America is having to once again look into its popular mirror. The constitutional right to bear arms has had another of those unsurprising consequences with a gunman shooting down a group of innocent persons, during no period of civil or international strife. Rather, on a singularly normal day, people were mowed down like blades of grass. Extremely uncivil behaviour for which no one should have the right. Once again, there will be the soul-searching about gun control and regulations that seem to facilitate possession of firearms without really having much of a filter on who can possess lethal weapons and ammunition. I do not find it at all surprising that, in the wake of the weekend’s carnage in Tucson, sales of handguns have risen. The attitude is all too prevalent that if there is lethal force in the hands of someone else, then the only defence is to have your own lethal force. Such logic must mean a likely escalation of violence, at some time.
A friend earlier this evening cited the following quote from Robert Kennedy in April 1968:
“We seemingly tolerate a rising level of violence that ignores our common humanity and our claims to civilization alike. We calmly accept newspaper reports of civilian slaughter in far off lands. We glorify killing on movie and television screens and call it entertainment. We make it easy for men of all shades of sanity to acquire weapons and ammunition they desire.”
The matter of the US’s view of its humanity is, for me, contentious. It cannot be a common view, meaning it is not equally shared. If it were, then the scale of violence that people engage in against each other within the USA would not occur. What then does it mean to be civilized if you do not have a shared view of humanity? Civility has to be at the core. Possession of goods and services, or the ability to have seemingly unlimited access to goods and services is not at the core of civilization. No doubt, people have mistaken the trappings of economic progress–comfort–as being part of the essential fabric of civilization. What about culture, thought, manners, and taste? These are elements of what I would call civility, carrying with them the notions of politeness and courtesy. If you believe that the core of a civilized society exist, I suggest you pass a day and count how much civility you encounter. I think you will find it is precious little. Worse still, if you encounter children with adults you will find these traits not only absent but often not even suggested by an adult as appropriate.
A lot needs to be repaired in US society, and that has been known for decades. Some changes in basic behaviour is not the whole solution, but it will play a part. I heard someone on the radio today implore fellow citizens to wish someone a nice day, today and every day in the future, and say it from the heart. To suggest that people had to be told to be sincere was revealing. But, look. I pass enough people on any given day who move and look like zombies, without any sense that their eyes can focus on another person, or their mouth open to utter a greeting, so I am not in need of convincing that a certain heartlessness is common place. It is not enough to wish it were not so.