Mass Killings and the Pursuit of Happiness

We Americans live submerged in hatred and contempt shouted out through social and mainstream media with a clarity and tone that would not have been accepted by our culture even 30 years ago. That din coupled with graphic violence depicted in TV dramas and the 24/7 news cycle, as well as in movies and videos, all complimented by the participatory violence and killing simulated in video games and by Mother Culture’s unending whispered reverence for the machinery of war, comprises the omnipresent violent and hateful ambience that blankets our daily lives.

Apparently, the vast majority of Americans can be immersed in these evil sights and sounds without being impacted in a dysfunctional way, but a tiny minority of citizens suffering from psychoses may not be able to ignore the din. If such a citizen, having lost some contact with reality, has access to weapons, it may be a small step from immersion in the unending chorus of hatred and the omnipresent simulation and representation of killing to actually doing the deed.

Outrage blasts from our devices when a mass killing occurs, but the outrage flies in the face of what is our national, collective tolerance of such evil, a tolerance betrayed by the fact that we are no closer to enacting strategies to end mass killings than we were after Charles Whitman terrorized the University of Texas campus in 1966. If we were not tolerant of mass killings, a nation that put humans on the moon would have found the antidote for this uniquely American disease.

Perhaps, as Lennon sang, “All we need is love,” but while believing and relying in the transformative power of love is a comforting thought, what leader in our nation has demonstrated the capacity to inspire it? Societal change ultimately must manifest itself through rational political will and policy, which requires that a critical mass of citizens demand specific action.

As long as we, en masse, continue to support our cultural ambiance of mocking intolerance, clarified hatred, and graphic representations of violence and killing, and as long as we collectively refuse to acknowledge the linkages among psychoses, weapons, and the toxic stew of our current culture, we should stop pretending that America is the greatest country on earth and acknowledge that we are a dark stain on the fabric of humanity.

Perhaps it is only when a critical mass of Americans viscerally feels our deserved national shame that we will truly commit ourselves to the declaration of our Founding Fathers: We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of HappinessRefusing to address our national shame in a constructive, compassionate way means many, many more Americans are certain to be left bloodied and broken on the ground and denied their unalienable rights for as far into the future as any of us are able to see.

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