

As part of the idiotic media frenzy, which contributes to the problem, the father of the “alleged” killer said,

“My son, to me, is not a criminal, he’s a victim,” he said. “The kid didn’t own guns. I owned guns.”

A victim? The victims are the ten dead, the wounded, and their families left to suffer because of the cowardly act of a self-delusional individual without one shred of human decency or compassion.

The father said,

“Something must have happened now, this last week,” he told the station. “Somebody probably came and hurt him, and since he was a solid boy, I don’t know what could have happened. I can’t say what happened. All I can say is what I suspect as a father.” (https://apnews.com/70ba9b2e83194fbab13bb26819aed045)

The father says his son was bullied. Bullied? When did bullying rise to the level of justifying homicidal provocation?

By this logic, someone being bullied now has cause to take a gun and kill another human.

Very few people are born evil, but we all have the capacity for evil in us. Raising children to be responsible adults is the ultimate purpose of being a parent. When you fail, the darkness within can rise to the surface.

If you don’t instill personal responsibility early, self-control fails and bad things happen. It may not be the only reason these shootings happen, but it is a significant factor.

This infatuation we have with turning everything into a “syndrome,” giving it a name and using it as some terrifying boogieman is disheartening and self-destructive. Bullying has become almost as frightening as a diagnosis of cancer.

I understand there are horror stories of “bullying” that drove some to suicide. That is a tragedy. But adolescent behavior, that often includes “bullying” of others, underscores my point.

The failure of personal responsibility, by the parents and the children engaged in such behavior, is the problem. Part of this is the false courage instilled by the wall of technology. It’s easy to be cruel and demeaning in the comfort of one’s own home when texting or posting on social media. Tweets and emoji and SnapchatInstagramTwittering is a shield to cowards.

It doesn’t negate the responsibility of parents to pay attention. In our 24/7 technologically connected world, the burden is heightened.

One of the most brilliant philosophers who ever lived, my mother, summed it up in six words,

“Life’s not fair, get over it.”

We learned from her that one had to deal with life, not whine and cry, and adjust to it. Blaming others for your own circumstances is the childish way out. As one matures, you come to understand that no one has power over you unless you let them.

By the time you reach high school, one should firmly understand personal responsibility.

I know this may not be politically correct, but the way to deal with bullies is to stand up to them. Homicidal violence is never a solution, but a well-placed punch in the nose, even if you ultimately lose the fight, might go a long way to preventing a minor problem from becoming a bigger one.

I may have lost a few fights growing up, but I got my point across.

In Texas, the only person to blame for what happened is the shooter. I won’t dignify him with using his name. Making killers famous for their actions is part of the problem.

There is also the personal responsibility of the father for leaving the weapons open and unsecured. He may be suffering because of his son’s actions, but he also bears criminal liability for it.

If the law applies, he should be charged. If he had any sense of personal responsibility, he’d plead guilty. My defense attorney friends may differ in this but there is a difference between “not guilty” and “innocent.”

Like it or not he has blood on his hands, but I wouldn’t hold my breath for him to acknowledge it. He needed the guns for personal protection. That was important to him.

When his son turned them into offensive weapons and murdered innocent men, women, and children he hid behind excuses. Wasn’t my son, they made him do it. It begs the question about priorities.

That’s what lack of personal responsibility is, blaming the world for your own choices.

It’s time for that to change.  We can do this without changing one law, limiting any perceived Constitutional right, or infringing on anyone’s liberty.

Acknowledging your own actions, not blaming the rest of the world for your personal failures, would be a good first step.

Somebody Give Me the Words

I like to think of myself as a writer. Words have always come easily. Often, it seems I couldn’t stop them even if I wanted to.

But today I have no words. Today, I must ask if someone, anyone, can give me the words. Help me.

How do I find the words?

How do I find the words to comfort the next parent of a child they sent off to school and had to pick up at the Medical Examiner’s office?

How do I find the words to comfort a seventeen-year-old girl whose biggest concern one moment was the color of her shirt and the next moment seeing her best friend’s blood staining the once perfect color?

How do I explain to a group of high-school seniors that their most memorable moment in school will be their terror at the sound of weapons firing, people screaming, and the coppery smell of blood and death?

How do I find the words to explain to the world how great America is when we let our children die for a concept no longer grounded in reality?

How do I find the words to make people understand our unwillingness to seek a solution to the violence that plagues this nation?

How do I find the words?

The truth is there are no words, no prayers, no political slogans, no constitutional arguments that will do this.

So, we have a choice.

We can either find the will to seek a solution or accept the reality it will happen, again and again and again, until we become so numb to the horror we no longer notice.

Then our lack of words, like our inertia in finding a solution, will say it all.

Where’s the Anger? Where are the Tweets of Outrage?

A Shooter, by another name, would be a cry for action. Change Stephen Paddock’s name to Ibrahim Bin Laden and the entire country would be screaming for something to be done. There would be unity in attacking the terrorists. This terrorist looks back at us in a mirror.

Instead, we get this from the Twittering President. My warmest condolences and sympathies to the victims and families of the terrible Las Vegas shooting. God bless you!

He joins a chorus of voices calling for “prayers for Las Vegas” when every single prayer to prevent such incidents failed.

And, of course, there is the usual posturing about the Second Amendment.

The problem in this country isn’t guns.

The problem in this country is ignorance.

Until we deal with the growing mental health crisis, the lack of access to health care, and the proliferation of an attitude that I can do whatever I want without consequences or consideration of others, we face more of the same.

Guns are merely the method of choice. Until we as Americans come to terms with our propensity for violence, nothing will change. Every prayer ever prayed, no matter how sincere or well-intentioned, is a Band-Aid on a severed artery.

 

Censoring the Topless but not the Headless

Any quick glance at social media over the past few days revealed (pun intended) today is Go Topless Day. There is even a website, gotopless.org.

Clearly, the sight of bare breasts and exposed nipples is cause for alarm in this country. Any link to this or any news reports of the day comes with an assortment of images. Each with the salient parts of the images blurred, covered by blacked out pixels, or in some way masked.

On the other hand, if one searches for headless corpses, beheading videos, or burning people to death, one can see these images without any such censoring.

What does that say about a society that is so afraid of images of naked breasts and yet so accepting of violence?

Hide the nipples, hype the headless.

If one has any wonder about why there is so much violence in this country, one need only look around.

Unrestricted images of murder, mayhem, torture and blood inundate the various media. Can it surprise anyone in the least that those who suffer from mental illness, after years of exposure to non-stop violence on TV, movies, and video games, come to think of it as normal, and act on it?

I grew up in an age where we all had toy automatic weapons. We hunted each other for hours trying to get that first shot in and yell, “Got you, you’re dead.”

But we knew it was make-believe. If we crossed the line into real violence there were consequences, not excuses for blaming something else.

We came to understand the difference.  Of course, our pretend war came from our imagination. We were not bathed in it since birth by billions of cable channels and the 24-hour news cycle.

Therein, lies the problem. We have confused priorities.

I find this interesting. On one of the few shows that we watch on Hulu, called The Vikings, they preface the show with a viewer discretion warning.

It reads. “Viewer discretion advised. The program depicts scenes of sexuality and violence.”

Odd how we equate the risk of watching an act that creates life with one that destroys it.

And yet, here we are in the 21st century, terrified of visions of bare breasts and comfortably ignoring the epidemic portrayal of violence.

Is a bare breast that much of a threat to morality?

A society numb to violence is a threat to your mortality.

 

Insights from 60 Revolutions of the Sun

In my now sixty complete revolutions of the sun, I am struck by how much the world has changed and how little people have progressed.

We are a single race. The human race. Yet, one is hard-pressed to find examples of this.

We live at a time when access to information is at an all-time high and rationality at a depressing low. Instead of recognizing our differences as nothing more than window dressing, we isolate ourselves with those we share those shallow aspects and separate ourselves from those we see as different.

Why is it we fill our hearts with the irrationality of prejudice, the willful ignorance of others, instead of embracing the commonality of our nature?

Tolerance is something we demand for ourselves and deny to others. The surface differences that comprise such a small percentage of our being cloud the overwhelming similarities.

At a time when it would seem the very survival of our common race is at hand, we focus on promoting our differences instead of joining together to insure our survival.

The faiths of the world publicly espouse their common goal yet continue to teach the doctrines of difference.

Politicians play to the lowest common denominator of fear to further than own careers no matter the cost.

We resort to violence as a solution rather than recognizing violence is at the root of the issue. Violence is the tool to protect differences not people . What we need is the rationality of diplomacy and acceptance.

I can only hope that five hundred or a thousand years from now the descendants of the human race look back on the foolishness of this time as a product of ignorance and stupidity.

Much like we mock the ignorance of the Dark Ages or the image of Stone Age man cowering in his cave from the thunder and lightning of the gods, future humans will find a similar ignorance in the history of our time.

If there are any descendants to do so.  I can only hope we survive  to live up to our self-described moniker of Homo Sapiens.

With all the tools of destruction and our skills at killing our fellow humans over artificial differences, there may not be anyone left to attain such insight and maturity of character.

Rationality is Overrated: Time for America to Face Her Problems

Caedite eos. Novit enim Dominus qui sunt eius.

Perhaps it is time for the vitriol of hate and fear to win.

Perhaps it is time we obliterate an entire group of people based on their common religion.

Perhaps it is time us to consider a policy of irrationality. Focus our anger not on finding a solution, but eliminating the need for one.

After all,

It is Muslims that are killing Americans.

It is Muslims that are trying to destroy our culture.

It is Muslims who wish to enslave us in the violence and intolerance of Sharia.

Perhaps it is time we stopped worrying about the innocence of most Muslims.

Perhaps we should use our overwhelming military power and take them all out as a way to insure we get the guilty.

I fear there are those reading this who mistook my satire as something worth serious consideration. A frightening prospect but we see evidence of such irrationality every day in this country.

Just look at the Presidential campaign.

Now comes the part they will ignore because it is hard and might force them to think.

Is it possible we bear some of the blame for the terror visited upon Orlando? Is it possible the blood of those victims are on our hands as well?

It is clear that we are unwilling to do the right thing. Unwilling to confront the scourge of violence that plagues this country.

What happened in Orlando is a tragedy. In far too many cities in this country, it’s called Saturday night.

Those that see one side of the issue see guns as the problem. We need to control the guns, they scream. But they offer no real solution. No answer to how to deal with the 300 million firearms in private hands. Do they blame the car when a drunk driver runs over a group of children?

Those that cherish their guns wrap themselves in the Second Amendment. They scream, I have a right to protect myself. I have a right to own as many guns as I like. The problem is not guns, it is criminals. Lots of I, I, I’s there.

Do they offer even a nod to OUR interest in preventing these incidents? Do they show a willingness to be part of the solution instead of being a roadblock to even considering one? They look at Sandy Hook and Orlando, hold up their copy of the Second Amendment, and say this is more important than those lives.

They argue that if every law abiding American that wanted to carry a gun did, we’d all be safer. Now there’s a comforting thought. Think of some of the idiots you meet on a daily basis and imagine them in a firefight in a school, or theater, mall, or the desk next to yours.

Imagine good old Harry, waiting to pick up his grandkids, whipping out his trusty .45 and taking on a crazed gunman in an elementary school. Within just a few short years, we’d need fewer schools.

It would raise the effect of friendly fire to a whole new level.

If that is their idea of a rational solution to preventing these incidents they’re more delusional than even I imagine. It would make as much sense to make everyone wear ballistic vests.

In the aftermath of these things, we follow a familiar pattern.

It was only a matter of time before the right-wing lunacy put the blame for this on Obama. Somehow his policies created an environment where this would happen. After all, he is a secret Muslim. I mean, come on, Barrack Hussein?

And it was only a matter of time before the left began their worn and useless chant for gun control.

They yell and scream. Hold hands. Pray. Make speeches about the tragedy of guns.

Which accomplishes nothing.

There’s a brain tumor eating away the mind of this country. We are one candidate away from palliative care.

The nut who purchased this weapon is, according to the media, on an FBI Watchlist. One which would prevent him from flying.

We have a system in place to stop someone we suspect of terroristic leanings from flying. We recognize our overwhelming interest in airline security.

Sounds logical. I fly quite often and I support such policies.

We can stop them from doing something that requires a certain amount of skill and planning. We can stop them from doing something that is hard to do.

Why not expand that list to the purchase of firearms, which is easy to do? I’ll tell you why. Because the NRA opposes it.

They think the government cannot be trusted to do such things fairly. They contend it might prevent an innocent person from exercising their Second Amendment rights.

How do they do this? They control the cowards in Congress addicted to the gun lobby money. They manipulate them into killing such legislation and killing Americans in the process.

They stop the government from having an effective tool against these incidents.

The same incompetent government they blame for these incidents. Which government is it they fear most?

They spin the story and blame the President. They whip those who would have a difficult time finding a foreign country on a map into a frenzy.

They then focus them on anything other than the actual problem.

Their solution is simple. It is more important that I have my gun. They would prefer we eliminate an entire group of people rather than risk a few extra steps in buying a gun.

The nut who pulled that trigger was an American citizen. He exercised his Second Amendment rights so precious to so many.

Think of it this way, if the Orlando gunman had been denied his Second Amendment right to purchase a firearm, the NRA would support him in his case to right that wrong. Let that bounce around your brain for a bit.

On the other hand, he is the wrong flavor American. His parents are from Afghanistan. What do you expect, they would argue?

So, perhaps it is time for their Final Solution. If we are unwilling to balance responsible gun ownership against preventing tragedy, it leaves us little choice.

Perhaps it is time we embrace the words of Arnaud Amalric, Papal Legate and Cistercian abbot.

A man of the Christian God. That might offer comfort to those who do not understand Islam.

His words brought solace to those seeking vengeance against that which they feared. He spoke these words before the massacre at Beziers. Where one faith confronted a difference they perceived as a threat.

“Caedite eos. Novit enim Dominus qui sunt eius”

“Kill them all, God will recognize his own”

This is a country that once decided to put a man on the moon, built the technology to do it, and did it. How is it we cannot find the courage and conviction to protect our people?

The real tragedy here is that as a nation we have forgotten the great things we are capable of accomplishing.

Encouraged by a zealot on a crusade of intolerance, we chant slogans illustrating our ignorance. We ignore the foundation of fairness and justice upon which this country was built.

The blood of the victims of gun violence is on all our hands. Until we regain our rationality and work toward a real solution, more will come.

Selective Outrage

Once again this country is subjected to a dramatic incident of violence. In the rush to be first, the media outlets broadcast a constantly changing cacophony of half-truths and rumors.

Compounding the problem are the bloggers and reporter wannabes in their insular  agenda-driven worlds.

They were practically salivating at the conveniently ethnic origin of the suspect’s name. Whether it has any bearing on the truth or not.

Better to be first, than right.

The inevitable outcry by competing interests will flood the broadcast, print, and social media.

“More Gun Control!” “Less Gun Control!”

“Take away guns and only criminals will have guns.”

“Stop the Insanity”

“Guns don’t kill people, GMO’s do”

They’ll be the usual talk from the opposing political views that either this whole thing is Obama’s fault, or this is the consequence of interpreting the Second Amendment as inviolate.

And then it will fade away. The headline will be replaced, as it always is, by some other tragedy or scandal.

What happened in San Bernadino is a tragedy. A sad example of how much mankind has to go before they can truly be called civilized. Whatever fruitcake philosophy compelled these actions, be it a misinterpretation of religious doctrine or simple prejudice against those who are different, is repulsive.

How we respond will either set the course for positive change or doom us to an uncertain future.

Many will focus solely on classifying this as terrorism and incite the country to use its powerful military forces and bomb something, anything.

Somewhere else of course.

Nothing like the satisfaction one gets from watching the video of a cruise missile launch or a night-vision view of a target being obliterated.

But that will only mask the underlying problem.

The real tragedy here is that we fail to notice this is happening almost every day in our cities. In Chicago for the month of November this is what we apparently missed in the FOX, MSNBC, and CNN headlines.

Thirty-two people were shot and killed

One hundred and sixty-six were shot and wounded

That’s almost two hundred people and that’s just one city. That sounds like the statistics from a war zone. I dare say it is more dangerous to walk some neighborhoods in Chicago than it is in Kabul.

America can, and should, be better than that.

The necessary discussion on dealing with the very real problem of violence in this country will never happen as long as it is headline driven.

Be it a rational approach to firearms, the issue of racism or the propensity toward violence to settle differences, we need to use our intelligence and common sense here.

Not emotionally driven hyperbole.

We need to focus on the underlying problem. It is critical to the survival of this country. More so than idiotic causes that politicians so love to use to divert us from the real issue. The solutions are not easy, they are not found on Facebook and Twitter. They require thinking and courage. Surely there is an abundance of that in a free country.

Many good people turn to prayer at a time like this. But as the Dali Lama so well said,

“We cannot solve this problem only through prayers. I am a Buddhist and I believe in praying. But humans have created this problem, and now we are asking God to solve it. It is illogical. God would say, solve it yourself because you created it in the first place.”

Whether you believe or not, doesn’t matter to me. Whether you care enough to think this problem through and seek a solution does.

And one last point. You know who ran toward the carnage and danger when everyone else ran away?

Cops.

There are some dramatic images of the courage demonstrated by the officers involved. It would be nice if more people understood that is what cops do every day. And appreciated it.