Thursday, August 27, 2015

Missing the Point of Yesterday's Murders

The young, smiling blonde reporter and the young, burly, sweatshirted cameraman stood there interviewing some lady from Smith Mountain Lake. In an instant they were dead, murdered by a man with a gun, all the while filming his crime for dissemination on social media. Before the end of the day he too would be dead by his own hand. As the day dragged on, news began to trickle out about the murderer. We first learned that he was a disgruntled former employee of the station where the victims worked. We discovered that he had accused his former employers of sexism and racism. Finally a picture emerged. The killer was black and apparently gay, with a psychotic fondness for mass murderers. By last night, social media was doing what it does best, providing a platform for demagoguery. Politicians were doing what they do best, trying to score political points by hijacking a human tragedy to advance agendas. This is what we do in America. It goes something like this...

African Americans can generally kill other African Americans without attracting any media attention.

Whites can generally kill other whites without attracting any media attention either...as long as they don't do so in affluent neighborhoods.

If a white man kills a black man the chances are quite good that we will all hear about it, and depending on the circumstances, riots and Al Sharpton will soon follow.

If a black man kills a white man, there won't be riots or any Al Sharpton sightings, but if the local newspaper doesn't highlight the killer's race in 8 inch type across the front pages of every newspaper in America, white racists will scream "censorship!!" on Facebook for three days.

If any of the above scenarios include a police officer as the trigger man, all hell will break loose.

If young black males go on a killing spree, they will be described as being part of a lawless thug culture and generally speaking, beyond redemption.

If the killing spree is committed by a young white male, the news will soon be filled with psychological profiles seeking to discover what childhood trauma might have caused him to snap. In less than a year, Hollywood will make a movie about it.

In all of the scenarios above, if a handgun was used, we will be inundated with pleas from our politicians that "something must be done about gun violence." Then nothing will be done, because short of confiscating 250 million firearms off the streets, nothing can be done. Nothing, that is, that will actually do anything to stop gun violence. Lots can be done to make politicians feel important, though, so the struggle will continue.

When I heard the news yesterday and saw the pictures, all I thought was, "What the hell is wrong with people" But it's a question to which I already know the answer...human beings are inherently violent and sinful creatures. We are all hip-deep in the seven deadly sins of wrath, greed, sloth, pride, lust, envy, and gluttony. The most vain conceit of the past 250 years or so is the notion that the perfectibility of man can be a government project. If we can just pass enough laws, regulate enough behavior, eliminate enough injustice, then utopia will be attainable. But man will never perfect himself. Human redemption cannot be legislated. It is a personal, spiritual, internal endeavor. Government has a role, but it can never be the primary shaper of human behavior. That's a house built on sand. We hate each other because we have the gene for hatred. We kill each other because we are predisposed towards greed, envy and wrath. No statute can wash the stain away. 

So, for me, the fact that yesterday's killer was a gay black man and his victims were white, is as far away from the point as it is possible to get.