It is not about blame. We are all to blame and we are none.
It is not about Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Bill O’Reilly, Michele Bachmann, Ann Coulter or Sarah Palin. They are not the cause of this disease; they are only symptoms.
It is about that part of ourselves we do not wish to see. It is that part of our souls that we keep hidden in the shadows and refuse to acknowledge. It has been with us and within us for thousands of years and it will be within us until the end of time.
It is the killing spirit, the spirit of vengeance, intolerance, greed and hatred. Its antithesis is understanding, empathy, kindness and civility. The one poisons the soul of humanity and the other heals.
So you still think it is a good idea to allow guns at political rallies?
So you still think possession of automatic assault weapons is a god-given right and not a privilege born of responsibility?
If the latest psycho killer to claim more than his share in the fifteen-minutes-of-fame game had been a member of a well-regulated militia, he would surely have lost his membership card long ago and with it his right to bear arms.
To those who have sold their souls to the National Rifle Association it does not matter. No amount of bloodshed is sufficient to justify any infringement on the right to purchase deadly weapons and ammunition.
I do not wish in any way to diminish the tragedy in Tucson, Arizona. It has touched the heart of the nation in a way that few events can. We reach out to the fallen and the wounded. We know their faces and stories and we share their grief.
But I cannot ignore the greater picture. The same weekend as that horrific slaughter in the border town of Tucson, fifty-one people lost their lives to drug related violence south of the border, including fifteen decapitated bodies in Acapulco. The death toll stands at 30,000 since Felipe Calderon became president four years ago. The city of Juarez and its surrounding area resemble Fallujah at the height of the Iraq War: an estimated 200,000 exiles and over 3,000 murders this year alone.
Where do they get their weapons? Welcome to the USA where anyone from drug lords and criminals to terrorists and madmen can purchase weapons of mass destruction as long as you’ve got the cash. We have so armed the drug lords that they typically outgun the police and the Mexican army.
I would not wish to diminish the tragedy in Mexico but even the killing fields of Ciudad Juarez demure when compared to the mass graves of modern Africa, whose often genocidal wars in Sudan, Somalia, Rwanda, Liberia and Nigeria were all supplied with deadly weapons made in the USA.
We may have yielded manufacturing and industry to foreign markets where labor is cheaper than dirt but we remain the chief supplier of weaponry to the world at war where blood is cheaper than water. What else can we do with yesterday’s killing machines?
How can we expect to close down Guns and Ammo shows when our nation supplies missiles to every dictator who comes looking? How can we expect to ban cop-killer bullets when we sell Apache gunships to genocidal maniacs?
I make no bones: I don’t believe in the individual right to carry arms and I don’t care what our founders said about it.
I believe that societies like species undergo a process of evolution. At an advanced stage of civil society, government disavows the state’s right to kill. At an advance stage, government delivers universal health care, ensures a minimum standard of living, provides security for the aged and infirm, and limits handguns and assault weapons to officers of the law. At an advanced stage, nations will come together to ban the international weapons trade.
The world is perhaps half a century away from disarming its most dangerous members and the nation is likewise half a century away from civilized gun control.
The killing spirit will not be defeated in a day. It will, from time to time, emerge from the shadows with acts that shock and appall us, like the murder of an innocent child or the attempted assassination of a promising leader.
The killing spirit can never be destroyed, not completely, for we cannot as a species survive without it, but those who believe in the better part of human nature must believe that it can and will be subdued. It is the process of civilization that will ultimately defeat the killing spirit by nurturing the better part of our nature: the healing spirit.
There are many who would scorn or sneer at such a notion and I have walked among them long enough to learn that that collective cynicism, a cynicism often born of fear, may be as great a barrier to civil evolution as the intolerance and vitriol of politicians and talking heads.
We Americans like to consider ourselves the most advanced of nations but we are in this fundamental sense severely behind. It is not a problem that religion or education can resolve; it is a problem of collective consciousness. When we can envision a world in which violence is as rare as a lunar eclipse on winter solstice, we will have taken the first step toward fulfilling that vision.
Meantime, let us all share a moment of silent contemplation, remembrance and mourning.