USA Today Opinion. Why We Kill by Hal O’Leary

USA Today Opinion. Why We Kill by Hal O’Leary

USA Today Opinion. WHY WE KILL by Hal O’Leary.

USA Today Opinion. Why We Kill by Hal O'Leary

Horror silhouette. Photo attribution George Hodan

The Good Book says we shouldn’t kill, but we do. Psychiatrists, politicians, and priests concern themselves with attempting to explain killing in terms of the individual, and in so-doing, fail to come to grips with the pervading psychosis sweeping our nation. I speak of the psychosis as a loss of contact with reality that can include false beliefs by an entire society about what is taking place around us.

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 I encountered a quote by the Indian philosopher Jiddu Krishnamurti

“It is no measure of good health to be will adjusted in a profoundly sick society.
It was then that it occurred to me that the individual German citizen, in order to prevent going mad themselves, had indeed become “well-adjusted” to a psychotic society. They slept comfortably in their denial of reality. The “mal-adjusted” were those who dared to venture opposition. Thus, it is, I believe, that we, by our own volition, have become just such a psychotic 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 psychotic norm under the threat of being ostracized, or, in the event that the deviant should threaten the established norm, the retaliation that 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 Jesse 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 do we have these senseless killings? 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 psychotic 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 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 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 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. The worst, however, is that we believe that because we have the capacity to wage war, we have the right to wage war.

One would think the time has come when we should face the truth of our psychosis. Only then will we answer the question of why we kill. Only then can we regain the pride of being the “City on the Hill.” 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.”


“My country right or wrong” will cast some doubt…

My country right or wrong, or get you gone.

And doubt, true patriots can live without.

You love it or you leave it. Pass it on


My country right or wrong, or get you gone.

To say you love your country when it’s wrong…

You love it or you leave it. Pass it on.

You say you love it, but that’s not my song,


To say you love your country when it’s wrong…

So I like rock and you Rachmaninoff.

You say you love it, but that’s not my song.

You bet your ass. I love it. So piss off.


So I like rock and you Rachmaninoff.

When our country’s right, it must be kept right

You bet your ass I love it. So piss off.

When our country’s wrong, it must be set right


When our country’s right, it must be kept right.

And doubt? True patriots can live without.

When our country’s wrong, it must be set right.

My country right or wrong will cast some doubt.

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Hal O’Leary is an eighty-seven-year-old Secular Humanist who believes that it is only through the arts that one is afforded an occasional glimpse into the otherwise incomprehensible. He has been awarded an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree from West Liberty University.

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