Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The Chardon School Shootings (and the legacy of Manifest Destiny)

We look at the Chardon shootings and ask, "Why?" Perhaps we should look into the history of America - which is a history of violence - to find our answer.

We need go no further than the genocide of Native American. We have all heard about it, but apparently, we do not fully comprehend the breadth of the killings that comprised that genocide. We think of it as a single word, a single event. It was a total and horrific narrative - an inch by inch slaughter of men, women, and children. From the shores of the Atlantic to the Appalachians, we drove entire nations of people over the mountains, across the Mississippi, killing them all of the way to the Pacific. And for the few who survived - of the millions that once lived freely upon this great land - we herded onto reservations, supposedly for their own good.

It was violence from "sea to shining sea," and we imagined our acts forgivable, born as they were of "Manifest Destiny" - God's plan. It was never God's plan that we kill like we killed. That was "our" plan. We laid the seeds at the doorstep of this continent, and sowed endless rows across its regions. Diligently, we reap that bitter harvest.

We are wed to violence, even unto this day. The marriage document is a defense budget (aka, "offense budget"), larger than the next ten nations combined. We cloak our vows within such expressions as "Defenders of Democracy" and "National Security." These words become our license to kill.

Why should we suppose that there is a disconnect between the violence nations wreak upon helpless peoples, and the violence individuals of that nation wreak on one another?

The other day, at the Republican presidential debate, the candidates were asked if America should negotiate with the Taliban. Three of the four candidates, led by Newt Gingrich, cried out, "We don't negotiate with our enemies, will kill them." The audience erupted in applause.

I hear that among the victims of Chardon, was a boy who was dating the shooter's ex-girlfriend. Chances are, the shooter saw that young rival as his enemy. Are you sure, Mr. Gingrich, Mr. Santorum, and Mr. Romney that we want to send such a message to our young people as, "We don't talk to our enemies, we kill them."? There is a nexus between how adults conduct themselves, and how children behave.

Recently, Benjamin Netanyahu, the prime minister of Israel, was in America trying to convince our president to join with Israel in an attack against the sovereign nation of Iran - not for something Iran did, but for something Israel imagines Iran might do.

In particular, Netanyahu wants Obama to back a pre-emptive strike on Iranian nuclear facilities. Such an attack would be an act of war, one that not only would kill many of innocents, but could unleash deadly nuclear fall-out upon hapless millions in that region. That our president would entertain such an irresponsible prospect reflects the uninhibited nature of our willingness to kill.

And today, a young man of Chardon - more child than man - is charged with the murder of three fellow children. Even now, he might be asking God, "Why did you allow this to happen?"

God did not allow this. Better that he ask America's leaders: "How do you kill so freely, and not expect your killing ways to rub off on us?"