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December 16, 2012

I was going to publish a post about Christmas and consumerism on Friday. I decided to wait a few days.

Everybody wants to know who to blame. Society, the media, the NRA, the lack of access to mental health care. The man with the gun, who’s either a monster or a product of a monstrous social machine.

I’ve read comments that say we are all to blame, for our complacency or lack of foresight. That as human beings, we are all capable of anything any human being is capable of. That violence does not take place in a vacuum.

The way I see it, it can be true that our society is rife with problems, while still being true that a damaged individual has willfully, consciously chosen to respond to these problems with evil.

I do not believe most people are born “bad”. I do believe most people have the capacity for depravity within them. And it is certainly true that the impulse to act in evil ways can be exacerbated by a person’s life circumstances. But many, many people, millions and maybe billions of people, live through horrendous experiences without responding to those experiences by murdering twenty children. Short of actual clinical delusion (which is very rare in these types of incidents), inflicting harm, no matter how or why that impulse arises, is always a choice.

We absolutely do need to examine problems in our society and in our media. But spreading more blame, beyond the individual who made an unquestionably malicious choice, is not the answer. Nobody wakes up in the morning and says, “Today, I’m going to contribute to a culture of violence and horror.” People wake up and have a bad day and project negativity onto others because they have never been shown what else to do with it. We are all emotional children. All of us.

There is already too much blame and too much shame. Let us open our eyes and face our society’s failings with clarity, determination, and compassion – for each other, for that vast majority who do not choose evil.

One Comment
  1. Paul B. permalink
    December 28, 2012 10:12 pm

    “Nobody wakes up in the morning and says, ‘Today, I’m going to contribute to a culture of violence and horror.'”

    In our capitalist economic system, some people do make a living in ways that contribute to a cultural glorification of gun violence, or that enable the actualization of that violence. I think it is reasonable to consider whether such economic activities should be regulated.

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