Murderous violence has been with us since the generation after Adam and Eve first trudged, ashamed and burdened, east of Eden, banished from the Garden because of their disobedience. Few things through the ages have defined us so much as our ability to visit horrific cruelty upon our fellows.
The ability to “mass murder” is anything but a new phenomenon. Jews have a much too intimate knowledge of the horror and sadness that comes with the experience of the vicious slaughter of multiple numbers of innocents in a short period of time.
If technology has been consistent over the span of history, its greatest constancy has been that it has always lurched forward in creating ever more efficient methods of killing.
No, murderous evil is not new and the recent mass murders are not wounds unique to our age. What the base nature of man and technology has conspired to create that is new (and unseen until very recently) is the effectiveness with which the latent evil of man has transformed too many vulnerable, damaged individuals into killing machines.
What is revolutionary to this moment in history is the veritable army of weak, damaged, vulnerable young people who have metamorphosed into agents of slaughter unshackled by the hand of the state.
That is, for the first time in history mass murder is not directed by the state but by individuals who roam our streets and avenues; individuals not gathering beneath the banner of fascism or communism to serve as drones in the armies of a satanic leader but rather by the release of some restraint that exists within themselves.
We see the evidence of the horror on our television sets. It screams to us from the front pages of our newspapers. It is a cancer, a sickness that needs to be healed. But as we know only too well, addressing the problem of mass murder in our society is a complex issue and process. Too often, in this complexity, viable and appropriate avenues of healing are ignored or discredited, almost always in the service of profit or power.
There is much we do not know about the eruption of mass murders in our society but there are some things we do know that we must examine closely if we are to be at all successful in keeping our children safe and stemming the tide of violence.
Among the things we do know is that the slaughter of innocents, as we witnessed in Newtown, Connecticut, demands a specific mechanism of death, a firearm that allows for many people to be killed and maimed in a very short period of time, and that it also demands a catalyst, something that transforms a damaged and vulnerable individual into a killing machine.
As for the mechanism of slaughter, apologists and lobbyists for guns and those who vociferously defend gun “rights” will reflexively refer to the Second Amendment or some trivial sentiment (“Guns don’t kill people; people kill people”) to defer critique. They will dismiss the “same old liberal complaints.” They will also correctly point out that the vast majority of gun owners do not commit horrific crimes or, indeed, any crime at all.
What these apologists miss is the simple truth that no other civilized country in the world has so many guns, or so much freedom for its citizenry to own and use guns without a direct association to a formal, military involvement. So too, no other civilized country in the world experiences such horrific gun violence.
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That said, while we feel strongly that the proliferation of guns, and guns of remarkable lethal power, needs to be stemmed, we also acknowledge that ultimately guns are just the tool for accomplishing these evil and horrible acts. And while it is manifestly true that denying access to the tool would help prevent much slaughter, the greater and more pernicious ill at work is a culture that glorifies murder and violence – a culture that finds its most damaging expression in violent video games.
On that count, we will hear too from the producers of and apologists for video games that millions upon millions of players of violent video games do not engage in acts of violence. We will hear from defenders of the First Amendment that denying producers of violent video games the right to produce their hateful product will compromise our essential freedoms.
About the Author: Rabbi Dr. Eliyahu Safran serves as OU Kosher’s vice president of Communications and Marketing.
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