I gave my self a day or two to try and get things straight in my head, but I feel compelled to respond to the mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton. Not those alone, but the fact that we are averaging more than one per day in this country.
Not Mental Illness. We need to have a serious discussion of mental illness in this country. We need better means of identification and treatment and a system that pays for it for the good of us all; but mass violence is not the result of mental illness.
Nor is it the result of violent video games or tv or movies. There has never been any evidence that these things lead to violence. If they did why was the country not awash in killings when every kid saw the bad guys gunned down at the westerns every weekend? Or when the gangster movies were shooting people up. Or war movies. Attempts to blame media for these things is an effort to simplify and deflect attention from the real problem.
The El Paso shooter, Patrick Crusius, 21, of Allen, Texas wrote a hate filled manifesto on a known racist website. He drove to El Paso, cased the Wal Mart, and deliberately chose a target frequented by Hispanics. He engaged in careful planning, he was clear on his motives, and he made a choice to act. These are not the actions of someone who is mentally ill.
No these are a result of Spiritual Illness. A radical decline in our empathy for our fellow human beings. A failure to see the other as human. Treating others as less than human, as less than equal, as less valuable, in our language and actions leads to some seeing the others as inhuman. Which leads to the desire to exterminate them.
Some of the language in this country is overtly racists (or otherwise bigoted – I will continue to use the word racists as short hand) and while a small minority those who self identify as white supremacists are a vocal group. As with any group, those who are vocal likely represent only about 20% of those who share their ideology. The FBI has identified over 1000 armed groups in the US who share this ideology. People like Patrick Crusius become involved with them thorough online forums and even when acting alone they are part of a larger movement.
These people are emboldened by the more subtle racism that is much more widespread. Racism has always been one of the great American failures. We embedded it in our Constitution and in our laws. We have made some great strides, but it is still there. Sometimes codified into laws and sometimes not. The problem is in recent years is the proliferation of subtly racist language and policies.
When we allow hateful language, or fearful language for they are part of the same thing, to become normal then we cannot be surprised when those ideas are acted out.
So what do we do? We condemn hate in all its forms. We listen and we think and we object when people are described in any way that might make us think about them as less than human or less valuable. We consider our own thoughts and attitudes. There is no excuse for hateful language. There is no “I was just raised that way” or “I was only kidding” that is acceptable.
Do not be deceived. Unless you have been actively working against it you have likely swallowed some of it or even passed some of it along. It is insidious.
If we are to be the followers of Christ, if we are to follow the command to love as he loved us, we must stand up. Hate is the weapon of the enemy. Hate is the tool that corrupts. Hate IS the enemy.
Zero tolerance for hate in any form.
[This only addresses Motive. For a crime to be committed there has to be Means and Opportunity as well. This has gotten too long so I will, perhaps, address those another day.}