Hardly a day passes when a senseless mass shooting does not occur in the United States of America, to the extent that such murders now seem to have lost their shock value. Verily, the US is averaging a little over one mass shooting every day in 2015.
Therefore, in that respect Wednesday was just another day in America when a couple armed with assault rifles and semi-automatic handguns, attired in military-style clothing went on a shooting spree at a social services centre in San Bernadino, California that specialises in helping adults with disabilities and mental health problems. They killed at least 14 people and wounded 17 others.
The man and woman, Syed Rizwan Farook (28), and Tashfeen Malik (27) were later killed by police. According to reports, Farook, a US citizen, had left an event, possibly a holiday party for employees or a meeting at the Inland Regional Center in San Bernadino “under some circumstances that were described as angry,” and returned with Malik armed with assault rifles.
Now that it has come to light that the perpetrators were Muslims by faith, this attack would be termed an act of terrorism. But that should not stop Americans from introspecting and looking inwards to realize that they, as a society, have a serious issue at hand concerning excessive violence. Over 310 million firearms are estimated to be in the hands of private citizens; that is, roughly 97 guns for every 100 people.
Studies show that where guns are more available, there are more homicides. This, coupled with the fact that nearly nine percent of the US population has a serious anger problem, makes America potentially the most violent and dangerous country on the planet.
“Anger is a normal human emotion,” Jeffrey Swanson, a Duke University psychiatry and behavioral sciences professor, and a leading expert on US gun violence tells National Catholic Reporter.
“Everybody gets angry. But these are people who, when they get angry, break and smash things, and get into physical fights. … People who have a really short fuse,” and who can at times be “uncontrollable and destructive.”
The problem arises when angry people have easy access to assault rifles that can inflict excessive physical harm on others. The issue would, however, not vanish even if we were to take away all the weapons from the private citizens, for the ‘anger’ would manage to find some other means of violent expression.
Even the US security personnel have been of late accused of unnecessarily pulling the trigger on unarmed ‘black’ citizens, as the shooting of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald in October 2014 and other such incidents show.
Let the Truth be told. America comes across as a trigger-happy and extremely violent country, for not only its military but also its private citizens are armed to the teeth. Americans love their weapons and are more than happy in waging unnecessary wars on hapless countries who pose no threat to them.
Iraq never threatened America, yet the ancient country was attacked under the false and malicious pretext of it possessing the weapons of mass destruction, which have not been found till date. It led to the creation of the ISIS, a death cult, that now poses a threat to the entire world. Now, in order to deal with this pressing problem engendered by themselves, the US would wage another war and the cycle of death and destruction would thus continue.
There’s too much violence in the words, thoughts and actions of Americans. Apparently, they have an excessive violence in their movies and dramas as well.
27-year-old former graduate student James Holmes, dressed in tactical clothing and inspired by a Hollywood movie, had in July 2012 attacked the packed premiere of ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ at the Century 16 theater in Aurora, Colorado, spraying bullets into the dark auditorium, killing 12 people – including a six-year-child – and injuring several others.
Why do such incidents happen in the US on a regular basis? Why do people have an easy access to weapons that, as history shows, are likely to be used against fellow citizens at the drop of a hat?
Mahatma Gandhi, who taught the lesson of non-violence and brotherhood to a world engulfed in sanguine wars in the early twentieth century, felt that possession of arms was not only cowardice but also a lack of fearlessness or courage.
Gandhi said: “I can imagine a fully armed man to be at heart, a coward. Possession of arms implies an element of fear, if not cowardice, but true nonviolence is impossible without the possession of unadulterated fearlessness.”
Perpetrators of violence or criminals, Gandhiji believed, were products of social disintegration. The only weapon that could counter ‘Himsa’ (violence) was ‘Ahimsa’ (non-violence), which was more than just avoidance of physical violence. For Gandhiji, Ahimsa was love for fellow human beings and humanity.
Arun Gandhi, Gandhiji’s grandson, explains: “He (Gandhi) said ahimsa means love. Because if you have love towards somebody, and you respect that person, then you are not going to do any harm to that person.”
What Americans need right now is a sense of humanity and love, not only for their fellow countrymen but for the entire world. The US constitution says, “All men are created equal.” Therefore, the life of a human being in Syria or Iraq should be of the same worth as that of an American. Once we start seeing each other as human beings first, all differences in terms of race, language, colour, caste, creed and nationality would begin to wither away. And then, the Kingdom of God will be there in the world, instead of Satan who seems to rule the roost today.
The world is at war with itself, but the biggest battle is being fought within us, between the good and evil in our hearts. We need to win this war through the weapon of non-violence i.e. love. Only love and unadulterated humanity can save this world from its perdition.