I'm not really sure where it all begins for a person. I'd estimate day one. The minute you're born, you've got influences. Though some may have chemical issues, etc. (I'd never rule out science) you've got to wonder though, beyond the science of it, are people crazy...naturally?
I'm going to say, from my point of view, no.
I believe people are born inherently good. I don't think there's born such a thing as a bad child. Trust me. Look at any baby born, hold him/her in your arms, and tell me it's going to grow up to be a monster one day. Could you do it? Do you think you're THAT good a judge of character? If you do, I may admire you in a way, because you have incredible faith in yourself, more than I have in myself. But who's to say that it's right?
I believe there are things at work in our world beyond our understanding. That's me. And I think I try to attack an issue like this Arizona shooting with the mindset of both my beliefs that exist beyond the realm of describable, and within the realm of reality.
It's my firm belief that religion and science do in fact go hand in hand. (Who can honestly say there were no dinosaurs?)
Of course there's a hormonal argument, that during the pregnancy, the mother's hormones, whatever they be, are pounding away at this kid, shaping him/her, developing him/her into something pre-destined to be evil.
Though I consider myself a man of great faith, it's rare I buy into the whole Fire and Brimstone stuff. When people scream at you, the point dulls quickly. I've come up against people who told me the Devil was working within my life because I didn't know God. I said "Actually (Name), I'm a Christian, like you say you are. So I think your assessment is incorrect." And he ended nicely by saying "We'll see about that when you're in hell." Or something to that extent.
It's always fun when a person says "You need to believe what I believe!" And you say, "I kind of do..." And they respond "You're going to hell!"
But I think, at the very, very core of this sort of issue, we come up against, in my opinion, one of the biggest reasons we perpetuate bigotry, hatred, violence, and misinterpretation. And that is blame.
We always need someone to blame, and very rarely can it be ourselves. "Well if only he did it this way!" "If she didn't stop for eggnog!" "If the right would stop preaching violence!" "If the left would stop coddling people like babies!"
We get it.
The unwillingness to accept responsibility is usually what starts it, sure. But even before that, inside the people who do the blaming, why do we jump to blame in the first place.
In a basic, probably not very good, scenario, say you're running a race. A marathon. Someone will be a winner at the end, whoever finishes first. And say you're at mile 23, it's you, and two other people. Persons A and B. You see Person A trip B, who falls and sprains their ankle. What do you do? Do you stop to help B first, or do you run to the proper "authorities" to tell them that you saw A trip B and that's why he's hurt. Meanwhile B is rolling around on the ground wondering why no one has yet to come to his aid.
Again, kind of a crude example, but you get the picture. Why on earth, would you abandon someone who needs help, in order to bring someone else down?
I get it, perhaps bringing down the other person or organization, or whatever it is, is the "bigger" evil. But I think people need to dial back the way they view corruption and evil.
We often think of things in Black and White. Why? Because it's easy. Gray is too hard.
Well tough cookies, the world is nothing but shades of gray. This coming from the Christian guy who is told by other "Christians" he's going to hell. Because to most Christians, to most people, seeing the world as Black and White relieves from us the burden of having to do some incredibly difficult work. To say it's Black and White is to settle upon blame before doing the investigation. It's to call a verdict before the case has gone to trial, before the jury has gone to discussion. That's very easy. And, logically, it's no wonder people go to this place. Why waste the time investigating?
Well, when it's you, then maybe you'll see the murky waters of gray, and realize it's nearly impossible to breath at the bottom of the ocean of blame. Why won't anyone fight for you? Because they're taking the easy way out.
This is not to say this is all of us, but we all find our niches sooner or later. We may not immediately point the finger on the big issues, but may on the small issues. Face it, we all do it. Myself included. To realize we're all the same in that we all tend to make the same mistakes is part of coming into the understanding that humanity is greater as a whole than the sum of its parts.
So...when I see people on the news getting shot, and immediately, it becomes someone's fault who wasn't even present at the scene, that's where the red flag is raised for me.
Back to influence, yes. Influence plays a big factor. Perhaps so and so egged on so and so, etc. etc. But who believes in free will? I sure do. I couldn't ever begin to bring myself to the place where I believed every. tiny. little. action. was. fate. Because if it's all fate, then only fate is responsible.
"Yeah well I got wasted, decided to drive home, hit a family, killed all of them, but I survived. Sounds horrible, I know, but hey! It was MEANT to happen. So...no harm no foul right?"
How irresponsible is that?
No. You made your choice. You partook in the free will you've been given, and you killed people.
And now we're back to blame.
When it comes to this, when we start to investigate the situations, we've got to start small. We've got to. Begin with the individual responsible, and trace backward. Then you look at influence. And build your case from there.
I don't consider myself either conservative or liberal, more moderate (whatever that means anymore) in the sense that I don't like to make a decision until I've heard both sides of an argument. But! To blame an entire political way of life for the tragedy in Arizona, to me, is one shallow step away from a holocaust.
Look, there's nutters out there. Yeah. They exists in Red or Blue, even Purple, Pink, Green, and Tannish colored states, and on and on. Radicals do exist. Just like Christians who tell other Christians they're going to hell. You're going to have extremists.
But it's in listening, and giving extremists the time of day that digs us deeper and deeper into warfare with one another. Giving extremists a moment of your time is like playing with fire. You never know when you're going to get burned. So let's rule them out. (But what influenced the extremists? Aha! See? The vicious cycle begins...)
So when you're feeling bogged down by the horrendous amount of judgment being passed around you, what do you do? Usually one of two things, turn inward and let it all pass over you, plugging your ears, or picking a side quickly, hopping on that bandwagon, and forging ahead without thinking for yourself.
Better to be a hermit than a hypocrite, sure. But why not the third option? Why not that exploration into gray matter? Don't you think the lives lost, don't you think the things you'll experience, deserve the delving deep down to discover the real truth? To walk away with understanding.
This Jared Loughner killed six people. One of them, I think the most painful of all, a 9 year old girl. What terrible evil could bring about that deed? Could bring about the evil deeds throughout history? The mass genocide, the murdering, the slaughtering? When you read the history books, it's heavy stuff.
But try for one moment, before blaming an entire group of people for something, to look at an "evil" person, and peer deep, deep into their eyes, and see the child inside of them.
This brings to argument to a borderline hippy way of thinking, got it, but it doesn't hurt to step back and see people for what they were. Innocence. We were all innocent once. All born a baby, all dependent upon those around us for survival.
And what happened in the period of growth that skewed our sense of reality, or sense of right and wrong, to bring us to a place where it makes sense to kill six people, to open fire on a high school, to kill a man's family and leave him for dead? What were the influences? And I'm talking influences beyond the quick and easy to blame. The deep down ones that people rarely speak of, the kids in elementary school who embarrassed you, the parent who hit you, the mother who told you to your face she wishes you were never born.
Born out of all this, is evil. But evil is a structured, created substance that I believe can be broken, if one is willing and if there is enough time. I am a firm believer in the "good triumphs over evil" idea. But not naive enough to believe it's as simple as thumping someone over the head with a bible and making them sit their ass down in church. It ain't that simple. In fact, the bible is one of the last things I would ever introduce to someone who is so lost within themselves that they're contemplating violence, not just on themselves, but upon others. At the end of the day, it's just a book. But it's what you draw from that book that becomes applicable to us, and it's our influences that make us more or less receptive to the ideals of good or evil.
Mein Kampf is a book just like the Bible is a book. Words on paper. In terms of its existence, they're virtually the same. Pretty thick, hardcover or paperback, translated into many languages. Literally speaking, there is not much difference between the physical representations of Mein Kampf and the Bible. Coincidentally, slaughter has occurred as a result of fanatics reading both of them.
So no. It isn't the "book" per se, but the ideals inside it. That's the influence.
So who are we blaming? God? Conservatives? Liberals? Communists? Old episodes of sesame street where Cookie Monster encouraged children to eat cookies? McDonald's for putting toys in their happy meals to persuade kids to eat unhealthily?
Grow up just a little and stop it for ten minutes. Slow down and close your mouth for thirty seconds. And think. Somewhere in the world, persons have lost their children, their parents, their brothers, their sisters. If it were you, how would you deal with it? How would it feel for your entire life to be reduced to a few days worth of news stories lasting a few minutes? People would mourn your death, but 99.999999% of the world would never know it. We are each of us, a grain of sand in the ocean, a pebble on the shore. We could be washed away at any moment. So why spend so much of your time point your finger? You keep stretching it out like that someone's bound to come around and break it.
Blame takes time. Hate takes time. Good God the amount of time it takes to be methodical in your hatred of people, of entire groups, of entire countries.
So, again, dial it back. Who are you? Who are you in relation to the knowledge that you are a grain of sand in the ocean? (On a side note this is part of the summing up of Enlightenment that I feel is attainable by everyone but we'll get to that later.)
Your life means something to you. Your life means something to those around you. How does the saying go? To the world you may be just one person, but to one person you may be the world. Let that ring true when you rise in the morning! Put your fingers down. Pause from your judgments for only a few moments, and see that you've been influenced too, just as much as anyone else. But it's how you've responded. It is never the situation itself that defines a person, but rather how they respond to the situation.
When people respond by immediately pointing the fingers of blame, what does that say about them? How are they responding? And are you one of them? What does that say about you?
You were once a child, just as I was once a child. And when we were children we experienced different things at an age in which we may not have been able to respond, so our choices were made for us. But at our core, we knew nothing of the ways of mankind, and our understanding of these choices was little.
Now we are adults. Which of us was abused as a child? Some of us, many of us across the globe. And some of those childrens hands seem to grow only into the proper size to hold a gun and pull a trigger, as if that is their only purpose. But it's not. I'm not saying it isn't a murderers fault for murdering. He did make a choice. But that murderer was nine years old once too. And instead of looking to blame the rest of the world, why not look to stop it from happening again by seeking out and preventing abuse?
There is no greater sin than to love a child less for being different.
Who will that child become? We can never know. But I think it's very easy to say they would become a better person if they were loved and not hated, hugged and not hit.
Influence doesn't always have to be negative. It can also be positive. And the more you look to discover yourself, the more you look inward to find who you are in relation to the world, to find out why being a grain of sand in the ocean is actually a beautiful thing, the more you will come to find that you are not only one with yourself, but one with each of us. And if you're gone, a piece of us too is gone.
How can we stop it? Well, my friends tend to get on my for this but I have a blog now so...they can't stop me now! The answer is love.
The golden rule goes: Do unto others as you would want them to do unto you. Right? Well isn't it also true that people will do unto others as has been done unto them?
Do not perpetuate violence with blame. Rather douse it's fire with love. When those around us die, their families may be calling out for help. Does it help them if you call them up and say "Listen, just want you to know I'm fighting against the Republican/Democratic party for you, since your kid died. We're going to stop them!"
I think it's rare you find a person who would respond with, "Thanks." In fact I think most people would say, "Look I just need you here right now. I'm alone and I'm lost. How does it help me that you're out blaming other people? Just come over and spend some time with me. That's all I need."
So when tragedy strikes, who are you going to be? What kind of friend will you be to the world?
I believe, like I said, in the power of one. The power of the individual is a beautiful thing, but the power of us all is even greater. And together, as humans, we are all one. And one by one, the individuals can change the masses, can prevent the influence of evil by loving as much as they can.
Never give up the fight. Though world peace may be impossible, is it truly world peace that is our goal? Or could it be that in our refusing to give up in the face of impossible odds that we are succeeding? Success happens daily. Dial it back and look at the progress of today. One step forward is surely more than none.
The world cries out for you. Are you going to blame someone for it's sorrow, or are you going to show it some love, and get the ball rolling?
Change doesn't start with any political administration. It starts with you. Be the change you hope to see in the world. Trust me, the more love you show, the more those around you are going to notice, and pretty soon, they're going to want a piece of that pie. Share it with them. It's pretty tasty, if I do say so myself.