The finger-pointing is in full swing.
Violence. Guns. Islamic terrorists. Mental illness. LGBT haters. Politicians. Immigration.
Why would a 29-year-old American with Afghanistan roots massacre 50 people and injure that many more in a nightclub as it closes in the wee hours of Sunday morning?
We rant and scream. We point fingers.
We want justice. Or, we think we do.
If we knew the true cause of that crime, perhaps we wouldn’t be so quick to judge.
Massacres make headlines. Media drop everything and show us the horror.
We’ve had far too many of those in recent years. A gunman killed 27 people, mostly children, at Sandy Hook Elementary School in December 2012 (was that really 3.5 years ago?). Another gunman killed 32 and wounded 25 at Virginia Tech University in April 2007. The Boston Marathon bombing in April 2013 killed “only” three but wounded 260 others.
How do such things happen?
Because we allow them.
Violent crimes happen every day. Massacres don’t happen every day, of course, but the day-to-day killings add up.
For example, 278 people have died in Chicago so far this year. The city suffered 492 murders last year, 427 in 2014, 422 in 2013 and 509 in 2012.
Why so little outcry nationwide?
Far more people have died in Chicago than died in Orlando last weekend. I even saw this headline dated Sunday morning: 5 Killed, 28 Wounded In Weekend Shootings Across Chicago
Did anybody outside Chicago even notice?
Why do we wait for big numbers to scream bloody murder? Do we not notice day-to-day crime, especially in inner cities, because much of it is black-on-black crime?
As a society, why don’t we care? Are we so numb to violence that we overlook it, until it reaches extreme levels?
U.S. residents own about one gun per person in this country. In 2014, 31 percent of U.S. households owned at least one gun – down from 37 percent the year before. In 1977, 50.4 percent of U.S. households possessed a gun.
People, of course, own guns for various reasons. The vast majority have no intent to kill or injure other people with them.
The Orlando shooter, Omar Mateen, called 911 during the attack to pledge allegiance to ISIS and mentioned the Boston Marathon bombers, according to a U.S. official. His ex-wife said she thinks he was mentally ill.
I wrote a blog in January comparing Christianity with Islam. The Qur’an, Islam’s sacred book, includes this passage:
“Therefore, when you meet the Unbelievers (in fight), strike at their necks; at length, when you have thoroughly subdued them, bind a bond firmly (on them); thereafter (is the time for) either generosity or ransom; until the war lays down its burdens. Thus (are you commanded): but if it had been God’s Will, He could certainly have exacted retribution from them (Himself); but (He lets you fight) in order to test you, some with others. But those who are slain in the way of God, He will never let their deeds be lost.” – Sura 47, v. 1-4
Those who follow Islam closely see “Unbelievers” as enemies.
As with any religion, however, not all who follow Islam do so literally or passionately. To say all Muslims practice hate is very likely not true. Many people who claim to be Christians don’t really follow Christ and his teachings, either.
While these statistics matter, they don’t explain our country’s fascination with violent deaths.
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness:
- Approximately 1 in 5 adults in the U.S. — 43.8 million, or 18.5% — experiences mental illness in a given year.
- 1.1% of adults in the U.S. live with schizophrenia.
- 2.6% of adults in the U.S. live with bipolar disorder.
- 18.1% of adults in the U.S. experienced an anxiety disorder such as post-traumatic stress disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder and specific phobias.
- An estimated 26% of homeless adults staying in shelters live with serious mental illness, and an estimated 46% live with severe mental illness and/or substance use disorders.
- Approximately 20% of state prisoners and 21% of local jail prisoners have “a recent history” of a mental health condition.
- Only 41% of adults in the U.S. with a mental health condition received mental health services in the past year. Among adults with a serious mental illness, 62.9% received mental health services in the past year.
- African Americans and Hispanic Americans used mental health services at about one-half the rate of Caucasian Americans in the past year, and Asian Americans at about one-third the rate.
- Mood disorders, including major depression, dysthymic disorder and bipolar disorder, are the third most common cause of hospitalization in the U.S. for both youth and adults age 18 – 44.
While gay and lesbian folks are becoming more mainstream and accepted in society at large, including a U.S. Supreme Court ruling a year ago legalizing same-sex marriage, many people in this country do not support that lifestyle.
Many opponents to the gay-lesbian lifestyle practice the Christian faith. The Bible clearly states its opposition to homosexuality, although it also talks about loving all types of people. These statements are interpreted very differently depending on which side of the debate you are on.
But as with gun owners, the vast majority of practicing Christians do not support violence against anyone – even if they disagree with a person’s lifestyle. There are exceptions, but most Christians are joining everyone else in opposing the Orlando massacre.
President Obama is not to blame for the Orlando tragedy. Neither the president, Congress nor anyone else in Washington, D.C., can legislate morality. The president cannot force us to practice peace if we choose not to.
All the laws in the world cannot change our hearts. Laws reveal our shortcomings and show us where we need protection.
No, Mr. Trump, building a wall to keep illegal immigrants out will not solve this problem either.
Our country was founded by immigrants. Why? They sought relief from government and religious persecution in England.
Let that sink in. Are we re-living history, because we have forgotten why this country was born?
Nearly all of us are immigrants, really. Even if we were born here, our ancestors weren’t, if we go back far enough – and many of us don’t have to go back all that far.
The root cause of violence
All of these issues may play a role in what we have become today as a society, but none of them is the root cause of our bent toward violence.
We get upset when 50 people die in one horrific scene, but not when 278 people die over a five-month period in one city. When a frog is placed in a pot of water and the heat is gradually turned up (Chicago), the frog dies slowly without realizing it. Throw that frog into a pot of water that is already boiling (Orlando), and it will die instantly.
Either way, the frog dies.
Chicago matters as much as Orlando does. Maybe more, because more people have died there.
Until we understand this and change our hearts – one at a time, each of us as individuals – the United States will continue to drown in its tears of violence. Have we not had enough yet?
The enemy is us.
We cannot legislate change. We cannot take away guns or add more guns; neither will end violence. We must respect other people, even if we disagree with their lifestyle.
Stop the finger-pointing. All of it. Look at your own heart.
That’s where the solution lies.
You can’t plead The Fifth. You can’t avoid the voting booth and let someone else decide. The answer to violence in America depends on you. And me.
The future of our nation is at stake here. Perhaps your own individual future, too. How do you know it’s not?
Which side are you on? What will you do about it?