How do we respond constructively to the terrible carnage in Newtown, CT?
Many voices have already been heard on this vexing question. But only a few commentators have recognized that such rare and tragic events are but a small part of the widespread violence in this country.
A mass shooting may be likened to the sudden eruption of a volcano on a slowly sinking island — the volcano gets the attention and publicity, and few stop to ask why the island is sinking.
To be sure, we must reduce the easy availability of lethal weapons and ammunition in this country; improve access to mental health services for severely disturbed persons; and enhance our coordination with school personnel, so that we can prevent alienated and disaffected youth from acting on their violent impulses. No other considerations should distract us from these goals, or be used as an excuse for inaction on any front — particularly with respect to firearms control.
And yet, more fundamentally, we must also address what I call “the romancing of rage” in our society — the many ways in which American culture fosters and even valorizes angry, aggressive behavior.
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