“She didn’t mean anything to me.”
Such were the words of a drive-by shooter explaining why he had killed a high-school girl waiting for a bus in Seattle some years ago. These cold words come to mind as I hear story after story of senseless shootings in our country. To me, this kind of thinking is equivalent to a deadly virus behind a plague of violence and incivility that is infecting our country.
The common thread tying all these atrocities together, whether it’s the shooter in a drive-by, or a person invading a school, synagogue or Walmart in Anywhere, U.S.A., is evidence of their disregard for their victims. “They don’t mean anything to me, … so why not shoot them?”
But the virus spreads, infecting other areas of our lives. Soon voices are heard saying hateful things like, “He is garbage!” “Harass them all!” Name-calling and unfounded accusations have become art forms, in effect saying, “You don’t mean anything to me!” And sadly, the air between us becomes foul, polluted and far more dangerous to our well-being than gas guzzling cars and coal-burning stoves. Ironically, this toxic virus often goes unnoticed by those who spew it.
As a nation, I always thought we were better than that, and I still do. We are better than that, and to correct the situation, passing more laws won’t help. They won’t stop the killing, harassment or abuse of fellow citizens. Government cannot solve this kind of problem, because, at its roots, it is about the condition of the human heart. And should it try, angry voices will immediately rise declaring it to be unconstitutional.
I assume most Americans are people of goodwill, disgusted, even frightened by these intolerable behaviors. We know better because we are better than that! We haven’t forgotten the Golden Rule, have we? Besides, we proclaim that we are all endowed by our creator with the unalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Yet, many who oppose the death penalty for the guilty may cheer the killing of the innocent. Granted, some will object to that “our creator” part, but in all honestly, do we really think the framers of our Constitution in any way meant to say, “God doesn’t mean anything to us?”
It’s the human heart that is in trouble, for at the deepest human level we are all brothers and sisters. By ignoring this, we easily become indifferent to one another, just one small step from saying, “She didn’t mean anything to me.” As members of this society, we have something very valuable to say that will make a difference. We will say it best by how we respect and treat one another. As people of goodwill, our motive is something I trust we all have in common: a genuine concern for the condition of the human heart.