The holiday season is supposed to be festive and fun, but it’s difficult to be optimistic about the new year with the shadow of the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy, and the sorrow of the families torn apart by that evil, hanging over the country.
Like no other horror has done since 9-11-01, the mass murder of twenty young children and six adults in Newtown, Connecticut on 14 December 2012 has shocked, saddened, and humbled the nation. Our hearts go out to those who lost children that day, and those of us who are parents hug our kids a little tighter, hold their hands a little longer, and watch them a little more closely when they cross streets, or buckle safety belts.
Nothing can be done or said to console us when we lose loved ones, despite the best intentions of our friends and family. And nothing can ever justify such a heinous crime. The killing of innocent children is pure evil, and robs us of what is most precious and valuable to us.
In the aftermath of this particular crime, more than any other, America is looking for answers. We want the killing to stop. We want to be secure in our homes and lives. We want our children to be safe at school, and when they go to movies and to malls. We want the nightmare to end.
Violence will always be part of human interaction. There will always be those who resort to force to get their way. We all understand that, and no one expects the world to become completely safe and danger free. We aren’t asking for that. But America seemed much safer fifty years ago, before kids were going into our schools and killing other kids.
Before we can figure out how to stop these killings, however, we need to figure out what’s causing them. These tragedies, these mass murders, are a symptom of a bigger sickness. We have no hope of success if we treat the symptom and ignore the disease.
Looking back, we could say this school massacre trend began in 1966, when Charles Whitman climbed a tower at the University of Texas at Austin and shot 47 people in an hour and a half, killing sixteen of them. Or we could claim it started on 20 April 1999, when two boys killed 12 of their fellow students and a teacher, and wounded 23 others, before killing themselves at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado. Columbine was, after all, a watershed event. More died in that murder spree than in any other school shooting up to that time, and it should have opened our eyes to the need to address the larger problem.
Not that one specific issue exists. We have a combination of ills that, I believe, coalesce to create the problems we now face. Each separate fault might not be fatal alone, but together they are destroying America from within. And bear in mind that Rome fell from within, through moral decay, the only way a great nation can fall.
Although the United States of America was founded on the Christian principles our forefathers learned from the Bible, we have rejected God as a nation, and are suffering for it. We have banned God from our schools in the name of political correctness. Prayer is a clandestine activity, and our children have learned, from that, that God is not welcome here.
The Ten Commandments, although they are displayed prominently in our nation’s capitol, have been deemed offensive in our schools. I often wonder at the carnage that has been committed in halls that once were decorated with the admonition ‘Thou shalt not kill.’
The family unit has broken down in America. Where once most families contained a father and a mother, now only about half do. Single parent homes are the norm, and that parent is often a mother or grandmother. Children become latch-key kids, fending for themselves, because Mom has to work two or three jobs to make ends meet because, well, she has no idea where Dad is.
This is an especially detrimental situation, because it perpetuates itself. A boy who grows up in a home where the father has walked out, turning his back on his parental responsibilities, often learns that it’s the woman’s job to raise the kids, and men don’t waste their time with such nonsense. He often learns to treat women with disdain, with a total lack of respect, and will eventually abandon his own children, completing the cycle. Sometimes outstanding single moms are able to break the pattern with their sons, but too often history repeats itself.
Mental health has been largely ignored for the past thirty years in America. Many who once would have been institutionalized, for their own welfare and that of society, have been shoved back to families unable to care for them because of government budget cuts. We’ve ignored problems we couldn’t easily understand, and swept them under the rug.
Guns don’t have a place among America’s current problems. They never did. A gun is a tool. Nothing more, nothing less. We could ban all guns today, and we would still have mass shootings. Until we address the real problems, instead of the symptoms, our nation is lost.
Those who will give up their guns, under a ban, would gladly give them up voluntarily, without a ban, if doing so would save our children. It won’t. The only thing that will save our children is for us to become responsible enough to admit we can’t cure a sickness by treating one symptom of it, and ignoring the causes.
I wish everyone a happy new year, but more than that I wish for peace in a world, and a country, at war with itself . . .
Kendal Hemphill is an outdoor humor columnist and public speaker. Write to him at PO Box 1600, Mason, Tx 76856 or firstname.lastname@example.org