Diabetes and Gun Violence: The way we treat disease.

As America grapples with the menace posed by mass shootings and (seemingly) random violence, it is worth noting that the phenomenon can be considered an indication that our society is sick. Sick, getting sicker, with no way to heal the body except for a dramatic transformation in the way we live. This is similar in scope to many physical diseases prevalent today, for instance, diabetes.

Think about the way modern society treats illnesses today. A person gets sick, goes to see a physician, gets a diagnosis, a prescription for a drug, an assurance that this will put her right, and goes home, trusting completely on the pill to cure the problem. Depending on the situation, the drug might or might not restore her to health. Quite often it only masks the symptoms.

In the case of diabetes, she contracts the disease, perhaps as a result of years and years of gorging herself on fast, junk food and a lack of exercise to work off the excess. There may be little or no attempt at all to lose the obesity or a change in diet to bring it under control. In situations like this, the medication is expected only to treat the symptoms by keeping the blood sugar at a tolerable level, but it is not meant to cure the underlying disease. It is essentially nothing more than a bandage over a hemorrhage.

(Note: Diabetes can be contracted by people who are serious about maintaining a healthy lifestyle through strict adherence to diet and exercise. This article is not meant for them. They have my respect and I wish them well.)

The approach to mass shootings is pretty much the same. Feed society on the idea that young men and women can join the military and shoot other people they don’t know. Feed society on Hollywood movies which glorify gun violence as a means of solving problems. Feed society on video games marketed to young children which depict gun violence as a pleasurable game. Feed society on the idea that if you wind up pregnant, you can make the problem go away by killing the unborn child. Feed society on the philosophy that all morality is subjective to the individual person and situation. Feed society on political divisiveness and hatred. Feed society on personal irresponsibility and refusing to teach children about the consequences of their actions or to hold them accountable from an early age.

I could go on, but you get the idea. These things (and many more unmentioned) are the junk food that America gorges itself on daily, year after year, decade after decade. Then, inevitably, when a symptom (mass shootings) shows up, address it by prescribing a treatment (background checks, red flag laws, gun restrictions, etc.) which have the effect of assuring the patient (society) that the disease (violent behavior) is being treated effectively.

This treatment, however, will have as much lasting effect as that of an obese, inactive person taking a pill to counter and control diabetes, while refusing to change her lifestyle in a meaningful, positive way. Modern medicine treats the symptom of the disease, but does not address the cause. So too with modern society.

An obese, inactive person can overcome diabetes by adopting a radical change in lifestyle. It will be difficult, but it can be done. It will require, not only the obvious changes in diet and exercise, but also the attitude of personal change—the idea that unless personal action is taken to correct the problem, nothing at all will change. Nobody else can do it.

So too with America. Because society is composed of individuals acting personally, society can be transformed by individuals changing their attitudes and lifestyles in meaningful and positive ways. It will take time. It will not be obvious immediately, but in the long run, it will be noticeable. And well worth it.

I can’t do anything about the random acts of violence which are perpetrated in society on a regular basis, but I can make the necessary changes to minimize and eliminate violence in my own life. This will require, first of all, a change in the way I think about myself, my relationship to other people, and my relationship to God. After that, it is simply a matter of living it out.

Killing and the Question

Within the space of one week, there have been three mass shootings (see here, here, and here) across the United States which have killed more than 30 people and left many more wounded. Shootings like these are a shock to our system, which relies on trust and cooperation in order to function. After all, if you can’t go to a Garlic Festival or a Walmart without worrying about being shot, then there is no place which is safe.

Many people will be clamoring to strengthen and rewrite existing gun laws, with the professed intention of bringing this irrational violence to an end. Will this work? If history is any guide, probably not. Anyway, the argument over guns is a strawman which will have little or no effect on the violence which is playing out in our country and around the world.

People are killed in mass shootings, aggressive wars, the deliberate driving of trucks or delivery vans into crowds at an outdoor cafe, stabbings, gang warfare, police brutality, drug related murders, and abortion on demand, which killed over 600, 000 innocent unborn children last year in the US alone. All of these (and more) have one thing in common–the complete and utter lack of respect and honor for human life.

Jacob Hornberger has attempted to identify a cause of the violence we are learning to live with. His theory is that the war mentality America has inculcated in her citizens over the years is coming home to roost.

“I believe that America’s forever wars, sanctions, embargoes, and assassinations overseas are triggering some sort of mechanism within the minds of people who are bit off kilter mentally, which is causing them to wreak the same sort of violent and deadly mayhem here at home that the U.S. government, specifically the Pentagon and the CIA, is wreaking in the Middle East, Afghanistan, and elsewhere.”

Hornberger may be right, but he doesn’t go far enough.

Violence and the use of deadly force is as American as apple pie. It is endemic in our culture. It has been part of America from the very beginning. For those who are doing the slaughtering, human life is worthless. The sanctity of human life means nothing. It spans the spectrum of society from the streets of Chicago to the killing rooms of Planned Parenthood to the callous attitude of Madeline Albright, who, when asked about 500,000 dead Iraqi children as a result of crippling sanctions imposed by then-president Bill Clinton, responded that she thought the price was worth it. Throw in video games, psychotropic drugs, the Hollywood effect, and many other contributing factors and it’s no surprise that we are seeing individuals randomly acting this way.

The killing (in whatever form it takes) will not stop unless and until we grasp the concept that human life is precious, priceless, and not to be held in contempt. Human life, from the very beginning to the very end, must become something which is esteemed and valued. The lack of respect for it is a primary cause of all killings and, if we are ever going to bring this senseless violence to an end, we must absorb and live the understanding that human life is too valuable to simply destroy.

It won’t do any good to pass more laws or to increase the penalties. Giving the government more power will not help. This is a heart attitude and must be changed there, at the individual level, within the conscience of what is right and what is wrong. It has to begin with me. It has to begin with you.