Monday, July 23, 2012
I have written several pieces over the last three years about guns, violence, terrorism, and Buddhist teachings. All of them were quite "hot" in terms of readership and discussion. Men, in particular, seem to flock to these posts, with very strong views on anything violence related. Perhaps because we are disproportionately guilty of engaging in rape, murder, warfare, etc.
Anyway, the predictable churning of commentary and advice is occurring following the Aurora, Colorado massacre. I say "predictable" because many of the arguments and end point directives are totally recycled. So much so that I have come to believe these discussions function like salves. They ease some of the distress of not knowing what else to do, or how else to respond.
There's a lot of back and forth about gun control, mental illness, and media violence. There's a lot less back and forth about race, and the use of the word "terrorist," but I have seen a few articles about that as well.
In another American city, Anaheim, racialized police violence over the past few days has led to multiple protests and calls for investigations.
While these two situations are more extreme, they represent the general tenor of our nation.
Civil society has broken down. Greed and hatred often trump compassion and sharing. Even in the face of clear and unshakable statistics, too many of us continue to gulp down oil, destroy the land for profit, defend wars on foreign shores, value fluff entertainment over meaningful relationships, and generally place individual (or nuclear family) gratification above all else.
Before accusations of cynicism arrive, I also see numerous counter-cultural movements. Attempts to revitalize community. Rethink what it means to educate and be an educated person. Rethinking and redefining work. Reconnecting with the planet and the recognition that destroying the environment is destroying ourselves.
It's not completely bleak, but those elements of a broken civil society still outweigh everything else. And there's no way to know if we'll reach a tipping point towards a more enlightened way of living together anytime soon, if ever.
All I know is that the level of violence in this country - and in many other nations around the world - won't significantly be reduced until significant social transformations occur. Restricting gun ownership, no matter how much I might support it, is just a band aid. Reigning in police militarization, no matter how much I support that, is only one step amongst many needed.
These two lines from the Dhammapada come to mind:
131. One who, while seeking happiness, oppresses with violence other beings who also desire happiness, will not attain happiness hereafter.
132. One who, while seeking happiness, does not oppress with violence other beings who also desire happiness, will find happiness hereafter.
Until teachings like this - regardless of what tradition they come from - are considered commonplace truths, gross level violence, like the shootings in Aurora and Anaheim, will continue to be far too common.