As the tragedy in Arizona began unfolded on TV the other day (and of course I’m talking about the event where Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was shot), there was one surreal moment for me.
I happened to surf by Fox News. They had one of their typically alarmist blurbs on their busy, cluttered screen. It said, “Shooting has whole country on edge.”
I wasn’t on edge. I was saddened and dismayed to hear about so many people getting shot and killed. But I was not “on edge.”
We live in a free society – one in which people are allowed (some would say encouraged) by our Constitution to own guns. The framers of the Constitution did this deliberately, knowing that an unarmed society is tantamount to slavery...which, oddly enough, they also endorsed (okay, so they weren’t right about everything).
But there’s a downside to unrestricted gun ownership that we don’t like to face. Sometimes crazy people own guns. And sometimes they use them for other things than plinking at empty beer cans.
I try to not get all upset by things I see on the national news. This is because I remember a time before there was any national news to speak of. There were three television networks, and each had a thirty minute news program in the evening. With all that goes on in the world, most of the things that happened domestically got the short shrift. There were no satellites like we have now that enable any two-bit reporter in any podunk town to be a star for 90 seconds.
I know that all kinds of bad things happened...have always happened throughout history. Multi-car wrecks, tornadoes leveling towns, murders, shootings, kidnappings, mudslides and babies getting stuck down wells... these didn’t just start when CNN went on the air. If this same Arizona shooting happened on a Saturday in 1965, you might not have even heard about it. And even if you did, the event would not have been granted the national catastrophe! status conferred on just about everything these days.
I hate that there are evil people in the world. I hate that people use violence against others. I wish it wasn’t so. But it is. And it’s been going on since the dubious biblical story of Cain and Abel.
We have already begun to hear that the young man accused of Saturday’s Arizona shootings was known to people as having mental problems. A lot of people seem to have known about it! People who knew him have come forward (anonymously, of course) to describe him in unflattering terms. And it leads us to wonder if anyone tried to reach out to him...and whether there is – or ought to be - such a mechanism in society to help the mentally troubled before they do something harmful either to themselves or others?
It's easy to become depressed and overwhelmed with all the violence and misery in the world. It makes you feel so...so...uncaring if you just shrug your shoulders and go, "Meh- it's the human condition - nothing we can do about it." But there is. What we can do is deal with our own little worlds...be kind and caring and responsive to the people around us. Be compassionate and sympathetic...and more importantly, empathetic. And we should try to help those who seem a little "out there."
But at the end of the day we must recognize and come to terms with the fact that sometimes people will do inexplicably horrible things anyway.