One of my more frequented websites (this one), 'OpEd News', screamed a reactionary headline yesterday, "Every NRA supporter has children's blood on his/her hands." This statement is ridiculously simplistic, owning guns has nothing to do with this crime.
One might claim the tragedy would be less if these large capacity semi automatic assault rifles were banned completely yet that suggests the death of one 6 year old at the hands of a psycho would somehow be less tragic. In China another reported psycho, at virtually the same time, assaulted a children's classroom with a knife, injuring 23 before he was stopped. Although it is reported none died, he could easily have slit every child's throat had he determined to kill them. It is not the weapon, it is the person. We must address the reality not get sidetracked by knee jerk reactionary blame.
The problem, the reason for this incident, is very simple to address, the solution is very difficult. In fact, the solution will challenge society so greatly we will all likely avoid the truth, as we generally do when solutions take effort, and watch this same situation; another Columbine, another Gifford, another Polytechnic, happen again.
I cannot take credit for this analysis of the problem/solution scenario. In the fall of 1999 I was hitch hiking to work as my truck had broken down. A social service worker picked me up at Tappen, BC on his way to his office in Salmon Arm, a small town on the Trans Canada Highway at Shuswap Lake in Central BC Canada. We engaged in a conversation about the tragic death of another child. A young couple having difficulties ended up injuring the child so badly she died. The other dwellers in the apartment complex did nothing to prevent this easily foreseeable consequence.
I couldn't understand how this could happen and Robert explained it in very simple terms, an answer which has stuck with me ever since.
Years ago neighbours worked together and shared the events of their daily lives. And it was not so very long ago when everyone knew everything about every person who lived on their street or in their complex. In smaller communities, everyone knew everyone. But it was due to people requiring the assistance of their neighbours, not just because of the size of the community.
As a society we used to share and borrow. Not everyone could own every implement required to do a job. One might use the neighbours lawnmower and let the neighbour use his chainsaw. Farmers used to use one seeder and assist all farmers in seeding their crops, same for harvesting. Mothers would walk over to the neighbours to borrow a cup of sugar, or get some eggs if they were out and groups of women would gather to can goods or clean a harvest of 60 hens. Then they would gather at another's place to do the same. When a home or garage was being built the men would all work together, helping each other. And to complete any of these tasks, the people would share the tools and implements they each owned, with each other.
Commercialism has taught us sharing is a bad thing. We are told by advertisers in not so subtle ways, borrowing is the best way to ruin a friendship. You must own your own implements. Why is it that a street of twenty houses has twenty lawnmowers? If we only cut our lawns once every couple weeks, two lawn mowers would certainly be sufficient. Commercials along with the TV shows have demonstrated how the neighbour always breaks it before he returns it, how it comes back worn out, or how it is maybe never returned. We are taught how to mistrust our neighbours and how to refer to the police forces whenever there is any trouble.
Even the telephone services got into the game with the caller ID service. "Oh, it's your brother in law, he probably just wants to borrow money." exclaims the woman as they ignore the call. Today we all lock our doors and live in fear of everything and everyone outdoors.
Robert explained the entire structure behind this was the need for the product producers to sell more products. If they could discourage the sharing they could vastly increase their sales. In their efforts they broke down the trust and compassion between the citizens of the community. Two generations of television "programming" taught us to mistrust each other and we now have a social structure which no longer allows for one to simply walk into the neighbours house without a direct invitation.
Only 50 years ago a locked door was considered an affront to decency. If my mother walked to her friends next door and found the door locked she would be worried something was wrong rather than the other way around as it is today. "What's the door locked for Mrs Ross?"
In those days almost everyone had a loaded gun. It wasn't something special or deviant. It was just another implement.
The difference was everyone knew everyone else's business. No one was an island unto themselves. We didn't call the police every time the neighbour had their music up too loud, we were either at the party or we understood why the party was happening.
And if there was a disturbed person in the community, a psycho we couldn't trust, everyone knew. If a young woman was having trouble with her child, the other mothers knew and were there to help. If a young man couldn't keep his temper and began acting out aggressively, the other men were there to keep him in check.
Today we have succumbed to the message of the TV and entertainment mediums. And the outward expression of our compliance to the programming is how we all behave, dress and purchase items to meet the social standing the commercialism has taught us provides our value.
That is the problem. Easy to understand. The solution is much more difficult.