Does our loss of social capital contribute to mass shootings?
In college, I read an essay by Robert Putnam called “Bowling Alone.” The premise of the essays is that America has experienced a steady decline in participation in civic organizations. This essay, which was later developed into a book, only saw America until the year 2000 (the year the book was published) and I think Putnam himself would not have could have predicted the downfall of American relations with each other.
It’s easy to blame guns. It relieves us of responsibility. As a teacher, if I call out a child for bad behavior, they will immediately blame it on something other than themselves. Shifting blame seems inherent in human beings; a defense mechanism that saves us from ourselves, or prevents us from acting.
Guns help us steer clear of the problem of broken homes, lack of father figures, internet influences, growing societal pressures, mental health issues, verbal, physical abuse and substance abuse, and the ever-growing list of baggage we put on a generation of young adults that we choose not to invest in, but have no problem criticizing.
This does not change liability. Every mass shooting has only one person responsible for that mass shooting, but preventing mass shootings is the responsibility of all of us; and so often shooters all have a similar profile. They come from abuse in a broken home and have no one to turn to for help because they believe there is no one to help them. They get angrier and angrier until they become old enough and disconnected enough to do something the average person considers unfathomable and pure evil.
What if we become closer in community? What if people got involved again in the lives of others? Today it seems that if someone rings the doorbell we think they are trying to hurt us and we look through the blinds until the way is clear. What if we don’t? What if we invested in our community with more than taxpayers’ money and a vote in the next election cycle? What if we took the time to take care of each other?
I think it boils down to this: not all problems have a political magic wand. Some issues require personal responsibility and action. Some of these actions are painful and uncomfortable, but they are virtuous and admirable. We must be invested in our communities and, more importantly, in the children of our communities. When we see someone struggling, we should look up from our list of real-world 21st century distractions and listen to them, care about them, and reach out to them. You could save a life in the process.