A society's lack of ability to keep its young children safe cuts right at the heart of the essential purposes of having a society. Is the issue gun control? Less access to powerful weapons in the hands of unstable people is probably not a bad idea. Mental health? I encounter angry hurting people every day. We clearly have mental health issues on mass in my home country.
I hear politicians and pastors alike talking about gun control and mental health today. Sure. These are factors. But are they causal? What about family and community? My wife Christina pointed out that this most recent shooter murdered his grandmother before he went to commit this atrocity. The Sandy Hook shooter had killed his mother just prior to committing his monstrous act. Perhaps a hatred of existence itself, lashing out at parenthood; the root of society.
How shattered must a young man’s soul be to see this as somehow necessary? It occurs to me that perhaps their sense of connection to created purpose was so severed that it seemed needful or appropriate to first destroy the source of their existence just prior to taking a hateful stand against existence itself. I keep thinking about the lyrics from a song I loved decades ago by the rock band Creed.
I see your soul, it's kind of gray
You see my heart, you look away
You see my wrist, I know your pain
I know your purpose on your plane
Don't say a last prayer
Because you could never find
What's this life for… What's this life for… What's this life for…What's this life for…?
These young men who commit these repulsive acts must also be considered a part of the children we couldn’t keep safe. Sure, you could get a bunch of military vets, retired cops, trained security to stand guard, waiting for the next Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold (Columbine Shooters) to show up on a rampage against existence. You could make it harder for them to get firearms. Both probably good ideas.
But what about the culture that never cultivated a community within which they could discover a sense of meaning for the idea of existence itself? Perhaps those guards would do more in the long run to be in local community centers mentoring fatherless boys? Perhaps their wives and sisters could stand guard over a child’s heart as Sunday School teachers, school volunteers, or neighborly ladies who check on the kid always playing alone in the backyard next door?
Isolation. Lack of community. These ever present and seemingly worsening conditions make for fertile ground for young people who not only don’t know what life’s for, but begin to hate even the fact of existence. That’s how dark mental illness and depression can get.
The collective American soul is in desperate need of repair. I’m unconvinced it will be even patch up through legislation about gun control or, worse yet, more talk of gun control with precious little actually done. Increased access to mental health care may help, but what if that lonely isolated kid next door keeps being ignored? Will he ever get any help?
One of the quotes from Columbine shooter Eric Harris haunts me, “I'm sorry I have so much rage, but you put it on me.” Is that a copout on his part? Is that him blaming his parents and the world and not taking responsibility for his feelings and actions? Perhaps. It was also his honest understanding of reality for him. I think it’s a fair observation of much of what has developed in our society. We do put rage on our children in a thousand ways, as we pursue often disconnected, unhuman, lives.
There is something serious wrong in our culture. Left and right can’t even look each other in the face as elementary school children are slaughtered as their teachers clamor to save them. Conservatives and Progressives show each other with hatred while suicide rates among young people becomes a major leading cause of death.
The culture wars are causing a lot of civilian casualties…
Politicians have not learned that actions are better than words. For me, in my little corner of the world, I’ll just keep paying attention for lonely kid, the isolated bullied child, and continue to live “life on life” looking people in the eye and honestly asking, “How are you?” with ever increasing intention to cultivate community in the real world wherever I am.
I’ll not look to pandering politicians or pundits to solve the problems in my community. I genuinely hope they do something useful on this topic. I know there are a few good ones out there because I know a couple of them. In the meantime, what can I, my family, my church, my friends, do right around us to create more community and less isolation? Whatever that is, let’s do that…
My soul is dark today but my heart is optimistic. I choose hope. I choose actual action in the lives around me. And I know so many good people who are sickened by the circumstances that keep fueling the fires of rage that lead to violence of this horrific type…
I’m calling upon and waiting on the Lord for renewal, revival, and restoration of sanity in my homeland.
Isaiah 40:31, “But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.” (ESV)