That's all that needs to be said, isn't it?
There is no other nation on the face of the earth, across all human history, that has had to report to its people with such frightening regularity that another of its sad, sick, twisted citizens, has decided to solve his problems, or speak for his “God,” and has found an omnipotent voice through the barrel of a gun.
Who knew that when our forebears were divinely inspired with a vision of individual liberty they would create such a monster? Who could have imagined that we would come to so idolatrize the idea of individual freedom, that individuals would be allowed the power to destroy the freedom of so many (and mockingly dare us to do anything about it)? Who could have imagined that an amendment intended to provide for the safety of the populace would become such a sacred political cow, that we would end up worshiping it at the expense of so much of that populace?
It is sick, shameful, maddening. All of it. The carnage in Orlando is sickening beyond words. The paralysis of an entire nation heaps shame on its otherwise intelligent people. There is an unfortunate, demented logic of explanation and justification and blame that we wrap in partisan symbols and slogans – and identifying and protecting those ideologies become more important than reaching actual solutions to our problems (which should be enough to make us both angry and a little bit unstable). But, then again, we are shamelessly paralyzed, so we just rally around some party line, because, like the self-medication of the alcoholic, it’s just so much easier to be intoxicated than to face the pain.
So, we cowl in fear and bemoan our senseless losses, while at the same time almost celebrating the escalating numbers. Our 24/7 news obsessions keep announcing “deadliest shooting in US history” because their profits are guaranteed by our sadistic fascination.
It has become a kind of circus. The media, the politicians, the pundits, the news cycle which now depends on the tragedy and gore of our increasing violence. We move from one “Breaking News” to another. So, here we are Again…because we need it to fill any silence, before the next one.
And we have not a clue how to solve this tragically silly problem.
I say “silly” in an ironic sense. What other word befits such total dysfunction? And I say “silly” also, because this problem exists mostly because our leaders have completely failed to lead. There is no easy answer, but there are steps toward a solution.
Maybe part of the dysfunction is that the only “answer” our leaders have is based in the problem, not the solution.
You don’t solve disease with more disease, flood by adding more water, noise pollution by cranking up the volume. Given the dysfunction of our situation, maybe you don’t solve a problem facilitated by guns if that’s the only word you can think to use to address the situation.
“More guns” is not the answer. Period. But maybe in our sad system starting the conversation with the words “gun control” isn’t the answer either – because even this “answer” also depends, one way or another, on the problem (guns).
Maybe we need to think larger than this, to start addressing the problem at a higher level and with a deeper understanding – because guns do kill, but what is threatening our nation at large is a rage that is boiling just under the surface all the time. A solution to our deadly obsession will not be found until we address this rage.
I think the word we need is honor.
Even if I disagree with your political party, I am called to honor your choice. Even if I disagree with your religious beliefs I am called to honor your faith. Even if I disagree with some of your practices, I am called to honor your right to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” Honor distinguished the character of the one offering it, and offers dignity to the one receiving it. Honor does not suggest an equivalence of the values, the choices, the commitments of the one giving and the one receiving, but is a discipline based on the very most basic right of individual freedom. It is saying: you have the right to be you, and I will honor that. To offer honor is a high calling that we have almost completely lost in our unforgiving, angry, and divided culture.
This high calling comes to us by virtue of a constitution guaranteeing “inalienable rights.” More importantly, for people of faith the calling comes from a belief that each of us is made “in the image of God.” (I will argue that an innate sense of the worth of each individual can even be affirmed by atheists, so this claim is not dependent on any religion.)
Where is our honor?
Honor will not be found in any argument over guns – for or against. Our honor will only be found in insisting on the most fundamental right. The most basic right – the right to live – must overcome the rage, the religious and ideological zeal that is setting us against one another. We do not bring honor to ourselves, nor to any religious system or political ideology, if we destroy that fundamental right -- for any with whom we disagree.
Where is our honor?