Whys and what-to-dos about mass violence
April 30, 2013
Why the Boston Marathon bombing? Why Newtown? Why Aurora? Why Virginia Tech? Why Tucson? Why Columbine or Oklahoma City? Even if we understand why there may be a few solutions that fall within our ethics, practices, and laws as western democracies, but it is worth our effort to keep pursuing avenues while respecting the limits we place on ourselves. That is the dilemma and search for the right balance we now face.
The alternative is to become so paralyzed by unacceptable solutions that we become tacitly willing to accept these acts of terror and mass murder as the price we pay to freely pursue our happiness. It appears we are inadvertently reacting like the character in Kurt Vonnegut's novel Slaughterhouse-five , accepting every horror of violence and tragedy with the mantra "… so it goes." We slap down any proposed solutions that fall short of a cure-all, or we claim any solution is not worth the price in dollars and restriction of our democratic rights.
Pinning blame to answer the question "why" is the easy part. Immediately after Boston we looked for those to blame… the FBI, the CIA, Russian intelligence for not giving us more information. We know motivation of other perpetrators: anti government paranoia, festering anger at childhood difficulties, parental mal practice, social alienation, inability to assimilate, mental health disease, a twisted Muslim or Christian preacher, perverting religious beliefs to rationalize the killing of innocents and doctors, and reaction to drone attacks and US invasions and occupations. There is no one cure any more than there is one event or one cause that motivates terrorists and mass killers.
There is one common thread that describes the bombers and the shooters. They are young males. However, so long as we subscribe to our Constitutionally guaranteed freedoms, we cannot put all angry young males in shackles. We cannot assume that every young man, Muslim, anarchist, or Neo Nazi, is a threat and preemptively deny them rights without any proof they have concrete plans to act out their aspirations.
Modern media brings unprecedented attention to the horrific deeds and political and religious causes. Media coverage serves as the gasoline fueling the perpetrators' bonfires. We cannot ban media coverage. But we can continue to insist that victims stories', bravery of the responders, and a Boston Strong's resolve not to succumb to fear get equal time. It is the best way to send a message that acts of violence are futile and counterproductive tools to advance causes or to gain glory.
We cannot ban every weapon young men can access or ingredients for bombs cooked up in their mom's kitchen . . But we can reduce the number of the incidents. We can make existing barriers of access to weapons administratively more effective while still honoring the second amendment. Failing in the Senate was an amendment to provide greater access to mental health services and early identification and intervention of potentially violent children and individuals. That proposal should be revived.
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We need to resist the temptation to exploit the immigration debate by advocating banning all Muslims from entry to the US. By perpetuating hatred and fear, we only incite more home grown terrorists already here. We pride ourselves as being a melting pot nation and it is in our national security interest to resurrect those values. Case in point: the good relations Canadian police had with the Muslim community resulted in tipping police, who thwarted a train bombing last week.
Some solutions are indeed limited by Constitutional constraints or by how some narrowly construe those constraints. Expect acts of violence in the future. . and 'so it goes'. Nonetheless, other solutions are still worthy to pursue to limit the carnage and the number of incidents.