There are no words to offer those who lost a loved one Wednesday in another mass shooting in the United States, this time in San Bernardino, California. The saddest word in that sentence is “another.”
According to the FBI definition of mass murder, we have had 355 mass shootings here in the USA. I have no idea what total number we have to reach before we, as a country and culture, say ‘enough’, but I’ll wager in the aftermath of Wednesday’s violence, we’re still not there yet.
On our national political stage, I listen to empty-headed prattlers try to scare me about ‘foreign terror threats against the homeland,’ but we kill one another with a frequency and ferocity with which those far-away sand fleas could only dream.
I don’t know the answer to why we do what we do to one another and I’m not the only one to NOT have the answer; I probably cannot actually even see the full question. But, part of our problem, I would suggest, may lie in how we converse with those with whom we disagree.
At one time, we could have debates over ideas now we personalize each and every disagreement. Your idea is not only no good, but you are a terrible person for having it.
Somewhere at some time we removed the veneer of civility from our civil discourse. Now when I have a view differing from yours, we hurl invective at one another with no attempt at dialogue. We use our words as stones to build walls barring one another from entry rather than as bridges to enlarge our communities.
We regard those with whom we disagree as somehow less than us, 'sub-human' or some variation there of (I hear ‘animal’ a lot; and yet I can’t think of any animal that kills another animal because they don’t like the way they chew their grass or drink from a stream). As time goes by, the opaque and discrete labelling we do with name-calling allows us to mentally and emotionally dismiss those-who-think-differently-from-us as not deserving of basic human dignity, courtesy and rights.
Once we’ve reduced people to abstractions (a ‘gay,’ a ‘Jew,’ or a ‘left-hander,’) it is a (very) short step to creating registration databases, setting up internment camps, sewing colored stars on clothing, and building work camps with only entrances and chimneys.
The Road to Hell, at the very bottom of the slippery slope of our (in)humanity, is ultimately paved by actions, but it is our hate-filled thoughts which make those actions easier for us to take. We have to start to think differently before we find ourselves no longer able to think at all.