While I was deeply saddened by the tragic events that occurred in Tucson, Ariz., a week ago, unlike many Americans I was not shocked. The tragedy contained many of the elements that our country has allowed to get out of hand, so the same thing could happen anytime, any place.
The alleged shooter was a young man with mental problems that were allowed to go unattended. Throughout the country, there are many mentally ill people, many of whom are homeless and roam the streets, placing the lives of unsuspecting citizens in jeopardy. This particular young man, with his history of failure, lived with his parents. The status of his parental history is unknown, but responsible parenting is not something that we require in this society. So right off the bat we come face to face with two social problems that are quite prevalent.
The Second Amendment to our constitution gives us the right to bear arms, and gun laws vary from state to state. The possibility that a mentally ill person can gain access to automatic weaponry either from someone in his/her own home, a gun show or a dealer is always present. I find it surprising that it doesn't happen more often.
Furthermore, we have long ago crossed the point in our society where we have respect for one another. One day's observation of what we tolerate on national television in terms of language and behavior informs us that a portion of our society has not only lost respect for others but for themselves. Young teen girls referring to themselves and their friends as sluts and worse seems to be considered quite acceptable since it is common television fare. Men and women appearing in public half-dressed is an OK phenomenon. As a society we keep screaming that we are a free people who can do anything we like.
Unfortunately, we are not all playing with a full deck of cards, so to speak. And we cannot control anyone other than ourselves. So, things quite often get out of hand, and tragedies like those that occurred in Tucson happen. Nothing can be done to bring back those who were killed. We can only offer their families our sincere condolences. And we pray that the injured, including Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, will recover completely.
While I would certainly hope that our government would examine this situation and undertake any steps necessary to ensure that this type of thing never happens again, I'm afraid I lack the confidence to believe that much good can come out of our two-party system. I think that individuals will move swiftly to find what evidence they can to justify their particular ideology, and the country will get back to business as usual.
But individually, many of us will pause to examine our own way of life and reaffirm our commitment to peaceful co-existence. We will look at the unselfishness of those individuals who took their lives in their hands to put a stop to the murderous rage of the alleged shooter and recognize the fact that there is still much good in human beings to admire and emulate.
At times such as these I miss the great moral leadership of men like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to help guide us through the distress. As it is, we must find our own compasses, and as a result we will grow stronger from the experience.
Parents, teachers and others who have the responsibility of helping young minds to grasp this tragedy have a greater burden. I hope they will seize the opportunity to discuss the gift of life and the promises we make to one another as we exercise the experience of sharing the planet.
As we sit by and watch Americans foolishly squander the promise with which they were endowed, we can only feel a great sadness for the generations yet to come.
But that's right. We killed all the prophets, didn't we?
You can join the conversation with Rose M. Nolen by calling her at 882-5734 or e-mailing her at firstname.lastname@example.org.