Once again we are shaken by the violence inflicted on the most innocent among us. What is wrong with our country, our society, our culture, our priorities, us—that allows the slaughter of people even children—again and again and again? Why do we call these incidents “mass shootings” rather than “mass murders?” Would a change in language be enough to shake us into solving this problem?
Will we ever find enough common ground to change policies so that schools, malls, grocery stores, concert venues, theaters, salons, night clubs and the communities we live in are safe? Can we summon the collective courage and conviction to relegate the scourge of mass and daily killings to become an ugly stain on our nation’s history rather than a regular occurrence in our present day? Can we move beyond this perpetual state of grieving helplessness and find hope in our ability to fix it?
How can we find solutions if we cannot agree on the causes? There are so many reasons touted for this level of violence in our society, which is unlike any in the world in terms of the scale and frequency.
Here are a few…
The cause for such carnage is too many guns. There is no logical reason to allow military assault weapons to be easily sold to civilians. Even gun rights advocates and politicians ban firearms at their gatherings while encouraging people to be openly armed in public. More guns do not make us more safe or more free. Instead we are more restricted and more fearful. Perhaps this is true.
The fault for mass killings lies at the feet of entertainment industries. Hollywood spews violence into every form of entertainment. In video games, participants have moved from protectors to perpetrators. This steady diet of violence desensitizes us to cruelty and numbs our empathy. Perhaps this is true.
The problem is that we don’t have enough mental health services available to all. We have not built the community support infrastructure for people who are violent and dangerous to get the treatment they need. Perhaps this is true.
At the root of extreme violence is often racism and xenophobia. Hatred toward Black, indigenous, people of color, immigrants and LGBTQ+ people has deep and long historical roots that get fed by politicians, commentators and cultural leaders. This emboldens acts of violence by people inclined to act against “those”people. Perhaps this is true.
The real problem is social media. Not only do they fail to regulate the hate speech on their platforms, they use their sophisticated algorithms to push people toward extremism, encouraging them to feed each other’s biases and even commit violent acts, often while live streaming! Dangerous views are amplified and encouraged through technology, fueling hatred and domestic terrorism. Perhaps this true.
Big business, big tech, big media and big money are running the government. They use all of the underlying causes listed above to divide people, promote hatred and extremism, pushing politicians to promote their interests. Perhaps this is true.
Capitalism has overtaken democracy as lobbyists dictate the policies they want in order to prosper. The governed are no longer in charge of the government. Instead, it is owned by the rich and powerful who will do anything to retain both. Constitutional Amendments designed to protect individuals have become shields to protect capitalists. Perhaps this is true.
Perhaps there is truth in all of these. Instead of arguing about which is more true, we should each pick the cause that most resonates and work on changing it.
If you want to work on stopping gun violence, here is a link to Moms Demand Action and Sandy Hook Promise. For National Gun Violence Awareness Day June 4th, organizers ask supporters to wear orange June 3-5.
If you want to work on reducing violence in entertainment, you may have to start a movement. The topic appears to be less researched today than in previous decades even as violence in media has grown exponentially. A good place to start may be a fairly recent position paper from the American Academy of Family Physicians.
If you want to get involved in mental health advocacy, the National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI) is a good place to start.
Continue to do all you can to reducing racism, homophobia, xenophobia, knowing that marginalized people experience disproportionally more violence than people perceived as mainstream.
Get involved politically by supporting candidates that reflect your values and beliefs (e.g., ban assault rifles, require universal background checks, hold gun manufacturers accountable, remove dark money from politics, make social media platforms more accountable, etc.), and have the courage to stand in their convictions rather than cling to their power. It will take all of us to create the society we want for our children and generations to come.
We must all do something to turn our heartache, our hopeless grief and our rage into action. We can do better. We must do better.