As I pen this column tonight, the details surrounding the tragic mass shooting at Umpqua Community College in the small Oregon town of Roseburg are slowly unraveling. Nearly a dozen families are faced with the grief that comes with not only losing a loved one, but having to deal with such tragedy.
The horrors of such a cowardly act once again are reverberating across our country as we come to terms with such a travesty and how to even attempt to explain away the pain of such a turn of events.
Humans are pre-programmed to explore for meaning and truth — meaning in the fog of ambiguity and truth in the darkness of failing to understand. With the events of today American society is once again left exploring for meaning and truth.
When the absence of truth presents itself we start to attach meaning where there is little evidence. There has to be someone to blame. There has to be a reason for this calamity. There must be something we can do to prevent this from happening again.
These are the thoughts that immediately go through our minds when we hear that the unexplainable has occurred.
As the details of this event present themselves over the coming days and weeks there will be a line drawn in the sand once again and a battle will ensue over what or who we can blame this latest loss of life. Remember — someone, something, some reason must be to blame.
It will be easy to blame guns, a broken healthcare system that doesn’t properly treat mental illness, or claim that someone is racist. But, none of that will be true.
The real problem is that our society has lost the value of life. Just look at the statistics.
There have been more than 35 mass shootings in America since Columbine. According to the FBI 2013 Crime Clock Statistics, there is a violent crime every 27.1 seconds, a murder every 37 minutes, a rape every 6.6 minutes, a robbery every 1.5 minutes, and an aggravated assault every 43.5 seconds. In 2011, according to the CDC, 730,322 legal abortions were reported.
Guns are not the problem. A broken healthcare system is not the problem. Laws (or lack thereof) are not the problem. Too little government is not the problem. A broken society is the problem.
When did we get to a point in America where we valued life so little? We have entered an era where violence is the the first response of many when conflict arises and as a society we are quickly becoming desensitized to the violence that surrounds us daily. We are numb.
As the nation reflects on this latest tragedy and how we are to respond as a society we must focus on how we value life. Because right now our value for life seems to be waning.
There will be many who will blame this tragedy on guns and the lack of stricter gun laws.
Guns have been woven into the fabric of American society for over two centuries. Mass shootings didn’t occur in the time of our Founding Fathers yet nearly every citizen owned a firearm. They didn’t need a litany of rules and regulations because they knew the awesome power of a gun.
There will be many who will blame this tragedy on a broken healthcare system that undervalues the importance of treating mental health.
While this is an argument I have made myself it is not the sole reason for the problem at hand. Yes, our healthcare system does not treat mental illness with as much veracity as it should, but we have to ask why we have such issues with mental health to begin with. There has always been mental illness and for more than two centuries there have been guns. The two combined have not been as major an issue as they are today.
The problem is simply this — society is broken. We have forgotten the value of life. We have fractured into warring side. We have become a nation of independents worried about the individual rather than the whole.
We were once a nation that valued life, valued our neighbors and communities and the country as a whole. Now, it seems as though we are all fending for ourselves and at the expense of the common good.
As we reflect on this tragedy in Oregon and search for meaning and truth we must examine ourselves internally. We must look deep inside within as a society and find our meaning again.
Stricter gun laws are not the answer. Bureaucratic healthcare is not the answer. The answer is that we as a society must once again value life and value the worth of each and every person. The constant violence and ripping away of life in our society must be dealt with holistically, not with the law of man.
It is society’s job to conquer our demons, not the government.
As the night grows later and I wrap up this outward contemplation of society I can only think of those people who needlessly lost their lives today. I pray for them, their families and their community.
I also pray that as a society we can find resolution to our failures and once again become a society of which we can be proud.