Let’s Stop Manufacturing Mass Murdering Weapons

I don’t know much about Ian Long, the young man who killed 12 then himself in a California bar this week, other than the basic facts and a few stories from his mother’s neighbors.

There was a great deal of speculation and rants by social media pundits about what happened in a Thousand Oaks, California bar, and about Long and why he did what he did.  We still know very little.

There is just one thing I know for sure about Ian Long and what he did.  He wasn’t born a mass murderer.  We crafted him. He is the latest mass murdering weapon we as a society have manufactured in this factory we call post-modern western society.

Yes, we are manufacturing mass murdering weapons but they don’t go by the names of AR-15 or AK-47.  They have names like Ian Long, Adam Lanza, and Nikolas Cruz.  They aren’t manufactured in buildings.  They are formed and assembled in the great wide open, right in front of our veiled eyes.

Even as I write this, the event is all but forgotten because fires are raging in California, people are mourning the death of a 95-year-old comic strip artist, and there was no evil AR-15 involved in the shooting.

Most don’t realize or refuse to accept that the blame lies with each of us for each of these horrific crimes or all of the other murders that occur but fly under the radar of social media and network news because the death toll isn’t high enough to move the ratings needle.

As there always is in the immediate aftermath of crimes such as Long’s, there was the predictable and mind-numbing gun vs. anti-gun nonsense, each side hoping against all hope that a certain gun was used so it would help bolster their argument.

To discuss guns in the wake of these incidents is intellectually lazy.  The weapons that need to be discussed aren’t made of metal and wood. We manufacture weapons made of flesh and blood. The process often starts in childhood. We start with raw material, then slowly re-wire each brain — devaluing and stripping away fathers, filling brains with violence, pornography and warped values.

What’s lying beneath the surface is all of the other murders that don’t titillate with body counts — murder-suicides, spouses hiring hitmen to eliminate the other, murders for $20 or for some invented offense.  These are all still the result of what we have created.

We churn out these mass murdering products then get upset when they work as they were designed. Reports indicate that PTSD may have played a role in Long’s rampage. Can we honestly be surprised?  But every previous generation has been at war, too.  Why is the result so different today?

My wife works as a nursing supervisor at the local VA Medical Center.  The stories she brings home invariably include the words ‘alcoholic’ or ‘addict,’ especially when addressing the young veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. Why have these wars produced so much alcoholism, drug abuse, and violent or troubled behavior?  The greatest generation of the 1940’s had to go to war.  They were trained to kill and many of them did. They came home and went back to the factories and moved on to live normal lives.

What happened to this generation of soldiers who are suffering from addictions and PTSD at much higher rates than their fathers and grandfathers?

Twelve people are dead in Thousand Oaks, California and scores more in Florida, Connecticut, and other places not because of a gun. Their deaths are the result of a long history of collective decisions we made over the years.

We traded true commitment to a marriage for no-fault divorce & temporary living arrangements

We traded fathers for visits

We traded faith in something greater and consequences for actions for YOLO

We traded having children for having things

We traded information for entertainment.

We traded working toward a goal for instant gratification.

We traded the long haul for the shortcut.

We traded community for isolation with handheld devices

We traded coping skills for participation trophies

We traded hard truths for easy prescriptions

We traded intelligent and respectful discourse for social media diatribes

We’ve taught two generations that not all human life is equal and made the slaughter of 60 million humans at the direction of their own mothers not only acceptable, but something that should be shouted with pride. You can even buy a t-shirt to celebrate your child’s dismemberment and death.

We’ve given an entire generation instant access to all the violence and pornography — and violent pornography — that their minds could possibly crave with just a few taps on a smartphone or a button on a video game controller. At the same time, we’ve erased any delineation between right and wrong, sacrificing it at the altar of political correctness.

We’ve spent more time in war than in peace.

We hollowed out the middle class by sending manufacturing jobs — the best and easiest way for non-college graduates to find a spot among the middle class — to other countries to build their middle classes.

We did all of this without a single thought or care as to the effects and outcomes. Actions have consequences and we are living all of them.

We have met the enemy and the enemy is us.

We all know the solution is prevention, but that goes way beyond having more psychologists and group therapy.  It’s much bigger than that. It’s taking a long, hard look at ourselves — individually and as a society.  What do we value and what are we willing to sacrifice?

That’s a long, hard road and there is just no place for that in the land of instant gratification. We are western society. We don’t have time for long-term solutions. We want a shot of ‘feel-good-about-ourselves’ and then get back to our reality television, Netflix, and Instagram.

We want our vote for the right candidate and the right party to be the extent of our involvement in the work that needs to be done. We want to spare feelings rather than collectively learn hard truths.

Even in 2018, society has no idea what to do about mental illness and has no willingness to suppress its pride to admit that the true fault lies not within our guns but within ourselves.

Until we realize that the troubled person is the weapon, the best we will do is continue the endless arguments over gun metal. Until we admit the failures of the free-love 60’s and the long-term effects it has had on society, we will continue to think first of ‘me’ long before we think ‘us’.

Are you ready to do the really hard work?  Are you prepared to let go of much of what you’ve been led to believe? Can you subdue your pride to move forward on this?

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This Is How I’ve Nearly Eliminated Stress, Tension, and Anxiety

I am loathe to give advice.  That’s not what this is about.  This is not a ‘revolutionary three-step plan’ for a better life.  The best I can do is say that this worked for me.

One trend I’ve noticed over the past few years is the growth in tension, anxiety, and worry in our society.  Whether it’s a true growth or if it’s simply being vocalized and brought to the surface more, I don’t know.  Perhaps social media is giving it a higher, more visible platform.  Regardless, it is evident that we complain a lot.  We worry a lot.  We get tense way too often.

I noticed it in myself, though it wasn’t a recent phenomenon.  Stress and tension, as well as non-clinical anxiety, were dependable companions for most of my life.  Raising four kids, dealing with an ex-spouse, working in marketing which always up being first in line for the chopping block when the economy or business turns sour, and trying to balance a new life can certainly be labeled as contributing factors.

All of that is still present for me.  The kids will be an ever-present worry, no matter how old they either of us get.  I’m still more than a decade from retirement, so I go to work every day hoping that day isn’t the last.  I still need to balance my past life with my wife, while trying to help her do the same.

What has changed is my re-ordered thinking and the shift in my prayer life.  I stopped focusing on what I wanted and started focusing on, and appreciating, what I have.  Simplistic, I know, but sometimes the answer is truly right in front of us and can be that obvious.  Concentrating on gratitude has made a big difference.

The gratitude is not for things.  That will never last for when a time comes when those things are no longer present, no longer will be the gratitude.  It is not a comparative gratitude, either.  To be thankful that I’m not a starving child or homeless, because that will still focus one on material things.  The gratitude is much more basic and granular than that.  If a person can get the gratitude to the level of the basics — waking up, air in the lungs, freedom — the rest naturally fall far down the list of what can infest a person’s mind and attitude.

In my prayer life, as well, I made a conscious shift from requests and supplications to simple gratitude.  I’ve nearly stopped sending requests and demands to God for what I desire and instead send my gratitude for what I have.  I have no calculator on my prayers, but I can confidently say that 90% of my prayers are those of simple gratitude — for my eyes opening each day, for the air in my lungs, and for another opportunity to enjoy my wife and family, music, art, literature, and the whole of creation.  There will be a day when that won’t happen.  Perhaps it would be best to keep that more to the forefront of our minds.

The problems I thought I had became far less significant and their status as problems has even become questionable.  There is no magic, here.  The conflicts and challenges of life do not suddenly disappear.  A mind re-ordered by gratitude have minimized their effect on me.