Updated: Jan 6
I live in the shadows of a high school where a shooting occurred just eight years ago. My stepson is a friend and played ball for years with the son of one of the victims. And, I know what it’s like to cradle a dead child, screaming at God for some explanation and walking into wall after wall looking for someone to blame.
We are facing a world today where school shootings are a part of our lives – like lightening strikes. It’s made all the more difficult for those of us who are older, because we grew-up with Mr. Rogers. Living like this was never something we imagined.
In our current political climate, meaningful discussion is impossible. As so many of our most serious problems, this too languishes in a heap labeled “For Fundraising Only.” There is too much money involved to actually solve the problem.
Even if we could come together, there are no easy answers. Contrary to countervailing messaging, it is not as simple as mental health or gun control. Oh, both of them certainly have a bearing on what is happening but creating legislation that will have a real impact is an illusion.
Mental health is a very broad subject. Identifying individuals who need help, getting them treatment and identifying a potential threat is easy in hindsight and almost impossible as a means of prevention. We currently spend about $89 billion a year on mental health in America and some estimates suggest we could triple that without coming near a workable solution.
The issue of gun control is even more difficult. Gun control advocates believe they have the answer, but the political will does not support their conclusions. Right now, there seems to be support for universal background checks, but how do we really make that work when there are already nearly 400 million guns in America. How would we even contemplate restricting the sale of guns from neighbor to neighbor? Still one would think there are positive things we could do to make the situation better, but again, not when both sides are raising hundreds of millions of dollars every year to maintain the blockade.
But the truth is the core of this problem has little to do with the mental health of the individual or the tool he uses to carry out his evil. We’ve had crazy people and guns for hundreds of years. Why the change? Why do they feel compelled now to take the lives of innocents with them?
The solution is far more complicated than passing a law or even a handful of laws. Can a law restore morality or our faith in each other? Can a law make us any less aware of the violence and terror around us? Can a new law restore our dignity and end the selfishness of our culture?
Why do these mentally-off gunmen do what they do? The truth – the real answer – they are striking back at a society that is so sick of itself, it’s the only thing that makes sense to them.
Stark as all this may be, I would not be writing this if I did not believe something could be done. We can turn back the pages of this lunacy and restore the beauty and dignity of our American culture - make it more inclusive, tolerant and loving than ever before. But it will not happen on a foundation of anger and political hatred. If we want something better, we need to stop focusing on division and start finding ways to unite. We need to start respecting one another and understand that sacrificing for the common good is the most important thing in our lives. And, even though we are all flawed rascals in one way or another, we must see that reaching out with love is the only answer.