I had intended to write a short monograph on leadership, but the event in Sutherland Springs, Texas needs a comment. I’m familiar with Sutherland Springs from 1969, when it was on the northern edge of our bailout area at Randolph AFB. There were plenty of open fields surrounding the area, and open fields are what you’re looking for if you’re about to let your jet aircraft crash into the ground while you take a nylon escalator down. I also know the general area because it’s relatively close to East Central High School where, my sophomore year, I had a wee bit of my tibia taken out by a steel tipped cleat on an East Central Hornet’s football shoe. We had been decimated by a flu epidemic that week, and my coach just put some Tuffskin and tape over the hole and sent me back into the game. I remember there were several players on the East Central team with German surnames because there were lots of German farmers in the area in those days. It was much like any other farming community in that part of Texas. These are, you see, good memories of Sutherland Springs and its people.
Now I must add the sad memories of Sunday to a mind that is already brimming full of sadness for the people in New York, Las Vegas, Paris, London, Afghanistan, and wherever else evil has acted upon the good. This is not an issue of gun control, but of evil versus good. Whatever evil is, it possessed this individual in Texas to do what he did. Too often we talk at crossed purposes when trying to decide how to prevent an egregious act from happening again. Everyone has their own solution: no guns, involuntary commitment, more guns, self-defense training for everyone, etc. All these suggestions are like treating the symptoms of a disease without trying to cure the disease itself, and many of them are hypocritical because the very same people purposing them fail to admit to themselves that our society promotes the killing of others. “Not so,” you say. But you are wrong. How many video games involve killing and ranking your ability to play that game with the number of casualties you inflict upon your opponent? Other games promote other types of violence and/or disregard for law and order.
Look at your television, where Mixed Martial Arts promotes the pummeling of an opponent until he or she cannot walk out of the cage. People cheer the victor, but perhaps what is sadder is that they cheer the pummeling while it is taking place. You can see the bellicosity in the eyes of those who cheer. They take physical, almost orgasmic pleasure in the pain being inflicted, and exult in the domination of one person over another; and yet we have nationwide campaigns to remove bullying from our society.
Now, murder is an evil act. Yes, I can make an argument for killing combatants in a war, but not innocents – even as “collateral damage.” But murder is the killing of innocents, and it is a thing of evil. It is not my intention to offer platitudes – Christian, Jewish, Islamic, Buddhist, or otherwise – about combating evil by being good. We should always strive to do good as we see it; but too many in our society haven’t had the opportunity to learn about good and evil. I’m not a “turn the other cheek” kind of person. Strike me, and holy hell will fall upon you, for I am trained and experienced in the arts. Strike an innocent, and I will impose the same justice upon you. Yes, I will invoke violence in response to violence; but I believe that, within reason, much of the original violence could have been prevented if our society took serious its bleating about ending such brutality. It isn’t guns, cars, knives, poison or Molotov cocktails; it’s people and their attitudes towards others. How can you resist evil if you don’t know what it is? And don’t start me on the media and its impact on all this.
When I note that society bears a great burden for allowing a culture of violence to perpetuate, I mean: What are you, as an individual, doing to alter this societal slide into the abyss of anarchy?
Right now, I’m praying for the souls of those slain and reminding you that life is full of risks. We don’t know what this afternoon will bring, so make the most of this morning.