The events in Newtown, Connecticut will hopefully jump start a national conversation. That’s about the only solace I can take from the senseless murder of 20 schoolchildren in a classroom.
This conversation ought to transcend minutiae like the specifics of gun laws and gun show loopholes (although there will be a time for redressing these inanities). I don’t want to hear about how we “need more God in our schools”, as if ol’ Jesus would have sent down a thunderbolt, Zeus-like, to prevent Adam Lanza from firing wantonly at kindergartners, if only we hadn’t halted compulsory prayer in our schools.
That’s all you will hear about over the coming weeks, in this highly charged partisan echo chamber of red state/blue state, FoxNews/MSNBC. And it’s all irrelevant. The fundamental questions will get buried beneath an avalanche of op eds and monologues advocating for or against the highlighted “issue” of the moment. The important questions will never get asked.
What has become of our culture? Who are we? Why do we glorify violence and mayhem? Why have we embraced pre-emptive war and torture and rendition and robotic drones raining down death and destruction in far away lands? We do we countenance the non-prosecution of Wall St fraudsters? Why have we waged an unsuccessful 30 year drug war (with militarized local SWAT teams) that overwhelmingly targets the poor and forlorn? Why are video games like Call of Duty and Assassins Creed ubiquitous in the rec rooms of 12-year old boys? Why are we the only advanced western country without a national health care system for all? Why is the national sport a modern day gladiatorial contest, leaving its combatants wracked with the cognitive and psychiatric consequences of long term brain injury? Why would a rational American respond to the murder of children in a school by posting a picture of this on Facebook?
Who are we?
What is this nation of Americans?
What have we become?
A culture in the throes of decadence, one that embraces hypocrisy and degeneracy ought not to be surprised when the more disturbed elements of society act out in ways that stretch the bounds of pure unfathomable evil. We are now inured to mere everyday evil. The deranged psychopaths in our midst must come up with ever more creative acts of intransigence to draw our gaze. It requires the massacre of innocent children in classrooms to get our attention. That which was once unimaginable is now the only option left for attention-seeking deviants.
We are all responsible for this atrocity, to some degree. Our civilization’s survival depends on a thorough reckoning with our own sins. We must look in the mirror and acknowledge reflections of horror. Our rotten core cannot be hidden any longer. There is still time to salvage our souls. Together, as a nation, we must seek our collective penance and redemption. The words of Dostoevsky are uncomfortably appropriate at a time like this:
There is only one salvation for you: take yourself up, and make yourself responsible for all the sins of men. For indeed it is so, my friend, and the moment you make yourself sincerely responsible for everything and everyone, you will see at once that it is really so, that it is you who are guilty on behalf of all and for all. Whereas by shifting your own laziness and powerlessness onto others, you will end by sharing in Satan’s pride and murmuring against God.
Hug your sons and daughters tight this Christmas season.
Jeffrey Parks is a general surgeon who blogs at Buckeye Surgeon.
Image credit: Associated Press