Here’s why active shootings will continue to multiply until there is a comprehensive bi-partisan plan.
News Media is an Active Enabler of Active Shootings
Our culture is negative news driven because people cannot pay attention to anything else when being chased by a bear. News media and media outlets capitalize on this fear. Every shooting report focuses on the shooter, who they were “what we need to know” about them, and often they even get recognized by governors and the President of the United States. What an easy way to become famous and get attention. As long as our media gives shooters what they want, the slaughter will continue unabated. There is a responsible way to report while not giving details about the shooter. This is the main reason we have so many active shootings. See “Money” below.
There is an Epidemic of Loneliness in Our Society
As a social worker, I’d put it simply: people are miserable. From young to older, we are alone and isolated, and the news media and social media is saturated with fear and violence. We can watch real wars on social media every day. We are told how many people were killed. Our planet is dying. The U.S. is moving to a Civil War. We are warned of diseases, constant fear of attack and death, and no place seems safe anymore. Such drives people more and more into isolation. Girls are four times more likely than boys to attempt suicide, but boys are better at killing themselves, and unfortunately others as well. Kids are having to wait in the hundreds on waiting lists to get mental health treatment. The major problems for them are anxiety, depression, social phobia, and, of course, suicidal ideation. For some youth, this puts them in danger of homicidal ideation as they grow increasingly hostile to others, blaming others for their suffering and pain.
The United States is an Anti-Social Nation
Everything from school policy to politics breeds anti-social behavior. Just look at the recent decision by the Girl Scouts of America. The organization decided not to have girls sell cookies in person anymore. They are now selling online. Aren’t girls struggling with too many online issues and social isolation? So, how does removing girl scouts from the community, where they interact with people, better? Yes, you can be “too safe.” And that may sound contrary to what I am writing here, but in our attempt to make kids safe, have we not made them much more anti-social?
Many schools don’t allow kids to hug or hold hands. Yet, we are hardwired for close physical and social intimacy with one another. We are told as school bus drivers to leave students on the street if they don’t make it to the stop on time. I’ve seen buses pass kids, not stop or pick them up. That is just cruel. What message does this send to our kids? Rules matter more than people. No wonder. Liability matters; people don’t.
This nation was founded on individualistic principles. These are not bad, per se, but many of our heroes are anti-social vigilante murderers. They hate people. There is so much violence in our entertainment, yet people are totally immune to it. I did not notice until I spent a month out of the country. When I came back, I could no longer watch most U.S. films. Even the Avengers is so violent it is nauseating. Few notice.
The Fall of Religion in Our Society
For those that read some of my work, such may come as a shock to you. I am not religious, but it is pretty obvious to me that as communities moved away from a faith-based center, they’ve become more disengaged with one another, and we see more violence. With all its flaws, and there are plenty with religious institutions, they focus on what is rare in the United States: community. People may not come to worship God, though they say they do, but they come for food and gossip. As these disappeared, they were replaced by many sports: dance, gymnastics, soccer, and martial arts, but many of these are competitive and can breed conflict within the community. So, while these things can be positive, given the other problems, losing a religious community is really losing identity for many people.
I was taken aback when a former FBI investigator said that one reason why the holocaust happened was because of money. There is always money somewhere as a motive. The more I thought about it, the more sense it made. If we stigmatize a group of people, we can eventually take all their property and belongings and sell them. We can sell the people, and use them for sex, labor, and organ trafficking. When no longer useful, we can exterminate them cheaply. It’s big business. And that is key here, too.
Every time a shooting happens, gunmakers make more money. Active shootings promote a gun-buying frenzy. So do the democrats with gun control legislation in a similar way that Putin promotes Ukrainian identity for Ukrainians and NATO expansion in Europe. They are great for business. Media outlets like CNN, Fox News, the New York Times, and The Washington Post make money reporting on these shootings. Active shooters become super money makers. Politicians can blame, build straw men, and say that this one issue will solve the problem: safer gun laws or more guns. But neither will do a thing to stop a society that already has more guns than people. Politicians often use kids as fodder for personal political gain, for, you guessed it, money.
No entity here will take any responsibility whatsoever for its actions because this is a society of unaccountability in the passive “mistakes-were-made” voice. This is exactly what Nazi Germany was, too. Always lie, never admit mistakes, and go after truth-tellers with a vengeance. Such sounds as much like Russia as it does the United States today. Being pro-social is no place to be found.
Kindness may sound juvenile, even stupid, but I am convinced that we have become so awkward at socializing, even mean, especially on social media, that our ugliness for each other is tipping the violence scale to mayhem. You or I may not kill someone because of the Avengers or that we no longer go to church. That is silly to think so, but when we add all of this up such becomes clear: Kind people are invisible; ugly ones are famous. So, as long as we have a culture that supports ugliness and violence, that is exactly what we will get.
Earl Yarington (LMSW) is a social worker and school bus driver. He taught literature and writing for nearly 20 years and spent 3 years working in forensic social work internships with offending populations, including work at Delaware Correctional facilities and the Federal Bureau of Prisons. He has a PhD in literature and criticism (feminism/women writers) from Indiana University of Pennsylvania, Master of Social Work from Louisiana State University, and an interdisciplinary Master of Liberal Arts from Arizona State University, where he studied the impact of visual image and girlhood in media/social media. He also has an MA and BS in English from SUNY College at Brockport. The opinions and analyses that Earl writes are his own and are not necessarily the positions or views of his employers, the agencies he supports, or that of his colleagues. Reach out with comments or questions.