I have the privilege of mentoring some MBA students at the Rady School of Management, the business school at my alma mater. On December 22, 2012, the Rady School tweeted a quote attributed to Theodore Roosevelt: “To educate a person in the mind but not in morals is to educate a menace to society.”
Since the December 14, 2012, slaughter of innocents and innocence at Sandy Hook Elementary School, I have wondered how to constructively deal with this tragedy. The perpetrator was nothing less tan a domestic terrorist, a suicide bomber raised as a product of a United States society that seems increasingly amoral. This act of violence was facilitated by the perpetrator’s unfortunate access to deadly force that should be unnecessary in a self-described civilized society. However, the perpetrator proved to be far from civilized; he may be properly classified as mentally ill, as a psychopath with no regard for human life. He was, however, a product of our self-described civilized society.
Largely in the name of individual liberties and liberal thinking, culture and society in the United States has gradually and methodically removed and abandoned God, respect and reverence for human life, and self control from the way we raise the next generation. In the name of open-mindedness and free thinking, boundaries, values, morals, and standards for living, gradually have given way, in a large portion of U.S. society, to free expression, free love, unfettered living. In the name of these freedoms, society has abdicated its responsibility and ceded its authority to restrict behavior.
As a consequence, the entertainment industry glorifies violence and numbs impressionable minds to death, while decrying the death penalty and restrictions on abortion. In the United States, and elsewhere, we have systematically jettisoned any sense of rudder and keel for living and then wondered why people act as if they are misguided and lacking values. We proclaim that we cannot or should not tell people that certain behavior is wrong, or that it at least is not helpful, an then wonder why people behave badly.
We lament the lives lost by suicide bombing, which seemingly value the life of the perpetrator more than the other victims by emphasizing the loss of the perpetrator’s life over the lives of the others. The United States seems to be raising up its equivalent to suicide bombers, as evidenced by the mass killings in our homeland carried out by, for the most part, young men. Somehow, these mass killers, just like the suicide/homicide bombers in the Middle East and Southeast Asia, have never had or have abandoned value or respect for human life. They lack values because we are gradually replacing cultural elements, including religion, from their lives and filling the void with other cultural elements that provide different values.
It is easy to blame guns or video games. It is also easy, and unaccountable, to blame mental illness. Guns and mental illness seem to certainly play a part. The more difficult factor to address, that network news commentators never mention, is the decline in values. As a society, our leaders have led us down a wrong path, to destruction rather than freedom, and our leaders lack the discernment and the spine to propose a change in direction.