Over 50 people, are now dead in a matter of a few days, in some spectacularly gruesome mass killings at the hands of several different gunmen.
This does not count the murders that happen in every city, on every day of the week, nor does it count those who are deciding to take their own lives on a daily basis.
This article from the Washington Post is titled Some Link Economy with Spate of Killings:
From the article:
"The factor underlying the violence, some experts think, is the dismal state of the nation's economy. Criminologists theorize that the epidemic of layoffs, the meltdown of storied American corporations and the uncertainty of recovery have stoked fear, anxiety and desperation across society and unnerved its most vulnerable and dangerous."
I absolutely do believe that economic conditions could be one causative factor of the recent mass killings, but I just can't bring myself to believe that they are THE causative factor.
When trying to correlate the killing to the economic situation, you have to wonder, did the same kind of thing happen in the Great Depression when 25% of the population was unemployed (as compared to 8.5 or 9% now), and many other dismal statistics towered over the current statistics?
I did not do any in depth digging, but a general check of Depression crime statistics reveals that the crime rate was relatively low in the depression, among all socioeconomic levels, and among all ethnic groups.
It should be said up front that in analyzing these violent acts and their possible causes that I do not ever want to forget the victims, and the pain and suffering that has been visited randomly on their families.
So, what does it all mean?
It means that for whatever reason, in this day and age, people are deciding to kill, and sometimes kill spectacularly. Buy WHY? What is the difference now, as compared to then?
In what I'm about to say, I am not idealizing that time, or "the olden days". I am not one to pine for the good old days, but I do believe there are some fundamental differences now as opposed to then, and some of the changes haven't generally been for the better.
For instance, I believe that generally, families are not as tightly knit as they once were. Then, you would not want to shame your family, or give your family a bad name. Your family also, for the most part would take care of you.
I also believe that for a lot of people, they do not have a sense of place, or a sense of community. Often the themes in these types of shootings are those of a loner, or someone who was "picked on" or made an outcast by the people he lived around. Even those who don't intend to ever go on a rampage may feel isolated, or lonely. As a society, we have isolated ourselves. A lot of people don't "do" church anymore, and a lot of people aren't involved with their communities, nor do they know their neighbors.
I think Mother Teresa had it right when she said "The most terrible poverty is loneliness and the feeling of being unloved."
I certainly think the 24/7 news media, with some of it being very specific opinion related content contributes to a climate of fear, anxiety and agitation. Adding to this, is a general glorification of violence, and saturation of violence which desensitizes us from violence towards other people.
Lastly, the guns aren't responsible for the killing, but they certainly enable a quicker piling up of the bodies. Easy, unlimited access to powerful guns and lethal ammunition certainly does not help the situation.
It was reported that the Binghamton New York shooter fired 98 shots in a minute. That is an incredible amount of firepower for an ordinary citizen to have.
So, what is the answer? I must confess that I really don't know. Certainly, there will be knee jerk reactions - stiffer gun laws will be debated, etc.
I do not think it will change or get any better though, even as the economy improves. I seem to recall that fairly regular mass killings happen in good economic times and bad.
I think it's us. If it didn't happen in any great frequency before, that should tell us something shouldn't it? Or, at least give us something to think about?
In the final analysis, you can't make people go to church, or get involved in community. You can't make family members who are cold and unloving to one another love one another. You can certainly encourage, but you can't make people turn off the 24/7 media that divides and polarizes us as a people.
I think that is the most frustrating part. We are accustomed to thinking that we can snap our fingers and make the problem go away (or throw money at it). But, I don't think this problem will be solved in that way.
And, then, a week from now, or two weeks from now, or tomorrow another one of these killings happen, and we are left to try to again figure it out with fresh feelings of pain and sorrow.
I wish I had some pithy words to close it out. Or some kind of deep, meaningful thing to say that could make it all better.
I don't have that. Every time I think of it all, I just get weary. I even think, what is the point of even writing this right now?
Again, I defer to Mother Teresa.
This is the mantra we should think about when thinking about our neighbors and how we can help each other out. Or helping or identifying that kid who might be in trouble and headed down this road. Or trying to instill a feeling of hope among our friends and neighbors:
"In this life we cannot do great things. We can only do small things with great love."