Shooting up numbers of unrelated folk in public places as a means of expression has generally been the province of conquerors, outlaws and governments, not of individuals. The recent and still mysterious wholesale slaughter in Las Vegas and the more recent school shoot-ups seem to be a recent social phenomenon. It should not have arrived unexpected.
A single, generally accepted moral compass prevailed throughout American society: the Judeo-Christian “Thou shalt not kill.” Killing a person was beyond the pale whether it was inflicted violence, suicide or abortion. No exceptions. Human life was not ours to take. Enforced ironically enough, with the death penalty.
But we have evacuated that social system; we have entered a post-Christian era or at least, a lot of us have entered it, often seemingly without much thought. It is unarguable that when we change the rules of behavior, se should not be surprised that behavior changes.
To that we can add economics and technology: the closing of the mental health “asylums” as too costly and the arrival of mass instant communications. But both of these are enablers, not causes of today’s mass shootings. The cause is simple: we stopped valuing human life as sacred.
The first flashing signal was the legalization of convenience abortion. When an incipient mother kills her inconvenient child in advance it is obvious that the value she places on human life is circumscribed to say the least. That is reinforced by the movement towards assisted suicide. It is further reinforced, again ironically, by the removals of the death penalty: the life of the murderer is tacitly valued more than that of his victim. The often pleaded concern for cases of erroneous conviction is specious; it applies equally to all punishments of criminals.
After abortions proliferated we began to see road rage attacks and carjackings, both recent behaviors. The “knockout game” in which a random, often elderly and always unsuspecting victim is beaten unconscious from behind on a public street has spread. And of course, the wonderfully publicized mass shootings.
The mostly mentally ill shooters are encouraged by their predecessors’ huge publicity; the media live on gore and the anti-gun ownership forces batten on these events that we prefer to blame on a gun rather than on a psychotic. At some point, the politicians will feel a need to “do something.”
If the results of the 9/11 terrorist attack are any criterion, the politicians will impose restrictions on personal freedom coupled with costly expansions of “security” personnel. These will not interfere much with random psychotics but they will look good to voters who don’t think too much. When we stopped locking up psychotics, we took on that risk. We exacerbated it with our cheapening of human life. Loading schools with “security” will at best move future psychotics to easier targets and will likely make schools worse than they already are.
We turned the psychotics loose, we cheapened human life and we reward the media for advertising mass murder; we therefore bear the responsibility of which no politician can absolve us. Neither, whatever they promise, can they wish it or securitize it away. As we see our personal liberties diminish in the name of security, we might remember that.