Saturday, June 20, 2015
The Biggest Sin of All Is the Sin of Indifference
We are told that it is wrong to politicize the tragic shootings in a South Carolina church; that this is nothing more than a random act of violence by a deeply disturbed individual. It is suggested by some people with a straight face that if the pastor of this church had only allowed his congregation to carry concealed guns in the building then no one except the shooter would've died. Still others blame it on the moral decay of our society and that guns have nothing to do with it. And finally, others maintain that race played no role whatsoever in this shooting. They insist, again with a straight fcae, that because the shooting took place in a church, it was an attack on Christianity.
A random act of violence? America has had more "random" acts of violence than any other industrialized country in the world. In fact it leads the Milky Way Galaxy in gun-related homicides.
Deeply disturbed individual? Yes, he is, but he is hardly alone. As President Obama adroitly observed just last year after another senseless shooting, "The U.S. doesn't have a monopoly on crazy people." Every country in the world has its share of mentally ill patients.
Concealed guns in a church? Why not? The whole country, it seems, has been turned into the O.K. Corral. Why not churches? The fact is that according to a study by the Violence Policy Center, the number of people who use guns for self defense has been "negligible" so far as a means of deterrence is concerned.
Moral decay of our society? Right, let's blame it on the secularized, pluralistic world we now live in. If only people prayed more then these things wouldn't happen. Except something like this did happen inside a church where people were praying. Explain that if you can. And also explain how this is somehow a judgment from God. I heard the same shit from supposedly Christian people after 9/11.
Race played no role? No role except that the shooter was pictured wearing a jacket that had the flags of two Apartheid countries in Africa stamped on it and had made numerous racist comments to friends. Also this shooting took place in a state that still proudly flies the Confederate flag outside its statehouse. So much for race not playing a role. This guy didn't walk into a Walmart. He clearly knew what he was doing and who he was doing it to.
An attack on Christianity? I suppose then that the Newtown and Columbine shootings were attacks on schools. Just like the Aurora shooting was an attack on theaters, and the Washington Navy Yard shooting an attack on the military. Oh, please! The guy deliberately chose a BLACK prayer group in a BLACK church in South Carolina, not the Mormon Tabernacle Choir in Salt Lake City, Utah.
But, you know what? That's not my problem with all this. It no longer surprises me that there are people who will never be able to connect the dots and see the forest for the trees. Either they're lost in their own ignorance or they're just flat out racists. At this point it doesn't matter. I could give a shit.
No, my real problem is with the millions and millions of people who reacted with shock and horror at the news and then a couple of days later, returned to their otherwise drab and routine lives. Their indifference and apathy has allowed this cancer to metastasize in the body of our country for way too long. Children are shot to death at a school, brave servicemen and women are killed at a military base, and now 9 churchgoers are murdered at a prayer meeting. How many times do we have to say, "How many more lives will be sacrificed?" before the majority of this country gets off its collective ass and says, "ENOUGH?"
The polls say that a majority of people favor sensible gun regulation. You could've fooled me. When 20 six-year olds are shot to death in a school in Connecticut and we still can't pass a god-damned gun bill, that is a disgrace. Like so many other tragedies involving guns, our outrage over the incident quickly faded away like the plethora of bad TV programs we gorge ourselves on night in and night out. We have more channels to watch than time to watch them.
Yet when it comes to voting, the statistics are dreadful. Only 57 percent of registered voters bothered to vote in 2012. In 2014, that percentage plummeted to 36 percent; the lowest since World War II. I'm certain if there was a marathon of some popular TV show on the air, millions of us would somehow find the time to tune in.
Our priorities as a nation are screwed up. We have abdicated our responsibility as citizens and allowed this country to be seized by special interest groups who are free to do whatever the hell they feel like. The NRA has turned this country into a shooting gallery and we have stood by and watched them do it. We mocked the moron who walked into a Chipotle in Texas looking like Rambo, yet did we do anything to stop him? Of course not. We were too busy tweeting about the latest movie we saw - Avengers, was it? - or making arrangements to have some buddies over for a barbecue - you bring the wings, I got the dogs and burgers - or watching yet another "reality" show on our new flat-screen TV. Even while writing this piece I can't tell you how many times I flipped through the cable channels looking for anything to distract me. Did you know that according to the Weather Channel, if you're in New York, this weekend is going to absolutely suck?
Like that Pink Floyd song, we have become comfortably numb. Our empathy goes hand in hand with our attention span, which, last time I checked, was just north of a gnat. Part of this can be blamed on how complex our lives have become; the world has changed a great deal over the last few decades. The rest, quite frankly, is just due to plain old laziness. Americans just don't give enough of a shit about the things that really matter. Someone gets shot, that's terrible; take away our internet service, and it's the end of the world. I can't remember a time when I didn't see people texting on their smart phones at restaurants or the workplace. Texting has now become one of the primary causes of driving fatalities in this country. What we won't do to avoid what's right in front of us.
Freud would've had a field day with this society. We are about as close to a textbook definition of the id as any generation that has ever lived. And you thought the '70s was the "Me" decade. They ain't got nothing on us. Think about it for a moment. We're cooking our planet, killing ourselves left and right, destroying what's left of the middle class and witnessing the eroding of an infrastructure and education system that was once the envy of the world. But what do we worry about? A fake war on Christmas and defending the rights of Neanderthals to turn the country into the wild, wild west.
We scream to high heaven about our rights, yet seldom, if ever, speak about our obligations. We say we hate our government, yet we keep electing the same idiots to represent us. We are perpetual victims looking for someone to blame, while never once daring to look in the mirror. To quote the immortal words of Cassius, "The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves."
There's that famous scene from the movie Network, where anchor Howard Beale implores his viewers to shout out, "I'm mad as hell, and I'm not going to take this anymore!" The stunt worked. Millions of people complied, but like most stunts, it didn't last long; just long enough to boost the ratings up for a few nights. Then the cold reality set in. Nothing had changed. All that happened was that a whole lot of people let off some steam and temporarily felt better.
That isn't good enough this time. Shouting at the top of our lungs won't cut it anymore. Words without actions are meaningless. As the old saying goes, if nothing changes, nothing changes. You may not like the current occupant of the White House, but he was right when he said, "We are the change we're looking for."
The truth is we've always had the power to change the world in which we live. What we've lacked is the will to carry it through. We've been content to let others do the heavy lifting. It's time we got up off our asses and carried some of the load. This won't be easy. Taking back a country that we gave up on never is. It's sort of like trying to catch your car after someone took off in it with your keys in the ignition.
There will always be people who hate enough to kill and they will certainly succeed from time to time. But they cannot prevail if we don't let them. As Edmund Burke once said, "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing."
It is high time we stopped doing nothing; high time we stopped being backseat drivers. If indeed there is a God, as we say there is, he will most certainly hold us accountable for those sins we have not reconciled. And the greatest of those sins will be the sin of indifference.