ROSE NOLEN: Tucson shooting not surprising, considering current state of US

Tuesday, January 18, 2011 | 12:01 a.m. CST; updated 8:58 p.m. CST, Tuesday, January 18, 2011

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?

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frank christian January 18, 2011 | 9:37 a.m.

Pertinent, poignant, piece. Wish it could have run in every newspaper in the country, about a week ago.

(Report Comment)
Paul Allaire January 18, 2011 | 10:33 a.m.

You don't have any guns, do you Frank?

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams January 18, 2011 | 10:36 a.m.

Rose: Two comments; one is corrective.

(1) The shooter in AZ did not have an automatic. He had a semi-automatic. There is a huge difference. An automatic is a "machine gun"; when the trigger is depressed, the weapon fires continuously until the trigger is released. A semi-automatic fires only once when the trigger is released; to fire it again, the trigger must be pulled again. That is, one trigger pull, one shot.

You have to have a special license to obtain an automatic weapon. Someone with better understanding of the laws should chime in here, tho.

(2) I appreciate and agree with the "what we have become" theme of your article. In fact, I agreed with you before you wrote this; this topic has been concerning me for decades. I wish you would write a second article describing how you believe we got to this point. That is, what events, what trends, what social changes got us here from there? How did we get so lax?

I'll start with "incrementalism" and add "loss of religious beliefs and values" (i.e., loss of a "referee") to get things started.

(Report Comment)
Christopher Foote January 18, 2011 | 11:16 a.m.

@Mr. Williams,

A number of studies suggest that the belief in a "referee" does not lead to people behave more responsibly.

Here's one: "Cross-National Correlations of Quantifiable Societal Health with Popular Religiosity and Secularism in the Prosperous Democracies

The conclusion:

"In general, higher rates of belief in and worship of a creator correlate with higher rates of homicide, juvenile and early adult mortality, STD infection rates, teen pregnancy, and abortion in the prosperous democracies."

Paper here:

This pattern also holds true if we limit it just to the states (say red states vs. blue states):

My own opinion is that it is the lack of education that is a major driver of social ills.

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams January 18, 2011 | 2:42 p.m.


My list was not comprehensive. It was a start.

I'm of the belief that we have abandoned many of the traditional things, "core values" if you will, that kept us on a reasonable straight-and-narrow course as individuals and as a nation. Those core values have self-discipline as a major attribute. That discipline is always based upon a set of core principles that most, but not all, folks believe in. In historical terms, that's been "religion", a belief in a higher power that referees right and wrong.

In the absence of a referee, there is no uniform right and wrong. What you may consider right might be wrong to me. Indeed, in the most divisive form of "secularism", you could easily ask (as I have), "If all cultures and beliefs are equivalent, what is the purpose of Amnesty International?" Who are you or I to say, "You may not circumcise your wife"? Or, "You may neither keep political prisoners, nor may you kill them directly or work them to death as slaves."

Where is the societal justification that you are right and I am wrong? And, if we continue to disagree, will you war over it? How will you justify that?

It is also my belief that as we move from one generation to the next, we've relaxed what we will tolerate. That is what we call "incrementalism". It's why your 10 y/o can get porn in only a few clicks of the mouse but, in my youth, Lucy and Ricky had separate beds. Incrementalism has thinned the already-thin veneer of civilized behavior that allows us to respect one another and live together in reasonable harmony.

When I look at the RESULTS of billions and perhaps trillions of dollars spent on more progressive "education" over my lifetime (since 1949), I tend to discount your explanation of "inadequate" education. Education can't happen without self-discipline, and self-discipline can't happen without a belief in some core principles, most likely "religion".

Society has entropy. Education does not provide the energy to reverse this entropy. History proves this. A solid and societal belief in core values, a societal self-discipline likely cored by religious commonality, does. Lose the commonality, down the tubes you go.

History proves this, also.

(Report Comment)
frank christian January 18, 2011 | 3:07 p.m.

Chris has a point, "My own opinion is that it is the lack of education that is a major driver of social ills." Doubt we would agree on the subjects our kids are missing, however.

Humanist Charles F. Potter writes, "Education is thus a most powerful ally of humanism, and every American school is a school of humanism. What can a theistic Sunday school's meeting for an hour once a week and teaching only a fraction of the children do to stem the tide of the five-day program of humanistic teaching?" (Charles F. Potter, "Humanism: A New Religion," 1930)

(Report Comment)
Paul Allaire January 18, 2011 | 3:17 p.m.

There were two scenes from "Beneath the Planet of the Apes" that are most applicable to the discussion.
The first is where the professor dispelled the illusion that one society put over onto the army of invading apes for their self protection. The second is where that same society expressed their unity by standing at attention while worshiping a particularly large nuclear missile. I liked the scene best when the person from the twentieth century pulled the switch to detonate it.

Say Mikey, if a bunch of people got together and committed a massive crime, was it a crime if they didn't say it was a crime?

(Report Comment)
Paul Allaire January 18, 2011 | 3:24 p.m.

Frank, they could get their ilk elected onto various school boards and then subvert the process from within. At that point they could attempt to control the textbooks that are allowed into the classrooms. They could pressure the faculty into teaching "creationism". They could vote against any kind of spending. They could always... gasp... teach.

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams January 18, 2011 | 3:32 p.m.

Frank: To this point, I've deliberately avoided choosing any particular "referee". Partly that was to avoid any debate about the goodness/nongoodness of any particular religion...of which there are many of each type.

The rebellion of my generation that I witnessed (60s/70s/80s) abandoned many of the things that made my parent's generation, and those who came before, great. Was there universal self-discipline and beliefs among those populations? Absolutely not. Was there more of a "commonality" than now? Absolutely.

Here's some examples: Lately, we've discussed saying the Pledge of Allegience at city council meetings. Is this a big deal...either way? Well, no, it isn't. And it's not a big deal to refrain from prayer before an event, and it's not a big deal to say "No", and it's not a big deal to view porno once in a while, and it's not a big deal to show public disrespect to your opponent when you've scored a touchdown, and it's not a big deal to switch jobs every 2 years for an extra dollar/hour, and it's not a big deal to not pay attention in high school science, and it's not a big deal to forgive a crime because of someone's upbringing..........

Until you add up all those "not a big deals" and find just how different you've become. Things that were NOT a habit...are. Things that WERE a habit...are not. INO, things aren't "better", even tho that's what you were striving for all along!

Bearings have been lost, and the only easily (but wrong) path seen ahead is...the same sort of stuff. Who once said, (paraphrased): "Irrationality is doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting a different result"?

You are right.....Chris is going to have to define the type of "education" he's talking about. Because some of those "educations" lead........nowhere good.

(Report Comment)
Charles Coleman January 18, 2011 | 4:19 p.m.

At one time it was held that humans are different from the other animals because they strive to better themselves and each other - that this was the legacy each succeeding generation was to take on and improve on. The "boomer" generation, of which I am one, put an end to that by creating the "me" generation. Now the accepted principle is to strive to disseminate the lowest possible common denominator of social behavior, to be as coarse as one can be in public and in private. One can only hope that some generation down the road will take up the higher ideals, and start the process of improving on them. Otherwise all of the "improvements" in social interaction (i.e., race relations, acceptance of our gay brothers and sisters, religious tolerance, etc.) will be for nothing.

(Report Comment)
Christopher Foote January 18, 2011 | 4:36 p.m.

If your hypothesis is true, Mr. Williams, how come measures of societal health are inversely proportional to the percentage of individuals who believe in a "referee"? Throw out the data or the's your choice. And to Frank, that's what I mean by being educated; the ability to think independently and formulate a logical interpretation of the world around you. Thus one's perception of the world changes as new information arises. This is in contrast to a world view in which all new information is viewed through the narrow lens of a pre-ordained interpretation of the world, with all data not conforming to that view dismissed as false, a priori.

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams January 18, 2011 | 4:59 p.m.

Chris: Your first reference will be an interesting read, which I will do this evening. I've started it, but so far it seems scientifically thin and doesn't come close to addressing my concerns/comments about the totality of things that have gotten us from there to here. The only graphs are "belief in evolution?"

I'll read it.

But, no comments from you on my notions of the impact of "incrementalism", lack of self-discipline, and "What is the purpose of Amnesty International if all things are created equal and good?"?????

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams January 18, 2011 | 5:08 p.m.

Oh, you will know where I'm coming from:

I'm a Christian, ardent evolutionist, big-bang enthusiast, don't care who you sleep with, don't believe MJ or booze are gateways (but the social settings where they are used ARE), bio- and analytical chemist, fiscal and political conservative, responsibility-accepting, businessman, gun-toting, hunter, fisherman, father of 3 daughters and grandfather of 6, tree-planter, canoe lovin', truck-drivin' 61 y/o man who does not care if social security is there for me or not.

Try puttin' THAT square peg inna religious round hole.

(Report Comment)
frank christian January 18, 2011 | 9:09 p.m.

Mike W. - Damn, you're good! Somehow much better than "over yonder". I believe you really do "like this place". You've got Christopher answering you in "measures" and %'s. His to me: "that's what I mean by being educated; the ability to think independently and formulate a logical interpretation of the world around you. Thus one's perception of the world changes as new information arises. This is in contrast to a world view in which all new information is viewed through the narrow lens of a pre-ordained interpretation of the world, with all data not conforming to that view dismissed as false, a priori." Sounds to a dumb ole' Boone County boy, like the mad scientist in the comic books we used to read before we and our education went down the "tubes".

Speaking of Christopher Foote, have you heard anything from frothferous?

(Report Comment)
Ricky Gurley January 18, 2011 | 10:19 p.m.

MIAMI VICE! You want to know just now we got to where we are? That's it in a little tiny nutshell!

When it became profitable to glamorize drug dealers, violence, having millions no matter how you get it, smoking cigarettes, drinking alcohol, and all of the other stuff that has been televised in the name of profit for the entertainment industry! Wanna see for yourself? Look at the correlation between crime and the steady increase of violence on television in the past 30 years. Try to remember that children in their formative years are growing up with this...

Ricky Gurley.

Can't stop it now. It is too late...

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams January 18, 2011 | 11:24 p.m.

frank: The discourse here is much better than "over yonder." I've become a convinced convert on "using your own name." In addition, folks are taking pride in their writings; you can see it in the sentence structure, grammar, punctuation, and obvious proofreading. Yes, I like it here, and hope many more join us. The only problem I have with forums is there is no opportunity to write something, then come back a day later and see that what seemed so clear and lucid at the time was really not so clear and not so lucid. Also, tone, grins, body language, and the like are missing. Nothing we can do about such things, tho.

There is also little tolerance for trolls; folks seem to be sorting out those with whom they will respond.

The paper is unabashedly liberal, but there is a good smattering of conservative commentators. I appreciate it. So far, with only a couple of exceptions, I've found the posters to be thoughtful folks with excellent ideas. It is not necessary for me to agree with them, and it is not necessary for them to agree with me. It IS a requirement that we all keep thinking...if this place is to remain worthwhile.

No, I have no idea who is whom when it comes to the posters here versus those "over yonder", except those who used their real names in both places. I expected to tell who was whom via their writing styles, but that's not the case so far. H4 is the only guy to correlate his real name with his former moniker; I wish he posted more here....he's good people, even though we don't always agree since he's usually wrong (big, friendly grin).

Yeah, I like it here, but I intend to only post when (1) I have the time, and (2) something strikes my fancy.

(Report Comment)
frank christian January 19, 2011 | 8:13 a.m.

Mike - Better watch what you wish for. Remember #1 above. If h4 posted "all the time", you'd be posting all the time.

(Report Comment)

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