Much to my dismay and chagrin I spent part of Sunday mowing the weed patch known as my lawn. Every time I perform this annoying chore I happen upon several tree stumps in the backyard. I grumble about digging them up as I try, awkwardly, to navigate my way around them. However, when the job is done and I’m looking out at my lawn while I’m enjoying an adult beverage I forget all about the tree stumps and marvel at how good my weed patch looks.
Whenever tragedies like the recent one in Colorado or the recent wave of murders in Chicago I’m reminded of the tree stumps in my backyard. Sure there’ll be some awkward speeches and political campaigns will be briefly suspended. The NRA will rally to defense of people’s rights to have an arsenal and gun control forces will quietly argue for common sense gun laws. Like me and my tree stumps, people will say this time is different!
But it won’t be different. We know it won’t be different. Society will just chop down the problem tree and stand in the window while drinking an adult beverage marveling at how good the lawn looks. We’ll feel good until the next tragedy. The stumps will continue to trip us up.
We’re so engaged in treating symptoms that we never really treat the disease. We need to understand why people react to situations with extreme levels of violence. A pair of airplanes destroys the World Trade Center and our reaction is to launch a war, surrender civil liberties and ban carrying contact solution through airline security. Few people publicly asked, “what in the hell would motivate people to carry out such an evil and violent act?”
We hear talk of expanding gun control laws (and they should be), toss a bunch of people in jail and wonder whether Hollywood and music have become too violent. But we never ask why Hollywood is so violent and what people are experiencing that makes them create violent music. Most importantly we never ask why people are so eager to consume such products. Is violence truly American as cherry pie?
One day soon I’m going to have those stumps removed from my backyard. I hope at some point we can say the same for society in general.