They say that you are what you eat, what your body consumes. But what of your mind, and what does your reason and intellect consume? We are what we perceive and what we experience. The use of our senses gives us a never ending supply of information. We are the culmination of every event in our lives that we have ever encountered. Every sensation, physical or psychological. Every sight, every taste, every touch. Every word we have ever heard. Every thought. Every dream. Even those we do not remember. Even those that may never have happened, but we thought of it, and we dreamed of it, we possibly read it in a book, or saw it on a screen. Every time something happens to us, we absorb it and tuck it away in the deep recesses of our minds for future use. In many cases even we do not know or understand how that may manifest itself in the future, but it does. It always does. We do not know where or when, or even if, but when we act, there is a very good chance that our decisions come as a direct result of what we have learned in the past, from what has come before. It is what we call information. Knowledge. Experience. With each and every life engagement we have the opportunity to contemplate and incorporate new data into our knowledge base. It slowly shapes our personal philosophies. It flavors our life view. It ultimately creates who and what we are, and our future actions and relationships. Sometimes with positive results. That is the expectation. The hope. That is the plan. Education. Intelligence. Wisdom. Success. Happiness. Peace. At other times the outcome is not so positive. Mistakes are made. More thought. More learning. Adjustments are made. Hopefully progress is made. Life goes on. But sometimes things go horribly wrong, and at times inexcusable and unexpected things occur. It often makes no sense. We can’t really explain it. There is pain and suffering, and destruction and sometimes even death. It is tragic, and yet it happens all too often, and does not seem to be getting any better. In fact it is getting worse, and there is no reason to think it will fix itself and just go away.
What is it that makes one individual a stable and caring person, capable and welcome as a member of society, and the next, even with all the same opportunities and experiences, both good and bad, into someone who just can’t fit in with others, and finally decides to act out in a way both destructive to self and disastrous to others? There are so many theories, so many possibilities. Genetics. Chemistry. Environment. Drugs. Take your pick. The list goes on and on. It is a long one. Some seem quite obvious. Others not so much. It probably does not matter in the larger sense, but I would hope that we could agree that there is no evil DNA in our genetics. But of course we have no way of knowing. Then again, there is mutation and simple damage, and while it may not signify evil, for all intents and purposes it may be the same thing. We can hope to someday remove or replace inferior genes, but this presents a whole Pandora’s box of issues such as who decides ‘inferior’ and the ethics of playing god with human beings. The jury is still out. Far out.
And then there are environmental issues, which is where many have decided that our true problem lies. And arguably so. But it ends up being so inextricably complex that the different ideological camps cannot, or more realistically, will not, make the effort to create workable resolutions to the issues. From the organic aspects such as nutrition and abuse, to the more complex societal issues of economics and education and race, we seem to have more theories than ‘experts’ and in the end nothing much is being accomplished. Which is why the situation persists, and will probably only deteriorate in the future. While spending money may well be a necessary evil in addressing our issues, just tossing it into the wind is not the answer either. It seems that it is an obvious FACT that our shooters are being created at an early age. Almost without exception, all of the individuals involved since Columbine have had a vast array of issues that are both self-evident and troubling. Mental health issues, depression, behavioral issues, OCD, schizophrenia, Asperger’s. And you’ve heard it all before. This is nothing new. The family has issues as well. Mental illness, poverty, suicide, divorce, abuse. But not every individual, and not every family. Do we really have to ask why these kids are broken? I am surprised it doesn’t happen even more frequently. That is my true concern.
I remember playing cowboys and Indians as a child. I remember playing war games with other children or creating tableaux under the shrubbery in my back yard with my little plastic army figures, fighting the Nazis or the Japanese but usually just a nameless enemy. The bad guys. I was always victorious, no matter how out-manned and outnumbered. I see no intrinsic difference between these events and the video games. One required my imagination and my cooperation. The other is a bit more passive, but the virtual reality is someone else’s vision. You just sit back and allow yourself to be engulfed by the supplied reality. And kill. Don’t forget to kill. The visuals are much more gruesome and bloody, and yes, this is much more desensitizing. I do not remember the gore and guts in my childhood visualizations. Perhaps I was not as visceral. Perhaps the blood was not as important as the victory. It was less about killing and perhaps more about winning. We do not teach our children to win anymore. We do not want them to ‘beat’ anyone at anything. There are no standards. We are all the same. Everyone gets a participation trophy. No one is better than anyone else. But what happens when they are damaged? What happens when they feel lost in life, when they feel that they have no value to another? Nothing makes them feel ‘special’. They feel worthless and they do not care if they live or die. If we are all the same, and there is no reason for me to live, does that not also mean there is no reason for you to live either? We need to be careful what we teach our children. We need to listen to our own words. They are listening. We do not understand the ramifications of our own words. They do not either, but sometimes they act on them. Then they explode, and we lament the destruction and the cost. We cry that we need to fix the problem. What if we do not wish to see the problem? What if we refuse to acknowledge the essence of the problem? What if the problem, and the enemy, is us?
I have never been put in the position to kill someone. I never had the opportunity or the necessity to make a decision about taking a human life. I don’t really want to experience such an event. I must admit that I have thought about it. I find it hard to believe that everyone, at one time or another has not. There are certainly people who deserve to die, even if I am not willing to act on that belief personally. There are others that may not deserve it, but I would shed no tears if it happened. But could I kill? Under the right circumstances, to defend myself or someone I love? I would answer absolutely. Without a second thought. Why? Because I’ve thought about it. I have decided what would be appropriate, and what would be inappropriate. I have no idea if there would be remorse. I have no idea if I could actually go through with it. I hope I could, because it would only be under a circumstance where it was necessary. And if only one could survive? I would certainly not want it to be the perpetrator, the criminal. I do not care if they were abused as a child or had a mental deficiency. It is a sad situation, but I am not the problem. They are the problem. But if I have the resolve and the ability, I WILL be the solution. The key point here is that I came to this conclusion through thought. It is something that today we call philosophy. It is an answer to this very deep problem we are involved with. It is the ONLY answer that will ever bring resolution. Emotionalism is an intellectual dead-end. It will never bring resolution. It will never bring peace. I say that I have never killed someone, and that is true. But I have killed. It is one of the many demons that I carry around with me every day of my life. I have killed animals through accidents on the roads and killed insects because of infestation and the like. There is remorse, and some despair. I lose a small piece of my soul with every instance. There is always conflict. For me, it becomes more difficult with each event. For some, it becomes easier. For others, not even a second thought. For me that is incomprehensible.
I remember throwing a rock at a bird as a very young man, never imagining my causing it pain, never expecting to actually hit it. I had done so in the past, never being successful. I am not sure, maybe I was eight years old, possibly quite a bit younger than that. I have no recollection of exactly why I took such an action. The comprehension of cause and effect was not yet a part of my thought process, but it soon would be. I did this maybe because I wanted to, maybe just because I could. A mindless act, soon to have a profound ramification. I killed an innocent bird on that day, and I never forgot it. A beautiful animal. I picked it up in my hands. It was obviously dead. It did not deserve such an end. And it was all my fault. No one else. I stole something from that poor little creature, and it was forever impossible to return what I had taken. I was not thinking on that day. The concept of philosophy was an alien idea at that time. But from that day forward things changed. The trauma of taking that innocent life began a process. I took my very first step upon my path that day. I didn’t really know what that meant at the time. I was so angry. I was unbelievably sad. I cried. But I have never looked back. I have never wanted to. I am not sure I could have even if I tried. I have learned to respect life from that moment forward. I don’t even kill spiders or bees or almost anything. I catch them and put them back into their wild environment. Many of them may die within minutes, but I don’t feel I am in a position to play god. But I take responsibility to not be the entity that brings them harm. It is not for me to make such a decision for them. Their life is fraught with danger. They live with the reality of dying at any moment, as we all do. They persevere. They have no choice. They know no other life. Death is inevitable for every living creature, it has never been otherwise. But not so with us. Not so with man. He can think. We cannot cheat death either, but there ARE choices to be made. And yet with all the talk of gun control, and the talk of mental health, why is there never any talk of philosophy? Why do we not teach our children to think? To make appropriate decisions. Why is there not even the conversation of right and wrong? Why do we refuse to teach the difference to our children? Why do we not know the difference as adults? We refrain from teaching morals in our grammar schools. Disturbingly, we don’t teach them much grammar either. Why is that? We teach no ethics in our high schools. We teach no civics in our colleges and universities. This is not an oversight. It is by design. Why are you so surprised when a damaged, and grossly under educated individual, makes a decision to wipe out the future of an untold number of fellow human beings in little more than a blink of an eye? There were more than just the 17 children that died that day. There are thousands of survivors. People touched by what happened in those few minutes. Some are children that were harmed and yet not killed. They, in many ways, were the ‘unlucky’ ones. They will have to endure the trauma and the memories for we know not how long. They will have to live with the aftermath. Forever. The loss of a classmate or a teacher, or a coach. The fear of another episode such as what they just had to endure. No child deserves this. No human being deserves this. None should have to experience such horror. Rest assured. There is only one thing that you can be sure of. It WILL happen again. There are many out there that say ‘Never again’. But it will. You can count on it. Why? Because we are doing NOTHING to prevent it. Because we are not outlawing video games. We are not outlawing war figurines. We are not outlawing toy guns. Wait a minute. We do try that, don’t we? In fact it’s illegal to point a finger gun at another fellow student. You can be suspended or even expelled, especially if the finger is the right caliber.
We need to start looking at this from another perspective. The only thing anyone wants to address at the moment is gun control and protection. I completely understand that. But understand this. You are dealing ONLY with the end result. The aftermath. We are churning out damaged individuals as we speak, and they are going to manifest at some point in time. Maybe tomorrow. Maybe when they are 30, or 50. Maybe never. But they are all simmering just under the surface. WE are all simmering. Their wounds are festering. The infection is spreading. They are our societal IED’s and they are set with hair triggers.
Most of them don’t even know who they are. But some do. They’re thinking about it. And at some point?