The time for a national conversation has arrived. Nightmares are occurring around us. Whether Norway, the USA, Australia, China or wherever, disturbed people for disturbed reasons, or even no reasons, are preying on innocent people. Often using firearms, occasionally blades or other weapons, the sick ones abuse, stab, shoot, maim, murder or commit mayhem on whomever gets in the way; children, men, women, passersby, whomever, it doesn't seem to matter who.
Families, communities, schools, societies are terrorized and traumatized to their inner most depths and then the perpetrator commits suicide, or is killed, or is protected by judicial processes. The media has a field day of outrage, feeding the frenzy. Then all of us are left asking "Why?" As we have a right to do. It's imponderable. Unthinkable. Illogical. Evil. Who's to blame? We look for the source of the problem.
We blame the separation of church and state and the absence of religion in schools. We simultaneously feel abandoned by and then invoke the protection of God. We blame the Second Amendment and the availability of weapons and then affirm our right to possess them and our need of their protection. We simultaneously affirm our constitutional rights and then move to infringe those rights.
We bring our questions to the wrong places and then are astounded to find erroneous answers there.
So swallow a bitter drink of cynicism and be offended. Then think about it. We have symptoms of social ills believing they are problems. The problems betrayed by these symptoms find us at the end of our own pointing fingers. In the words of Pogo, "We has met the enemy. He is us." As Coffey in the movie "The Green Mile" said, "They killin' what they love all over the world."
We want others to sacrifice without sacrificing ourselves. We want rights without responsibilities, and vice versa. We intolerantly blame others for intolerance, and blame them for our faults. Citing cost-containment, we under-medicate the mentally ill, release them without proper management and then blame them for their aberrations. Our media sensationalizes story-distortions in the interest of selling, providing those of low self-esteem a vehicle for public aggrandizement: do something crazy and you'll be famous!
Military weapons are freely available to protect us from our own government, or criminals, or the boogie man under the bed: then we self-righteously say, "Guns don't kill people. People kill people," as if the phrase "Guns don't make people secure. People make people secure" weren't true.
We teach religion calling it science, and science as if it were a religion, often not understanding the difference. We teach children to memorize and recite, as if the ability to analyze, criticize and think were less important. We select unqualified and avaricious candidates, elect the most popular, and then wonder why we are governed poorly.
We have interests, passions and wants, and believe them to be values. We do all of these things for long periods of time and then, when perverted, unconscionable, unspeakable acts occur, in our horror, grief, and disbelief, we ask, "WHY?" Seeking the answer outside of ourselves. Why, indeed.
It's about values. Let's take a serious look at the ghosts and superstitions that occupy the dark corners of our days, feeding the worst nightmares of our nights. What are values? I mean really? Take them out and give them a bold look.
I don't mean the "shoulds" and "should nots" we were fed as children, or the "oughts" and "ought nots" we learned from ancient texts: the traditional bulwarks against our deepest fears.
I mean values that we actually apply, and live, and teach, and act on, in our daily lives. Do most of us think about them? Do we know what they are? Do we live them? Some do, many don't. Many live superstitions, myths and wishful thinking, believing they are values.
Think about it. If we dare, herein lies the substance of where our conversation ought to go.
Jon C. Deisher is a life-long Alaskan who has worked for the last 30 years in human services, counseling and work for the severely disabled. He lives in Eagle River.