Common Place Killing by Hal O’Leary. Today, a sincere opinion in Just Hal!, the weekly section of Hal in Yareah Magazine.
Just recently in our rather quiet community of Wheeling, WV, there was an incidence of a shooting by a disgruntled former police officer. Having fired more twenty rounds indiscriminately at the Federal building and YWCA, the perpetrator was shot and killed. In the wake of more than fifty such shootings since 1950 I can suppose that since there were no innocent deaths, the national media chose ignore this one altogether. Do you suppose that, as a society, we have become immune to any collective guilt that would normally be associated with such acts? Have they become so common place that they are no longer newsworthy? Are we in danger of becoming a neurotic society when it comes to the passive acceptance of killing.
Of course, with each of these insane acts, we hear the same old clamor for gun control. Doesn’t the fact that there are now more than 300,000,000 guns of all descriptions circulating in this country make control seemed a ridiculous solution with almost half the country’s citizens demanding a right to own guns? Then, of course, we hear the calls to clean up the violence found in our entertainment, the movies, television, and children’s toys and video games , but isn’t that ridiculous as well, since we are the ones that gleefully plunk down our dollars to satisfy the greed of those who gleefully profit from the production of such odious material. With our vaunted surveillance, we guard against the shameful possibility that our children might possibly be exposed to any suggestion of sex with no hint of violence. But then, with tacit approval, we inundate them with a ubiquitous and most sadistic menu of violence from which there is no escape.
One call, however, that we will not hear as a possible solution, is a call to end violence as public policy. Our government, the government that we overwhelmingly support, is the purveyor, par excellence, of the most horrendous violence with its perpetual war, its admitted practice of “enhanced interrogation” and even the condoning of a president’s option to cancel habeas corpus and openly call for the assassination of American citizens. We will also hear no calls for the abolishment of the tremendous inequality in our economic system that leads to poverty and its resultant violence.
As a veteran of WWII, having witnessed many of the horrors of German war crimes, I have wondered how the German citizen of that time was able to sleep at night when those crimes had to be obvious to the casual observer. Then it occurred to me that the individual German citizen, in order to prevent going mad themselves, had indeed become “well-adjusted” to a mad and neurotic society. They slept comfortably in their denial. The “mal-adjusted” were those that dared to venture opposition. Thus, it is, I believe, that we, by our own volition, have become just such a neurotic society, a society that can condone the slaughter of millions of innocent men, women and children By our military, a society that is oblivious to the inhumane sanctions our government imposes on any nation that would dare to stand in the way of its empirical goals, a society that will tolerate no deviance from the neurotic norm under the threat of being ostracized, or, in the event that the deviant should threaten the established norm, the retaliation could take the form of character assassination and even fatal assassination, as in the case of JFK, RFK and MLK Jr.
This brings us to the question of how this came to be. For the answer, we must go back to our very beginnings and the violent subjugation of those savage Native Americans and docile African slaves, the effects of which have yet to be erased. Then, with the great western migration, the gun became the only justice to be found, and outlaws like Jessie James and Billy the Kid became virtual heroes to many for their defiance of authority, as did gangsters like John Dillinger along with Bonnie and Clyde during the great depression. Unfortunately all this reinforced the ridiculous idea of the “rugged individualist,” which we have adopted as a national trait. It became, “Me against the world.” And Darwin’s “Survival of the fittest” became “The law of the jungle.” This brought about a persistent alienation that, to this day, eventually destroys the human need for community and brotherhood along with the empathy and altruism that evidence now suggests we were hard-wired for at birth.
So, why have we had more than fifty mass shootings in this country since 1950? For an honest answer, I fear that we must stop the scapegoating and turn to the mirror. It is time to acknowledge that it is we, a sick and neurotic society, that have made violence a way of life by ignoring the violent crimes against humanity committed by our own government. It is we, a sick neurotic society that refuses to condemn the greed that has led to an insufferable poverty-ridden economic inequality denying its victims basic human dignity. It is we, a sick neurotic society, that has brought about an alienation in which cooperation is replaced by ruthless competition and with it a veritable denial of what it means to be human. To make the situation even worse, this sick neurotic society then arrogantly but falsely proclaims “Exceptionalism” which allows it to reject the rules and norms of civilization. The truth is that we are far less than exceptional when it comes to a claim of leadership in education. We rank 17th among leading nations. We may, however, be exceptional in providing health care. In spite of the fact that, according to the World Health Organization, we are number one in our per-capita expenditure for health care, we rank a poor 38th in its provision.
One would think the time has come when we should face the truth of our neurosis. The time has come when we should stop shouting down those who have found the courage to speak out. The time has come when we should renounce the false patriot’s ignorant assertion “My country right or wrong.” Accurately read, it should conclude with, “If right, to be kept right, if wrong, to be set right.” The time has come when we should look to the mirror and admit that we have met the enemy and the enemy is us. Only then can we begin to answer the question: Why?