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Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Better Angels

Our better angels are slain during this season of new birth and light.

Twenty first graders and seven of their caregivers in a place called Newtown. We may never know why; and as with many of the wrong questions the answer may be that there is none.

Now there is a lot of talk about guns and mental illness in America. Let's hope it is just the beginning of dialogue towards meaningful action, not just another pop-up to soon go underground. Again.

I am convinced with Joel Klein that no amount of policy related to guns would have prevented this shooting. But nevertheless we need to use the occasion to develop a strong anti-gun strategy. We need to see Obamacare as just a first step towards getting the almost half of us who have had an incidence of serious mental illness the assistance we all need.

My NRA cousin Vinnie dittoheads that "guns don't kill people, people do." Yes people with guns! People have guns to protect themselves from other people with guns who have them to protect themselves from people with guns. So add more guns, Cousin Vinnie says.  Arm the principals and teachers.

In earlier meditations, I have written much about the American culture and its religion and the way it reenforces our economy and politics and is in turn reenforced by them. I have shown how that religion is often carried by the organized religions and their scriptures and rituals.

You won't be surprised then if I think that to adequately deal with the issue that surfaced in Newport, we must plumb the depth beyond specific policies and consider the American Mind and Morality that conditions our public and private behavior.

We look no further than the past election to see what appeals to that Mind and Morality:

  • economic growth as increase in consumption capacity (money)
  • strength through capacity for violence
  • domination of earth and its resources
  • power over the weaker: working poor, women, aliens
  • individual rights over collective responsibility
  • corporate interests over public interests
  • money's influence in politics.
And consider our heroes: the skilled cowboy shooter, the rough tough marine, the meanest football cruncher, the cop who stops bad guys with superior force often outside the rules.

The Mind and Morality of the new economy and politics, as laid out by Speth, Korten, and Alperovitz, and which I have labeled the Ethic of Integrity is so different and in conflict with the dominant ethic.

My mentor Hannah Arendt (On Violence) concedes that violence is sometimes necessary. But that's it. Violence belongs to the realm of necessity and not the space of freedom. It can be excused, but never justified. People walking around with weapons is the antithesis of a civil society just as Cormac McCarthy depicted in the Blood Meridian (the story of our past) and The Road (the story of our future). Freedom does need boundaries, enforceable rules and laws. But freedom means active engagement in speech and action without violence.

So in the national dialogue that is hopefully just beginning, let's get to the depth. Let's accept our history of founding through genocide and development through slavery and war so we can let it go and create a new story and a new ethic that will issue into a new economy and politics.

If that were to happen then our slain better angels, in the season of new birth and light, will confirm the miracle of resurrection.