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Husband, father, grandfather, friend...a few of the roles acquired in 62 years of living.  I keep an upbeat attitude, loving humor and the singular freedom of a perfect laugh.  I don't let curmudgeons ruin my day; that only gives them power over me.  Having experienced death once, I no longer fear it, although I am still frightened by the process of dying.  I love to write because it allows me the freedom to vent those complex feelings that bounce restlessly off the walls of my mind; and express the beauty that can only be found within the human heart.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Veering Off the Path of Hate

Copyright © 2013 by Ralph F. Couey
Except for quoted and cited portions
People must learn to hate,
and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love.
For love comes more naturally to the human heart.
 –Nelson Mandela 

It was a moment that has happened all too frequently.  Regular programming was interrupted and in that familiar stentorian tone, we were told of yet another school shooting.  This one in Colorado, only 8 miles from the scene of that tragedy in 1999 that forever changed our lives.  A student had walked into his high school armed with a shotgun and opened fire.  This one, however, ended quickly.  The teacher who was the student’s intended target left the school.  The 18-year-old, seeing the approach of an armed deputy sheriff, turned the gun on himself.  But not before shooting a young girl in the head, a girl who now lies in a coma, her survival unknown.
Most Americans inwardly moaned, “Not again!”  Faces became grim, heads were shaken, and people of faith offered prayers.
The political response was entirely predictable.  Those on the left demonstrated for stricter gun control laws.  Those on the right blamed the culture of casual violence in television, music, and video games.  They were both wrong.  The right’s claim on violence in entertainment, while disturbing, seems to fail on the fact that tens of millions of kids play those games for hours on end and nearly all of them will go through their lives without committing a single act of violence.  The left’s position on gun control also collides with the fact that this was a legal gun purchase by an 18-year-old adult (in the eyes of the law, anyway) who had no history of police involvement, violent behavior, or mental or emotional problems that would have shown up on even the most stringent background check.
But the media attention, curiously, was rather short this time.  Cynics have suggested that this was because the only death was the shooter, and the incident, unlike Columbine and Newtown, only lasted a few minutes, or perhaps the revelation from his classmates that he was a committed socialist, wearing shirts regaling the former Soviet Union. 

There is also the disturbing notion that these actual or attempted mass shootings have become so common as to blunt our national attention span.
There is a problem here, but it is one that goes far deeper than politics.
We have an anger problem.  Whether it stems from the stress of the times, or a breakdown in personal discipline and sense of proportion, it is revealed to our eyes every day.  It is a rare day when we don’t hear about or witness an act of road rage.  We see or hear about people fighting in stores, in parking lots, and in courtrooms.  Turn on the television, and we are shown people in conflict, and handling that conflict in the poorest ways imaginable.  Programs depict guns, knives, and bombs as tools of resolution.  Panels of people sit beside each other and verbally brutalize their opponents.

“From Hell’s heart, I stab at thee!
For hate’s sake, I spit my last breath at thee!
--Herman Melville

Weapons are only the visible symptom.  If you eliminate guns, combatants will turn to knives and clubs.  Take away those, and the weapons of choice will become sticks, stones, and fists.  Even if you tie them into chairs, they will still hurl insults at each other.  Anger is our illness; violence is our reaction.  Children have big eyes that see far more than we could possibly appreciate.  And this is what they have been taught.  By us.
Where does this end?
We have put ourselves on a very dark path.  The way is unknown, and the destination may very well be the edge of a cliff.  Our default response to conflict has gone from discussion and compromise to violent retribution.  This can be reversed, but only if we commit ourselves to choosing a better path.
Dr. Martin Luther King once said, 
“Like an unchecked cancer, hate corrodes the personality and eats away its vital unity.
Hate destroys a man’s sense of values and his objectivity.
It causes him to describe the beautiful as ugly and the ugly as beautiful,
and to confuse the true with the false, and the false with the true.
I have decided to stick to love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.”
Dr. King, and the late Nelson Mandela have taught us much.  And through their words, and more importantly, their actions, they can continue to teach us, but only as long as we are willing to be taught.
Let us all open our minds and our hearts, and choose to walk a better path.  Together.

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