Ok. Let’s Talk Gun Control.

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Paretz Partensky Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Paretz Partensky Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by

Ok. Let’s talk gun control.

I’m writing this post for one purpose. That purpose is to talk about what so many of you evidently need to talk about: Gun control. It’s a big issue for these times, one that isn’t going to go away. We really do need to discuss it at Public Catholic, at the intersection of faith and public life.

This post is an attempt to separate the discussion from the post I wrote about the tragedy in Charleston. Getting into the gritty stuff of political discussion on that post makes me a bit queasy. I react as if we’re engaging in the mud pie throwing of a political discussion at a funeral.

I’m going to delete the posts that are incoming over there. Please move them here.

Now. To gun control.

The issues are black and white to everyone, on both sides of the argument. As usually happens in this time of terminal personal self-righteousness and culture war, everyone thinks the people on the other side of the debate are unreasonable demagogues with the consciences of serial killers.

I think — for what my thinking is worth — that both sides are trying to deal with the intractable problem of evil, manifesting itself in human actions, without acknowledging that this is what they are dealing with.

I am personally opposed to limiting second amendment rights beyond a few reasonable legal codicils. As usual, I have the votes to prove it.

But that does not mean that I think that people who favor gun control are acting out of ignorance or a craven desire to limit American freedoms. I think that they are good people who are focusing on a different set of dangers than I am.

That is a key point in this discussion: Both sides of the debate are advocating a dangerous position, and both sides refuse to see that their position is in fact a dangerous one to take. There are no easy, harmless solutions to the problem of the human propensity to murder other humans.

Among the dangers inherent in gun control is that it is first of all a cavalier approach to limiting a basic Constitutional right. It ignores the increase in the reach of government power and oversight of Americans that would be involved in such a change in the laws.

America is not Europe or even Canada. We are a heavily armed people. Here in Oklahoma, just about every home has at least one gun and most homes have several. Most Okies not only have guns, they know how to use them. They do use them, for target practice and hunting.

I’m pretty sure that this same situation prevails throughout most of the South and the Southwest. I wouldn’t be surprised if it didn’t also exist in other parts of the country, as well. The political realities of gun control legislation seem to indicate that there are a lot of Americans out there who keep and bear arms.

The bureaucratic measures of filling out forms and undergoing checks of various sorts that office holders keep proposing would not dent the gun violence and mass killings we’ve seen. Ideas about limiting access to ammunition have been floated. But the political realities of that idea are probably even more extreme than those for gun control.

Not only that, but a lot of Okies are perfectly capable of making their own bullets. They do it now, as a hobby. I imagine that’s true of other, non-Okie folks, as well.

Removal of guns, such as has happened in other countries, is where this argument has to go. That would result in draconian government intrusion into the lives of otherwise law-abiding citizens. It would also be even less effective than Prohibition was. The resistance from the public is not something I want to contemplate. Not only that, but, once again, Okies are perfectly capable of making their own guns, as are a lot of other people, I’m sure.

We need to be careful about making criminals of law-abiding citizens as a means of getting at a few individuals who are in the grip of a killing fever that the rest of us can’t explain or understand.

Also, mass murder is not just a function of guns. Fertilizer and gasoline will make a bomb. You can kill many innocent people and maim many others with it. You can blow up big buildings and murder little children with it. Rwanda suffered a genocide that slaughtered hundreds of thousands in a short time with clubs and machetes.

We deny the power of human ingenuity if we seriously think that limiting access to a category of inanimate objects will stop these mass murders.

It is a simple historical fact that we did not suffer these repeated mass killings earlier in the history of this country. Guns were even more ubiquitous in our past, but the tragedy of one or two people randomly killing strangers, co-workers or fellow students for no apparent reason is a relatively recent phenomena.

It’s the people themselves who have changed. And this is a result of societal breakdown that evidently predicates toward the creation of psychopaths and rage killers.

This leads me to the dangers of opposing gun control. People are being killed. We know that what happened in Charleston has happened before. We know that it will happen again. And again.

We know, whether we will admit it or not, that it takes less time and is easier to pick up a gun than it is to build a bomb. It’s neater and cleaner to kill people with the squeeze of a forefinger on a trigger than it is to build a bomb, swing a club or wield a machete.

The trouble with this entire debate is that it is about inanimate objects which are only tools, rather than the tool wielders. I think this is because we do not want to face what we have wrought.

These killings are not about mental illness. Mentally ill people, like guns, have been with us long before these killings started. They are also not about poverty, or racism.

While one murderer may kill a school full of little Amish girls and another murders black people at a prayer meeting, their brothers in murder may decide to go on a military base and start shooting, or to their place of employment or even to the local McDonalds. They may, as I remarked earlier, build a bomb, put it in a truck and park the truck under a day care center.

The evil is not in the guns. The evil is not in the fertilizer. The evil is not in the truck.

The evil is in the young men who commit these murders. More to the point, the evil is in the society that built the young men.

The one constant is that the murderers are nearly all young men. Most of them are from privileged backgrounds. They are not hungry, battered, sexually molested or on drugs. We say they are mentally ill, and some of them may be. But others clearly are not. All of them have sufficient wits to plan and commit what are fairly complicated acts of mass murder.

This problem we are dealing with is a symptom of a larger societal sickness. And that is what we don’t want to face.

The entire gun control debate is ruse of sorts that lets us believe in the lie of simple solutions and one-off fixes. Focusing on gun control allows us the luxury of avoiding the deeper discussions of what has gone wrong in our society that, after around 150 years of gun ownership without these mass murders, has been plunged into the hell of seeing them happen over and over again.

That discussion, which would take us into the subterranean world of the things we dare not say, is one that we are willing to accept mass murder and maybe even give up our freedoms to avoid.

But it is the only discussion that has a hope of yielding ideas which might actually address the problem.

 

 

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Some Things, You Don’t Forget.

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Joseph Novak https://www.flickr.com/photos/josephleenovak/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Joseph Novak https://www.flickr.com/photos/josephleenovak/

Sunday was the 20th anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing.

I wasn’t going to mention it on this blog, but I’ve decided that I should. I remember that day as if it just happened. Some things, you don’t forget.

 

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Book Review: American Militarism vs the Kingdom of God

Fight To join the discussion about Fight A Christian Case for Nonviolence, or to order a copy, go here

Fight is an ironic name for a book that is a polemic on the Christian call to nonviolence.

The book’s author, Preston Sprinkle, wrote the book in response to and as a conversation with America’s militaristic evangelical community. Even though I have a few problems with some of his interpretations of specific scriptures, I think he’s got a point. In fact, I think he’s dead-on accurate in many of his conclusions.

I remember seeing a video of one of our preachers here in Oklahoma City. This preacher was speaking (I can not regard his speech as a sermon of any sort) to a thoroughly roused-up and enormous congregation. Since the speech was going out over the airwaves, his actual audience was much larger.

This preacher was charging up and down the stage, mike in hand, using all the theatrics at his disposal. He would bend over and lower his voice to make a bottom dropping point at one place, and then straighten up and shout out his next point. It wasn’t a sermon. It was a performance.

And it wasn’t even vaguely Christian.

This man was taking verses out of the Bible to weave a totally fallacious case that somehow or other Jesus supported invading Iraq.

He had his audience in the palm of his hand. After all, most of them came to this particular church because they liked performances for their sermons and because they wanted “christian teaching” that would get them going emotionally while making them feel great about whatever they wanted to do in the first place.

The audience cheered and yelled like they were at a football game.

I haven’t seen many things that disgusted me more than this performance sermon and its clearly heretical mis-use of Holy Scripture to support a war.

I knew, even then, that the whole Iraq invasion was a sham. This was an unnecessary war that we were going into for reasons that had nothing to do with what we were being told. I have never understood why anyone would have had trouble seeing through the excuses for this war.

I also saw that if America’s Christian community did not stop using Christ to justify war, it would eventually destroy itself. People will follow the theological heresy of militarism so long as if feels good. But, as Europe has shown us, bombed out buildings and gas ovens do tend to dim the luster of it.

War is an almost preposterous evil. The Civil War general, William Tecumseh Sherman, the same General Sherman who burned Atlanta and waged war on the civilian population in his infamous march to the sea, said that war is hell.

He was right.

A friend of my husband’s went to view the federal building after the bombing here in Oklahoma City. “That is nothing,” she said as she gazed at the ruins. “Nothing.”

She had lived through war waged on a large scale. She had, in her youth, seen whole cities razed to bombed out hulks, human beings burnt to ash as they hid in their bomb shelters.

We are so soft when horror comes to us. We can not bear our losses, cannot abide our pain. But we treat war itself, which is savagery writ unimaginable, as if it was a computer game. Maybe we do that because we can switch our wars off in the same way that we switch off computer games.

There is very little reportage of what is happening on the perpetual warfront that America has embarked on. We bomb and slay without the rest of us here at home knowing about it. Our best hint of what is happening is when we see our own soldiers, returning to us with shattered bodies and — often — shattered minds.

Something ugly is out there on the other side of the endless rambles of the talking heads debating their endless gaffe reporting about what some politician said to a friend in an elevator or mumbled under his or her breath when he or she thought the mike was off. Something really ugly is out there, but we can’t see it, don’t know about it.

Our only real intimation is that we hear constantly about our national debt. We are told that the cause of this debt is us. It’s Social Security and Medicare. It’s the public schools. The whole debt and economic malaise of this country is the fault of those who pay the bills: The American people. No one mentions, no one even whispers, that we are funding a war colossus that asks for more, more, more ever single year and has been doing so since World War II.

We never talk about that 800 lb gorilla sitting in the middle of the room eating all the bananas. Such talk would be unpatriotic. It would mean that we don’t want to “defend ourselves” against all those people out there “who want to kill us.”

Militarism is a false idol. It is also, according to the author of Fight, anti-Scriptural and anti-Christian.

Fight takes the reader on a survey of the Scriptures from the viewpoint of looking at God’s teachings about war and militarism. Notice that militarism is a category that is distinct from war. One is an action of government-sponsored violence. The other is an outlook, a belief in war itself. It is an idol.

A large part of what Mr Sprinkle writes about the Old Testament necessarily focuses on discerning what God meant, rather than what He said. This is important to all Christians because the Old Testament seems in many ways to challenge the New Testament. Western Civilization is at its best when it is responding to the clear teachings of the New Testament, and at its worst when it looks for excuses for its murderous impulses in the Old Testament.

How are Christians meant to understand the seeming contradictions in attitude between the two covenants?

Mr Sprinkle does a fine job of presenting his answer to this, at least so far as it concerns war and war making. Fight is a well-written, well-researched presentation of his viewpoint concerning violence, war and the call of all Christians to follow Christ, even to the cross.

I don’t honestly know what I think about some of the points he makes. I need to think them through first before I can say. But I do think the book is a good read that opens a debate American Christians need to have.

I do not want to see Christians in this country fall into the trap that Christians fell into in Nazi Germany of supporting militarism right down to the pit of hell.

I am not and never have been a pacifist. I believe in self defense. That would seem to put me outside the ideal Mr Sprinkle is advocating. However, I cannot deny that his presentation is compelling.

My main interest in his book is that it starts a needful conversation. I remember that preacher charging around the stage, preaching what was clearly the heresy of militarism to a cheering crowd. I see this country edging ever closer to economic ruin while we feed our resources into the maw of a war machine. And I know that we must change or die.

 

 

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Did I Ever Once Pray?

I am trying to remember if I ever once prayed for the perpetrators of the Oklahoma City bombing.

I know I prayed — and fervently — that the FBI would get the right person or persons. The only thing worse than being a victim of one of these things would be to be accused of it and not have done it.

I wanted the right people to get got.

I think I prayed before the execution of one of the perpetrators. I remember I was upset about the idea of them strapping him down and killing him like he was an animal in a slaughter house. I never confused him with an animal. I always knew he was human and that what he had done was a specifically human act.

I did not want him executed. But once he was dead, I was glad that I would never have to hear any of his comments or words again. I was glad his ashes were scattered. I did not want him to have a grave where people would go and take photos of each other standing beside his marker. I wanted him forgot.

But … did I ever pray for his soul? I think I did, on the day of his execution. But I’m honestly not sure.

I’ve never prayed for it since then. I can tell you that.

I spent far too much time back then, thinking about the perpetrators of this mass murder. It was so premeditated. They planned it and worked toward it for months, robbing for money and resources that they stockpiled until they had enough to build a bomb. This was beyond deliberate. It was something these men worked toward the way better people work toward college degrees or buying their first home. It was a long-term goal for them.

I couldn’t wrap my mind around that. I could not fathom that someone would get up in the morning and go to work building a bomb to kill other people and that they could do it for months. Why would anyone think this was a good idea?

Then, one day, I realized that I would never understand and that I didn’t need to understand. 

I can’t understand Beethoven, either. But for different reasons. I hear the Fifth Symphony and I know that he heard it before he ever wrote a note. He heard all of the instruments in his mind. He heard them individually and together simultaneously. He heard it and he wrote it down with musical notes on a piece of paper so that we could hear it too.

How did he do that? How can anyone do what Beethoven did? I don’t understand because I do not have the talent to fly that high.

Conversely, I don’t understand these cold-blooded killers because I can’t bend down that low. You have to squeeze yourself into a painfully small box to think like these murderers do. You have to amputate large parts of your soul and psyche to shrink it down to something small enough to even begin to comprehend why and how they could decide that doing something like this was a worthy project.

Every time one of these things happens, we are inundated with comments from people who tell us that the killer seemed like one of us. But of course, that’s not true. They’re not like us, at least not in the only thing about them that matters to the rest of us; their murderous desires. The “normal Joe” mass murderer is an ironic viewpoint perpetrated on the rest of us to titillate and engage us. It is not true.

I don’t know and I don’t care why and how they are different. That’s the job of FBI profilers and others with a calling and a dedication that I don’t have.

I suppose, after I write this, I’m going to have to pray for the perpetrators of the Oklahoma City bombing. It’s not going to be easy. I will first have to dig them out from the box where I put them long ago.

The one labeled “Trash.”

 

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Second Suspect is in Custody

Police took the second suspect in the Boston bombing in custody tonight. 

I watched it from about 5 pm CST. Reporters had to fill the airtime with commentary while the police worked to arrest the suspect without killing him. That gave me a chance to hear all the rumors and web-spinning that surrounds this case. This is an inevitable fog-of-war thing that happens naturally with these tragedies. Most of these rumors will prove to be inaccurate, so I’m going to let that shake itself out without adding to the confusion here on this blog.

The FBI did a great job, and I imagine they are going to continue doing a great job throughout the rest of this investigation. This person is in custody. They say he is injured and in serious condition. The story is that 3 other people have also been arrested, but no one in the press knows why.

It took four days to get the photos of the murderers to the public. It took five days to get them both out of circulation and either in the morgue or in custody.

I will never put the names of these killers on this blog. I ask everyone else to respect that and do the same in their comments. Do not curse or revile them. They aren’t worth it.

God bless Boston. God bless America. 

Martin Richard, 8

Krystle Campbell, 29

Lingzi Lu, 23

Officer Sean Collier, 26

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Boston, Sandy Hook, Aurora: Maintaining an Even Strain in the Face of Repeated Atrocity


Oklahoma City is a smaller town than Boston. 

I know people who were grievously injured in the Oklahoma City bombing. They have lost their homes and jobs because of the injuries. Some of the survivors will require care from their families for the rest of their lives.

America reached out to us during the days after that horrible event. Huge amounts of money were donated. Despite this, families of the injured have been forced into bankruptcy and ultimately been left to deal with the after affects themselves.

We are going to have to get used to these tragedies.

They appear to be coming at us Wham! Wham! Wham! We need to learn how to maintain an even strain in the face of them and still take care of the victims and their families.

We also need to go after the perpetrators, which, I believe, we will. I’ll save the conversation concerning our society’s overwhelming need for conversion for a later post.

Today, I want to talk about what “maintaining an even strain” in the face of repetitive atrocity means in real life. I’m going to link to a video showing how the people on the ground in Boston responded to the bombing. They swung into action immediately. They went to the aid of the injured and they did it calmly, cooperatively and, in my opinion, the way that Americans have always done it.

We do this every time, don’t we? Americans don’t run away from each other when we’re in trouble. We reach out and help each other. Boston was no exception.


I’m also going to put a link to at least one place where you can donate money.
The owner of the Boston Patriots has set up a matching program for donations for the survivors. Go to this link and donate a few dollars. If you don’t have much, just give $5 or $10. If enough of us do that, it will add up, fast.

If you learn of other legitimate links, feel free to post them in the combox. But please do your best to make sure they are reputable.

Another suggestion I’m going to make is that we consider forming support groups for specific survivors of these atrocities in our Altar Societies, parish Knights of Columbus, etc. The reason I described the hardship survivors of the Oklahoma City bombing have been through is because genuine caring doesn’t end when the ratings go down and the news media skips on to the next big thing. 

There are people who survived the shooting in Aurora who will probably need help for a long time. That is almost certainly the same in Boston. The rescue workers are also going to suffer from this for a long time.

All these people need both financial and emotional support that is on-going and long-lasting. 

Here are things you can do that will make a difference:

1. Pray for them — by name, if you know their names. Pray for them every day. Include them — again by name, if you know their names — in your group prayers, your family bed time prayers, etc. Take the trouble to learn about at least one of these people and adopt them for prayer intercession on an on-going basis.

2. Send them a card. Not a card “to the victims,” but a card addressed to them using their own name. Tell them that you are praying for them and that you care about them. Then, in a couple of months, send another card. Next Christmas, send them a Christmas card. Lift them up as long as they are down.

3. Consider doing an altar society bake sale or a Knights candy sale and using the proceeds to help pay the medical expenses of this one person you have adopted.

4. Write corporations such as Nike who have an interest in the Marathon and ask them to also start a matching donation fund for the victims’ on-going medical expenses.

5. Put activities in place that we will follow after each one of these tragedies. We may need to set up atrocity prayer chains that we activate every time another one of these things happens.

The important thing is to stop wringing our hands and asking “How could this happen?” We need to get on with the business of taking care of each other in the aftermath.

Here is the video I spoke of earlier. Notice that the person holding the camera is in shock, but he keeps on filming. I would guess that the people who were moving barricades were in shock, too. But they didn’t flinch and they didn’t run away. That’s what Americans do when the going gets tough.

YouTube Preview Image

 

You can donate to the survivors here. Be sure to indicate that you want your donation to go to the Boston Marathon bombing survivors.

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We are Going to Have to Learn to Live with This

 

We have to learn to live with this.

Aurora, Sandy Hook, the Boston Marathon.

The names are like a slow beat sounding out grief and sorrow.

They don’t cover the “smaller” tragedies and the near tragedies. They also don’t speak of the Amish girls, Columbine, Virginia Tech, Oklahoma City.

We talk about gun control, but gun control is no defense against pressure cookers loaded with ball bearings or rental trucks filled with fertilizer mixed with jet fuel.

In truth, we can not seal ourselves in a room small enough, we can not pass laws limiting enough to be safe. We are dealing with murderous humans. Humans are too smart for us to ever stop them with our prohibitions, metal detectors and regulations. We are like dogs, chasing our own tails with that approach.

Our society, our world, needs conversion.

But before we can even begin that basic task we have to face a single reality: We are going to have to learn to live with this. 

The “this” we must learn to live with is the steady beat of the murderous metronome of casual killing that has become part of the fabric of our lives. Whether the killer of the day is a mass murdering young man with a high-powered weapon, a terrorist with a recipe for mayhem or a serial killer hiding in the shadows, the thing that drives them is always the same. It is, as a reader of this blog said in an unconnected quote, an ability to “not consider the person” who will die.

Murder is made possible by a disconnect from the suffering of others. It is, in the final analysis, the most extreme failure of empathy. Not, notice, as we like to say, a “failure of love.” It is not necessary to love someone to refrain from killing them. But it is necessary to separate from their humanity, to objectify them and to not “consider” them and what you are about to do to them.

This nation has been raising up psychopaths the way we once raised up artists and inventors. At the same time, we live in a world of directed psychopathy that creates terrorism, which is nothing more than the murder of innocent civilians.

If we are ever going to change any of this, we will have to face the fact that we need to do more than reach for another quick fix through regulation, safety protocols and prohibitions. We can not give up enough of our freedoms to make ourselves safe from one another.

The only way to become safe from other people is to structure our society in such a way that we end the continuous abuse and disregard of our children. We must stop raising up psychopaths. To do that, we’ve first got to admit that we are doing something wrong. I see a complete refusal to acknowledge that running throughout our public discourse.

Even if we woke up tomorrow, resolved to re-shape our homes, families, schools and institutions along healthy, nurturing lines, it would take time to turn this vast ship of  disintegration away from its current path toward the rocks of social dissolution. Since there is very little hope that we will do this, we are out of alternatives.

We are going to have to learn to live with this.

If we are going to stay sane as individual people, we must accept the reality of our lives for what they are. That means accepting that Boston, Sandy Hook, Aurora, the Amish school girls, Virginia Tech, Columbine, Oklahoma City and even 9/11 are not isolated events. They are part of our national life. They are what happens. We have to face the horror of their having happened and add the certainty that they will happen again on top of it, then learn to live with this bitter knowledge.

I am not preaching and teaching a course in despair with this post. I am trying to bring us down to the hard cold reality of our situation.

We are going to have to learn to live with this. 

That does not mean that we have to learn to accept it. It means that we have to stop viewing each horror as a separate event and realize that they are all connected in the psyches of those who commit them. This indifference of killers to the people they kill is not new. The blood of innocents has cried out from the ground since people left the garden.

God gave us the only answer to this. Those of us who are Christians have it, if we will just use it.

We are going to have to get used to this, this blood-soaked world in which we live. But we do not need to dive into despair and hopelessness because of it. We must, for the sake of our sanity, stop letting these horrible events take us over and cast us down. We have to get used to it and live with it and move on past it.

We need to focus on the message that we as Christians are the only ones equipped to bring: There is no death. Life has meaning. Everything we do in this life matters in eternity. 

Get up off your bed of grief and despair and Catholic on. Turn off the tv and go to work. Take care of your family, clean your house, do your job and live. Pray for the injured, the dead and those who love them. If you are able to help them directly, do it. If not, you can help them best by maintaining the order and stability of the society in which they live.

We are going to have to learn to live with this. The time to begin is now. 

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Affixing Blame

It’s a fact that we learn more from our failures and tragedies than we do from our victories. 

When something goes right, we usually high-five each other and then sit around the proverbial campfire rehashing our brilliance and everything we did right. What we don’t do is learn anything. We’re too happy with the way things went.

But when something goes wrong; when we lose, when tragedy strikes, we go into paroxysms of self-analysis as we struggle to learn what went wrong and how we can fix it. This impulse to think tragedy through to ideas for avoiding another tragedy in the future is intelligent and useful. It’s the basis for things like painfully reconstructing crashed airliners to try to learn what broke or what happened to bring the bird down. It’s the reason for medical review boards. It’s why police go over and over an officer’s death.

Done this way, the self-analysis that comes after our painful flops and falters is good, productive and wise.

But there is another side. The aftermath of tragedy, the first quick take of emotion, is usually a blur of pain and confusion. Especially with something like the tragedy at Sandy Hook, there is a desire to avoid and blur both the questions and the answers to the omnipresent “Why?” that haunts us. We don’t want to face any part of it. So, we are tempted to go out searching for someone or something else to take the load of responsibility for facing up to what it all means. We want a scapegoat.

In truth, there are potential scapegoats aplenty in the aftermath of a mass murder, especially one so incomprehensible as these mass shootings and bombings by anti-social young men. But we have to be careful how we chose these scapegoats. We don’t want to pick something that would require us to change. We don’t want to point our fingers at ourselves.

No, we are looking for something or someone easy, outside our normal activities and unable to defend themselves. That’s the impetus behind the outrage of much of the pundit class against Mike Huckabee’s hapless comment. While most people are shocked into silence by these horrors, some people talk uncontrollably. They react to their own internal confusion in the face of tragedy beyond comprehension with cravings for a quick fix of faux outrage. If it hadn’t been Mike Huckabee, it would have been someone else. Every time we have a tragedy, the faux outrage crowd latches onto something some person says. They need a quickie scapegoat.

Of course, faux outrage at accidental verbal missteps wears thin after a time. It is about such a nothing and it is so completely devoid of significance that it simply uses up its own oxygen and goes out like a match.

This leaves the rest of us with the question of what slot we can fit these dysfunctional young men with murder in their hearts into. In truth, they are such bizarre little monsters that we find it difficult to identify with them enough to really have a good go at scapegoating them. Where’s the “out” for the rest of us in looking at people who are so emotionally ugly that they are flat and one-dimensional to the point of incomprehensibility?

We tend to exalt our mass murderers in this country. Charles Manson, John Wayne Gacy, the BTK Killer and Ted Bundy get more television coverage than any legitimate celebrity I know of. We hype serial killers into evil gods in our entertainment, making them not only glamorous, but in many ways better — more talented, intelligent and purposeful — than the rest of us.

But somehow, these one-off killers who go to our schools, our movies, our workplaces and just start killing don’t seem so interesting. Killing little Amish girls, blowing up day care centers and murdering first graders just doesn’t seem so much the effort of an evil god as it does the work of plain, unvarnished evil in all its ugliness and banality. More to the point, when someone goes into a movie theater and shoots people, it could have been us they killed.

Still, we do need our scapegoats. Otherwise, we might have to take an honest look at our whole suicidal society and acknowledge that we have become a people that raises up sociopaths in abundance. We would have to admit that there’s more wrong here than gun laws that are over 200 years old and never produced this mayhem before. We might have to see that our many excesses on numerous levels are so dysfunctional that they’ve turned our homes and our society into monster factories.

This lends an especially frantic quality to the search for scapegoats. We need someone to blame; someone who isn’t us.

Unfortunately for us, these young men often come from backgrounds and situations that we’ve been taught to admire and seek for ourselves. These aren’t ghetto kids. They aren’t minorities. They aren’t poor, uneducated or stupid. They aren’t even physically ugly.

Are we supposed to scapegoat the upper middle class? Are we expected to decry family life in our best neighborhoods, our wealthiest school districts and among our most well-educated and successful citizenry?

This is what we all want to be: Rich, successful, going to the best schools, regarded as brilliant.

No wonder we look at young men who kill and blame the guns they are holding. If we don’t, we’re going to have to take a look at something that not only comes from the abyss, but that defies all our well-oiled aspirations.

Blame is our game and we need something to hook that blame onto. We need an object, an idea, a reason that will answer the why of these killings without confronting us with ourselves. The problem with this approach is that it is the antithesis of the painstaking reconstruction that happens after an airliner crashes. It has nothing to do with the honesty and learning process of medical and police review boards.

Rather than helping us come to a true understanding of what is wrong so that we can begin the process of fixing it, the blame game and its hurry-up urgency to do something simple, makes sure we will never understand. If we can affix blame on inanimate objects and then rush, rush, rush to do something about them, then we will be able to avoid doing the painful self-analysis of a legitimate search for answers.

Until it happens again.

Which it will.

Because we didn’t do anything useful with our blame-game and quick fix.

Here’s a for instance. It is a fact that people with red hair are more likely to get skin cancer. So, in the blame-game way of thinking, we would blame the red hair. Ergo, what we should do to avoid skin cancer is to dye our hair black.

That’s the kind of thinking we are trying to employ in our dealings with these mass murdering young men. Maybe we should take away assault rifles. That may be one of the things we need to do. But if that’s all we do, I can promise you, it won’t stop these mass murderers from mass murdering.

Since I will have to vote on at least some of these issues, those are more than words, much more than a political pose to me. How to save lives and preserve freedom, how to convert a culture that finds offense in the idea that it needs conversion; those are the questions. I don’t believe that the answers lie entirely in political battles and legislation. Neither do I believe that the people of this nation are ready to hear that.

I’m not so sure that a nation of people who are addicted to pointing fingers at other people and who refuse to give even one inch in any of their personal opinions and shibboleths can deal with these murderers among us. I question whether we have the honesty and the will to save ourselves from ourselves.

I do know that these young men did not spring fully-formed from the forehead of Zeus. They were made over long periods of time, partly by their heredity, partly by their homes, but mostly by our society. We are teaching them to kill.

Until we face that, we will never “do something” that will end this long nightmare of violence.

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