My emotions are as low today as ever I can remember as I work through the tragic news born in Newtown, Connecticut. Another slaughter of innocent lives, this time little children, at the hands of a youth with guns, ammo, a damaged mind, and a confused soul.
For me, this isn’t like 911. Then I was angry; someone from some far-away land was going to have to shoulder the blame and pay for what they did to us. Today, I simply feel lost because we, the American culture, are the ones who must shoulder the blame for what happened and begin paying back.
- 1998: 13 and 11 year olds kill 5, injure 10, Jonesboro, Arkansas middle school
- 1999: 18 year old kills 13, injures 24, Columbine, Colorado high school
- 2001: 15 year old kills 2, injures 13, Santee, California high school
- 2005: 16 year old kills 9, injures 7, Minnesota, Red Lake Indian reservation
- 2006: 32 year old kills 5, injures 5, Nickel Mines, Pennsylvania Amish high school
- 2007: 18 year old kills 5, injures 4, Salt Lake City, Utah shopping mall
- 2007: 23 year old kills 32, injures 17, Blacksburg, Virginia university campus
- 2007: 19 year old kills 8, injures 14, Omaha, Nebraska shopping mall
- 2008: 27 year old kills 5, injures 16, Dekalb, Illinois university lecture hall
- 2010: 34 year old kills 8, injures 2, Manchester, Connecticut family business office
- 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
What exactly has happened to our society where a list like this is so overwhelming, further punctuated by the thousands of nameless inner city and gangland murders perpetrated by our youth that are not considered rampage killings?
Laying it at the feet of some psychological disorder diagnosis housed in the mind of the gunman is pure intellectual cowardice. The only thing that does is allow the rest of us to feel better because it becomes someone else’s problem, another family’s responsibility. Americans would do well to acknowledge the insidious decay in our cultural values where they continue to collide with what many interpret as their own set of personal freedoms. Freedoms are great but become worthless and detrimental to society as a whole if they are not exercised with maturity, restraint, and responsibility. We seem to have lost sight of all three of these requirements in the American freedom equation.
Personal and moral failures at any level don’t carry the negative stigma they once did. Breaking society’s laws, even those little, seemingly inconsequential ones, mean nothing anymore and is routinely modeled by parents to their young ones. Breaking little rules leads to breaking larger norms as one gets older. The end result is a perpetual diminishing of cultural values. At the end of the day, what value does a human life have?
Even as a constitutional originalist and Second Amendment supporter, I believe a rational gun control debate has become necessary. One where the debaters recognize that guns have evolved greatly since 1791. It doesn’t have to be an all or nothing proposition that neuters the NRA, our Bill of Rights, or the American hunting tradition. But it does have to somehow find a way to keep us from lamenting that victims were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time.
It is high time for our judicial system to do its job with a little less compassion and much heavier hand. Our culture has lost its fear of the consequences of breaking societal rules. Gen X and the Millenials have become the No Fear generation. Minds that consider crime no longer consider the consequences that go with it because plea deals, suspended and reduced sentences, and early parole mitigate a criminal’s uncomfortable future. Cable television’s offerings even depict a macho glorification of penal life that has found a twisted audience in our society that actually aspires to doing time. Our society must put fear back into a criminal’s mind with hardcore sentencing that has intractable teeth. Watch the 1973 movie, Papillion. In our present light, there comes with it a desire to dismantle the death penalty, buy some islands, clean out the prisons, and remove two strike criminals from society forever. Compassionate, yet final. Bad actors shouldn’t be allowed to have three strikes.
What effect did Hollywood, video games, and the internet play in the minds of the 16 killers previously listed? My guess is pretty significant if one dissects the age demographic of the killers. What are we, as a culture, allowing the next generation to be exposed to for the financial gain of those who exploit their immaturity and under-developed moral sense?
My guess is that in the immediate days following the Newtown massacre, most Americans would welcome such a review and find it easy to connect the dots. Sadly, the short attention span of Americans has shown that this too shall pass. And our culture will continue to slide as we await the next horrific homegrown event.
12.14.12 was a tough day for me. My heart breaks for the families in Newtown. But my angst really comes from seeing that America, the shining city on a hill, is losing its sheen; and we have no one to blame but ourselves.
Scott Ruppert lives in Harpswell, ME and is a freelance writer for The Basicman Perspective and The Western Center for Journalism.
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