Monday, April 20, 2009


No doubt you have heard by now that this is the tenth anniversary of the day when two self-indulgent, twisted, infantile right-wing psychopaths shot up a high school in Colorado.

Much has been written over the weekend with respect to the lessons learned from the Columbine massacre. How can American culture produce this kind of behavior on a regular basis?

Much of it, from both the left (guns!) and right (culture!) has been both simplistic and flat out wrong.

It goes far deeper than that, I fear. It goes all the way to our national psyche.

For example, Canada has a comparable number of guns per household to the USA. It also has as its national sport one of the most physical, violent games played, ice hockey. Guns. Culture. Yet...

You don't hear about Canadians shooting up busloads of people as regularly as you hear about Americans doing it. Why?

The words of the former Premier of the province of Alberta will speak volumes to you:
A few years ago, former Alberta Premier Peter Lougheed astonished us by denouncing what he called “the decline of collectivity” in Canada. “We are becoming increasingly Americanized,” he warned, “and this imposes an un-Canadian individualism on our ethic.”


It says so much about this nation.

People only mature when they are exposed to other people on a regular basis, when they can learn to empathize with the plight of others, when the culture around them demands that attention be paid.

If this isn't learned from an early age, immaturity sets in, and you have the fertile grounds for the self-indulgence that sees everything from mass killings to subprime mortgage markets, all in the pursuit of the Material Me.

We used to teach Civics in school, but budget cuts imposed by the Republicans, the very fount of self-indulgence and immaturity, have forced schools to decide whether to raise citizens or drones.

We used to teach ethics & compassion in society, but the greedy bastards who decided that the Fairness Doctrine was unprofitable saw to it that we raised a culture where your opinion doesn't count because you can't raise the money for it to be heard, to ennumerate just one of many hits to ethics we've witnessed in my lifetime.

We used to teach community in our cities and towns, but that was before the word was modified with the adjective "gated".

We used to have neighbors, and now we have co-tenants.

We used to invite the world to our doors, now we make them stand behind fences, gazing in on us, and when we do allow them to enter, we make them jump through so many hoops while dangling the dream of prosperity in their faces, so is it any wonder that after all that effort and time, folks get a little upset when they aren't lottery winners?

We encourage individuality, unless you want to have sex or be married, which is the very essence of individuality. And heaven forbid you need to have an abortion! There, you have to conform!

What the hell do we expect when we insist on conformity in others' behaviors but demand individuality when it comes to our own useless peccadilloes?

Freedom isn't free. It comes with its own long list of demands in exchange for releasing you from captivity. Among these are the responsibilities inherent in any free society best summed up by the saying, "If one man is not free, then I am not free."

Collectivism, in this area, is individuality. If you take care of others, you will be free to be whom you want, whom you need to be, because the responsibility is on them to help you when you need it.

Won't work, you say. True. This is America, and no one trusts anyone else. THe Colonial motto should have been, "I got mine, Jack, now you go get yours," instead of "Don't tread on me."

Which means we have to change America, or we will not survive. No man is an island, and that goes double for a nation of wannabe islands. We have to learn to give a damn about everyone, and I mean EVERYONE, else.

We fake it. We pay attention when Madonna falls off a horse. We geet into a tizzy when some woman in Arizona has fourteen children. We throw a fit when our President tries to fix the problems of this nation.

And we spend trillions on a war in a land where people hate us, where most of us will never visit, and will soon be useless to us for any potential natural resources, but to spend a few thousand here to bail out a neighbor who is losing his house?

And there's the rub.