The great tragedy of the mass murders in an Aurora, Colo., movie theater on Friday is that this too will soon be just a distant memory for a nation so steeped in a culture of violence that such horrors seem to be inevitable.
The same questions are being asked now as were asked after the April 1999 killing of 12 students and a teacher at Columbine High School, also, ironically, in Colorado, by two students: How could this have happened? What could have been done to prevent it?
Until the next time.
The brutal truth is that there will be a next time and a next time after that – until we totally repudiate the notion already deeply implanted in our psyche that this is the price we pay for being an open society, that we must own guns to be free, the more powerful the weapon, the greater the freedom. It is not. We do not have to continue living under the gun as a way of life.
We can, and should, go the obvious route and begin enforcing whatever little gun control legislation exists and then expand the law to rein in this horrible infatuation with guns. But the reality is that is not likely to happen anytime soon. For one thing, there is the power of the National Rifle Association, the gun manufacturing lobby that masquerades as a defender of the Constitution. Also, we Americans now possess so many guns that effective control legislation will have to be so draconian as to be unacceptable.
For the foreseeable future we have to live with that reality. But that does not excuse the silence and inaction even now being witnessed from our local, state and federal political leaders of all stripes. Their lack of courage is shameful.
In the absence of greater gun control, the more meaningful solution is to minimize the culture of violence in our lives. Some of us glorify that culture. It is reflected in our obscene infatuation with violent movies and even more violent video games. The argument that those are all fantasy is moot at a time when there is more and more blurring of the line between fantasy and reality.
The culture of violence is reflected also in our language, the way many of us communicate with one another, the use of word and terms that more properly belong to military jargon but have become everyday speech and common phraseology among some sportscasters. One useful exercise is to pause and consider how many times in a day we use, hear or read words such as “target,” “kill,” “slam,” “bomb,” “destroy.”
Yes, let us as a nation pledge to put laws in place to curb the appetite for guns and reject those who refuse to do so. But let us also strive mightily to cleanse our culture of the poison of violence so it is no longer seen as acceptable. It can work; it did in the campaign against smoking. The time is long past for a campaign to set us free of the culture of violence.