On Sept. 16th, Larry Gene Ashbrook of Fort Worth, walked into a Baptist Church, screaming anti-Baptist epithets, shot and killed seven and injued many others. He then proceeded to shoot himself. On August 10, a man motivated by zenophobia and religious bigotry, sprayed the lobby of a Jewish community center with a high-powered gun, wounding 3 youngsters. On August 5th, a man in Pelham, Alabama went on a shooting rampage killing three people in two different spots before he was apprehended. On July 29, Mark Barton, killed his family, then proceeded to kill nine other people in two different offices in Atlanta. After slaughtering 12 and injuring 12 people, Barton shot himself to escape arrest. In early July, Nathaniel Smith went berserk shooting Asians, Jews and Balcks in Chicago. In May, four kids were shot and wounded in a Georgia high school. In April, two high School students opened fire on their classmates at Columbine High School, Colorado.
The distinction between domestic news and foreign news seems to be rapidly disappearing as American domestic life begins to imitate the anarchy one is so used to in the international sphere. Ironically, the World’s sole superpower is so busy maintaining order and security in Europe, Middle East and East Asia that it is beginning to overlook the slow but steady erosion of security inside. The growth of violence inside America is puzzling. The debate over guns is further distracting the society from reflecting on why ethnic and religious intolerance, boredom and market failure all seem to inspire the same response -- the urge to kill. It is not the availability of guns which is solely responsible for the indiscriminate violence. Guns were always present in American society, but incidences such as the Columbine tragedy are unprecedented.
The indiscriminate killing of strangers manifests a decline in respect and value of life in a society dedicated to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness. The inevitable suicide that often seems to follow these dastardly acts indicates two dangerous trends -- one the loss of meaning in life and two the loss of courage to take responsibility. All these factors, the dwindling significance of life, the inability to stand up to responsibilities are indicators of a declining civil society. While it is too early to make any grand claims, these episodes that fit the description of a Hobbesian state of nature -- where life is short, brutish and nasty -- are indicators of a decline of "community."
If this is true, that the atrocious violence is a symptom of the weakening of the community, then what are its causes? The gun debate, not only distracts but makes erroneous assumptions about the health and nature of community. It assumes that nothing is fundamentally wrong with the society except the easy availability of automatic weapons. It also assumes that society is inherently violent and that the degree of violence is merely a function of means and not motives. Ergo, if we can get guns out of streets, then they will be safe. I think American leaders and our pundits are doing America a disservice by treating the problem in such facile terms. I think what America needs is a "horse whisperer".
A "horse whisperer", made famous in a recent Robert Redford movie, is a spiritual and mystical cowboy who gets so close to horses suffering from pain and trauma that he can feel their pain. He then, through patience, love and mystical communion, soothes the sole of the animal and once gain makes its life meaningful. America needs someone or something, that will out of love and patience, through wisdom and spirituality, soothe its visibly disturbed soul. What America needs is a horse whisperer not a gun control debate.