I never cease to be surprised at the smug hypocrisy of the people who most loudly condemn the flower of gun violence while most ardently fertilizing its root.
It’s a pretty simple analogy. The flower of gun violence is crazy killers walking into schools or churches or whatever and shooting them up. So what’s the root?
You won’t like it. The root is modern culture.
It isn’t popular to say, but we’ve torn down every societal bulwark of mental health. We’re more bombarded with media now than ever in human history, from the Internet to television to music to video games, and the message we absorb is pretty seamless.
We’ve made fame the ultimate measure of value. We’ve made death into entertainment. Religion is a joke for stupid people. Traditional heroes are gleefully torn down. Humans are animals, mere accidents of biology, as insignificant and pointless as dust mites.
We’ve reached that stage in societal evolution where we’ve become so enamored with the idea of how enlightened we are that we blind ourselves to the ways that “enlightenment” has poisoned us.
And make no mistake: we’re all poisoned by it. Not just the weak-minded killers who snap and go shoot up schools. We all have guns in our heads, whether we point them at others or at ourselves. We all thrash for meaning, yearn for significance, but find nearly every traditional avenue of significance bulldozed by mockery and noise.
We used to strive to be like our heroes, but today those heroes are systematically dismantled and discredited.
We used to aim for pleasing our God, but God doesn’t exist anymore, and people who believe in him are uniformly condemned as small-minded, anti-intellectual haters.
We used to have a thing called patriotism, which while often flawed, gave us a sense of community and shared mission. Now we enjoy the destruction of that unity. We relish blaming the larger tribe, and happily participate in the deliberate fracturing of that tribe into smaller and smaller exclusive cliques.
We used to have science and intellectual curiosity and the pursuit of challenge. Now we have “scientific consensus” and endless floods of grant money assuring nothing less than seamless agreement. Now, perhaps for the first time in history, ignorance of the opposition’s argument is lauded as an intellectual virtue.
There was a time when media purveyors recognized the responsibility they carried. Now, we bristle at the slightest suggestion that maybe not every message is worth proclaiming, maybe not every entertainment is worth the cost to our overall mental/moral health.
Instead of taking responsibility for the mental mines we’ve buried in our cultural landscape, we whine shrilly about censorship.
We insist that violent video games don’t lead to violence. That hateful lyrics don’t cultivate hate. That deconstructing traditional values doesn’t deconstruct traditional morality.
And then, when violence and hate and amorality show up in our playgrounds, we are shocked.
We’re a nation of abject fools. We deliberately scatter tacks all over the floor, step on them, and blame the office supply store.
We encounter a hopeless culture penning a suicide note and help it by banning pens.
And somehow, amazingly, we feel smugly self-righteous about it.
We enjoy blaming gun owners, despite the fact that, traditionally, they are the ones contributing the least to the culture that grows killers. They tend to be the same people who’ve been saying for years “what about not making death into entertainment? What about not singing about killing and rape? What about a God who made people in his image and gave them significance? What about ascribing to be like heroes, even if those heroes are part myth?”
You know the people who’ve been saying those things, right? They’re the ones we’ve been mocking and belittling and stereotyping for the last few decades. Incredibly, they’re the ones we’re blaming now.
Gun violence is the flower of a long, vicious vine of narcissism, meaninglessness, deconstructionism, and irreverence.
Any gardener will tell you: when you encounter a poison weed, you don’t just chop off the flower. You don’t just hack away the leaves or even the vine. You have to rip that thing out by the root.
If you ignore the root, the poison plant just grows back bigger and stronger.
Personally, I’m throwing down the gauntlet. From President Obama on down: if you think the solution to gun violence is more gun control, not only are you not helping the issue, you’re making it worse. You are the problem. It isn’t just a mistake to focus on the poison flower and ignore the root. It’s criminally irresponsible. Any further blood is on your hands.
Let’s be perfectly, brutally blunt: The next time a broken lunatic walks into a school and starts shooting, it will be partly your finger on the trigger. Why? Because you blame the gun in the hand, not the culture that put the gun in the heart. Because you enjoy that culture too much to really consider what it cultivates.
So how do we stop this? How do we seriously and deliberately take control?
Simple. We stop consuming the poison culture that we’ve been feasting on.
If enough of us stop consuming it, they will eventually stop making it.
I don’t have a lot of faith that this will happen, of course. I’m an optimist, but a realist, and I don’t have a lot of faith in human nature. It probably won’t ever happen globally, or even nationally. But it can happen in your own heart. It can happen in our individual families. And if it does, who knows? Maybe it will spread.
Wouldn’t that be nice?
It may be a small thing, but at least then, the next time some tainted soul with a gun in its heart finally takes a gun into its hand, you can at least know you didn’t contribute to the poison root that grew it there. Your finger isn’t partly on the trigger.
You can be more than a self righteous prig nipping at the poison petals. You can be the gardener, digging out the root.