On April 20, 1999, my daughter, Elizabeth, was helping me prepare dinner when we heard about the school shooting at Columbine near Littleton, Colo. This was not the first shooting at a school, and far from the first mass murder in America, but it shocked the nation. For weeks on end, there was commentary and political uproar. Many schools added security and metal detectors, making the students feel more like prisoners than students.
My oldest daughter is now 19. She has lived through the secure schools with the security guards and locked doors. My youngest daughter, Catherine, is now a freshman in high school and has grown far too accustomed to our safety measures as we all have grown far too accustomed to the loss of human life.
We all know, as we have known for many years now, that something must be done. The arguments always tend to center on the inanimate chunks of metal and plastic that are used to carry out these atrocities. We need fewer guns, one side will shout. More guns will deter crime, the other side will scream. Both sides have statistics and facts that can be used for any purpose they choose.
Most Americans agree that we should have common-sense gun regulations and that the extreme arguments are only used by extreme people to further extreme agendas. And while I do favor gun regulations, I do not believe that gun laws are the only answer. I believe that the problem that causes violence in our society has much more to do with our caliber than that of our weapons. We have developed a society in which we do not see people as human beings; we see them as objects, or, at best, stereotypical representatives of a group.
Advertising has taught us that people are things to be lusted over and fantasized about. Media bombards us daily with images of groups: this group is criminals, this group is moochers, this group is immoral. We see each other by color of skin, religion or language, and eventually the humanity seeps away and we no longer see a man. We see a prisoner, or a drug addict, or a conservative. We no longer see a woman; we see a sex symbol, a welfare queen, a Muslim. Why would this person’s life have value, when we have grown to not see the person at all?
We do need common-sense legislation, but we also need to address our common humanity. We need to accept everyone as our brothers and sisters, not only if they share our nationality or theology, but because we are all brothers and sisters. We must shun leaders which drive a wedge between us. We must reject ideologies that teach us prejudice. A house divided against itself cannot stand; a human race fighting against itself cannot survive.