Another mass shooting has the country grieving and raging.
So many arguments amidst the anguish and tears. Our hearts are bleeding, and our words are gushing out unfiltered because we are so angry and heartbroken.
News outlets and social media are on fire with accusations from all sides: it’s a gun problem, a mental health issue, a dysfunctional family situation, a death culture atmosphere, a law enforcement failure, or simply a triumph of evil.
Most of us can see it’s a toxic mix of all six factors.
But, at the root of all of those is the human heart factor. And that never seems to make it into the national dialogue. This is the crucial, missing piece.
I think we don’t spend time on this aspect, because if we take into consideration human will, human choice, human mistakes and failures, then we have to take responsibility for our actions. All of us. We have to face the fact that we can be fearful and selfish and hateful. All of us. And once we realize that, we then have no grounds to be righteous about what others have done/should be doing, because we discover we are no better (or worse) than they are.
We are humbled.
However, it’s only from a humble posture that we will solve any of the issues above.
Regarding gun control: It’s justifiable to have more checks for/more barriers to gun purchases. It’s reasonable that civilians have no access to military-style weapons. It’s also unreasonable to blame the NRA for every act of gun violence that occurs. Legislators who are willing to meet halfway (humility desperately needed here) can draft and pass guns laws that will decrease the incidents of gun-related violence. And they should.
Unfortunately, these laws won’t eliminate every act. Because mental health issues, broken families, a culture that glorifies violence, human failure, and a human heart that is bent toward evil are still factors in play. Stricter gun laws are certainly needed, but they will not eradicate the problem, and it’s misguided to isolate the solution to this factor alone.
Re: mental health issues/family environment. Until we address and commit to better screenings/treatments for the mentally ill, this component will continue to be with us. So, yes, we must apply attention and funds to correcting this contributing factor. We all agree here.
However, many disordered minds stem from dysfunctional family relationships – addictions, abuse, neglect, abandonment. So, we need to commit to our marriages and to our parenting and to putting children first. It’s crucial that we take responsibility for the offspring we bring into the world, and we need to accept the sacrifices that come with raising decent, compassionate human beings.
I understand that we parents resist looking at our weakness/failures. It’s painful. I have regrets about my own parenting journey that I’ve had to examine. But, it’s imperative that we humble ourselves and summon the courage to address our deficiencies. Only then can we course correct. We can always do better…if we want to. But, we won’t do better if we don’t look at ourselves honestly.
Parallel to that, we need to improve the foster care system and simplify the adoption process. We need to believe that every child is valuable and worthy of our time and protection. And we have to acknowledge that sanctioning abortion has eroded this mindset.
Ego-protective adults don’t safeguard children; humbled adults do.
Re: our death culture. Video games, movies, music lyrics, TV shows – for two decades now, we’ve known that exposure to violent “entertainment” can impact/influence young, developing brains. Yet, we’re not livid about the endless stream of brutal material that is produced. We get indignant about gun control, but we welcome entertainment that celebrates the perpetrator being annihilated by massive bullet wounds. The duplicity here is baffling and disturbing.
We can’t ingest a regular diet of violence “for fun” and then expect the young and upcoming to be unaffected by that. A humble approach, which always looks at the broader picture, can see long-term effects. It brings a protective viewpoint to the issue, because its focus is not “what works for me, what I enjoy,” or “what makes a profit,” but rather “what’s healthy/safe for the most vulnerable?” The humbled heart will always consider those most unguarded, or susceptible to harm (the young, the elderly, the disabled, the mentally ill, the disadvantaged.)
Re: human failure. When we are sorrowful or outraged, it’s human nature to look for something or someone to blame for whatever has occurred. If we can hold someone accountable, the destruction will make more sense; we can place the catastrophe in a tidy box and learn how to prevent the awful thing from happening again.
Sometimes this works; we often do learn from/correct our mistakes. Recalls occur when shiploads of spinach contain E coli, or a child’s toy has proved to be a choking hazard. Since 9/11, 30+ terrorism plots have been prevented because the FBI studied and absorbed and adapted. (Unfortunately, we rarely hear about the ongoing efforts of good people to keep us safe. This is something that needs to change as well.)
But, sometimes we fail completely, as in the case of the Parkland shooting. The FBI had some indication that the shooter was a possible threat (as did the school), but for some reason, there was an insufficient response, and the massacre unfolded. Should the FBI be held accountable? Absolutely. Should FBI protocols be examined? Immediately. Human error is another component in this tragedy that must be scrutinized. We should always strive to do the best we can, but we will never get it right all the time, because the human condition is not a flawless one.
Of course we wonder if FBI protocols had been followed, would the 17 deceased victims still be alive? Maybe, but we don’t know that for sure. Three other contributing factors were still present: a mentally disturbed young man with a legally purchased AR-15 rifle and a mindset that human life is easily disposable.
Lastly, the cruel and terrifying reality is that in this imperfect world evil sometimes succeeds. On a grand scale, consider the Holocaust, Pol Pot’s regime, the American Indian genocide, and the slave trade. History has also seen a string of serial killers like Charles Manson, John Wayne Gacy, Ted Bundy, and Jeffrey Dahmer. In its most depraved and narcissistic bent, the human heart is capable of monstrous evil.
And unbridled arrogance is the rancid seed from which evil grows.
It’s present in Washington, where legislators won’t compromise or cede any “perceived” power when it comes to creating new, or at least enforcing current, gun laws. It’s present when they believe they’re entitled to the positions they hold.
It’s present in the rest of us when we believe we’re entitled to the positions we hold. When we place our desires/agenda above those who will be hurt by them. When we don’t look at the bigger picture, or the long-term effects of our behavior.
It’s present when we fill social media with snide or bigoted remarks about who’s to blame for the most recent tragedy when we ourselves don’t vote, don’t volunteer, don’t compromise in our own negotiations, don’t admit our mistakes, and don’t sacrifice for someone else’s benefit. Sadly, humility is not our strength.
No question, the Parkland shooter is absolutely responsible for this tragedy. But not exclusively.
Killers do not grow up in a vacuum. And dark hearts are not created by one factor alone.
Painful to say, but we have created a society that enables the kind of destruction that occurred in Parkland, Florida (my state.) Bit by bit and year and year, we become more self-absorbed and more immune to the ills of the world.
To a small extent, it’s understandable. We’re tired. Life is hard, and the world’s problems seem staggering and insurmountable. Even God knows we will never repair everything, because we are free-will creatures, and there will always be some who choose to demean and destroy. But God does propose a pathway that has the power to transform the human heart.
We just need to embrace it.
“Your task—to build a better world,” God said.
I answered, “How? This world is such a dark, vast place, so complicated now.
And I, so small and ill-equipped, there’s nothing I can do.”
But God, in all his wisdom said,
“Just build a better you.”