The United States of America is a wonderful country. It gives its citizens certain unalienable rights. We have the right to free speech. It is one of the things that helps keep a government honest. We are free to voice our support for 1Direction and Bieber Fever. We have the right to trash a TV show we don’t like, to let everyone know how much we love-hate our venerable President. We also have the right to bear arms – to own guns and use them to protect ourselves and our families. However, what many people seem to ignore is that every right comes with its own set of responsibilities and consequences. If you fire a gun, prepare to face the consequences of that action. Ask any police officer what happens when they fire their weapon, the weapon they were trained to use on the job, and they will tell you the hoops they must jump through to show it was appropriate. If a homeowner shoots an intruder, they must prove that they felt their life in danger. If a soldier fires an assault weapon, it must be during an approved situation (during combat and not in a crowded shopping mall). All of these individuals understand that there are acceptable times and places for use of guns. The right to bear arms comes with an inherent responsibility to use them responsibility. If people fail to do so, they must face the consequences. The same can be said for the right to free speech. Just because you are legally allowed to spew hatred and vitriolic diatribes does not mean you are immune to their consequences. When a person tells the world that they hate a certain ethnic group, is it any surprise that certain companies (ones that don’t want to be seen as prejudiced) will refuse to hire him? If an actor rant and raves again the immorality of the television show he is in, can you blame the network for firing him? If a politician singles out women for causing their own rapes, is it any surprise that women in turn use their free speech to denounce him? Knowingly spreading falsehoods about a person or company can leave a person open to legal consequences. If a woman decides to write a blog about her mental and physical help, express her political opinions for all the world to see if they choose to read her words, can she then yell “Foul!” because someone doesn’t like what she has written.
I accept the consequences of my actions. Do you?
This is the New Normal: a world where going Christmas shopping can get you shot, a world where you need to wear a bulletproof vest just to see a movie at the theater, a world where we drop our children off at school and never know if it will be the last time we see them alive, a world where teachers are the first line of defense against a killer barging into the classroom. We no longer need to worry about the world being annihilated on a given date (12/21/12 is coming up soon) or a virus wiping us out or WWIII nuking all living creatures off the planet. No. We have seen the future. The death of humanity, of civilization, of life as we know it will be a slow Decay. Our humanity will be stripped away one piece at a time. It will be the slow rot from the inside out, similar to a tree that has its insides gradually eaten away by termites. We will not notice the extent of the decay until the whole thing comes crashing down. By then, it will be too late.
Our society is dying right before our eyes but people are so caught up in the politics of debate that nothing gets done. With each new step towards anarchy, we huddle in groups and point fingers at each other. This is not progress. This is the antithesis of progress. How young, how helpless must the victims be before we actually do something? The latest tragedy is not about school safety. It is not about gun control. It is not about mental health. It is about our Values as a society. We are raising generation after generation of disenfranchised individuals. We have lost our sense of community in so many ways. We no longer are taught about how we fit into our community, our state, our country, our planet. We all have a role to play in each of the microcosms. We have family responsibilities, as well as civil responsibilities. We should all feel empowered to be involved in the world around us. Life is not merely about getting by, taking care of our basic needs, living inside our own little world, irrelevant to others. If we live our lives in an insulated world with tunnel vision the norm in order to avoid being pulled into the larger debates, then why bother at all? If we, as sentient beings, turn our backs on each other and on our greater responsibilities, what will happen to this world we inherited? We did not claw our way out of the Stone Age to watch it fall to pieces now. Throughout history, humanity has moved closer and closer to more civilized living. Granted, we make one step back for every two steps forward. We are not perfect; we are human.
We have reached a critical time in history. We, as a species, have made giant leaps forward. We have the tools and capabilities to do so much. All of history has driven us to this point. What will we do with it? Will we meet the challenge of looking beyond ourselves? Will we be able to make a difference in the lives of others? Will we accept our civic responsibilities with enthusiasm? Or will we go gentle into that good night…