Pointing Fingers Does Nothing But Stretch Our Ligaments

The Kansas City Star, looking to open its editorial pages to new writers, initiated a program called Midwest Voices. They solicited 500 word essays from its readers. I sent this. Since they don't want it, I will add it to the non-burgeoning list of my writings.

They selected writers full of namby-pamby niceness. Guess that's why they didn't select me. A shame, I think. The editorial page infuriates me, not with intemperate anarchy, but with niceness, politeness, and absolutely silly positive attitude. The comics are more abrasive.

We've read much about Bowling for Columbine, a film that examines why America suffers from so much gun violence. A commonly invoked conclusion is that racism, classism, (and quite likely ageism, speciesism, and planetism too) "stoke" the fires of hatred, and that hatred boils into murderous violence primarily because guns are easily available.

Stoke is probably a word chosen to sound like "cause" without actually being "cause." Because ageism, racism, or any other ism will not cause one person to shoot another. It is foolish to believe otherwise.

Racism cannot kill. Racism is an idea, not a behavior. And today we have lost the ability to distinguish between those two things. Bad ideas are only ideas, no matter how foul they may be. They are not of any consequence until they are acted upon. It is the behaviors, not the ideas that inspire them, that are the problem. Individuals act. Individuals pick up guns, load bullets into them, and pull the triggers. These individuals may believe they are acting properly, or may have no fear of punishment, or may simply not care. But the evils of our society kill no one. By spreading the blame, we lose the responsibility.

Are racism and classism worse now than in the past? I doubt it. Though most of us are not satisfied with the equality of opportunity, we recognize America has come far from separate but equal.

Yet violence, while declining from the astronomical levels of a few years ago, far exceeds the levels of our racist past. In 1933 five men died at Union Station in one of our most famous crimes. Several recent murders have claimed five or more victims, yet they hardly make the front page. Something about our attitude toward about murder has changed; that which once disgusted now is too commonplace, too casual, too cavalier.

In the Racist Fifties, guns were simply everywhere. Sears sold them to kids, with little fuss or fear. Most people had guns around, and knew how to use them. Students openly brought them to school to work on in shop. Yet murder rates were well below those in this Brady-Billed world.

Houses do not get built because lumber, hammers, and nails are available. They arise because a person of vision wants them to. If necessary supplies are in short supply, other equally serviceable materials will be pressed into action. It is not the availability of guns that causes murder, just as it is not the inaccessibility of guns that prevents murder. People kill, and they kill because they want to. This is the ugly truth. More people today than in the past want to kill. That is what has increased in the last forty years. Guns make it easy, and certainly some murders would not occur without the ready availability of guns. But the attitudes that fill our hearts drive our behavior, and those attitudes are full of murder. Thus, the news is as well.

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