There are those who say events such as the mass murder in Las Vegas this past week are random acts of violence carried out by sick individuals cloaked in evil. They say there is no way to stop such violence or predict when or where such horrific events will take place since it is governed by the haphazardness of diabolical thinking. It is like predicting a lottery – impossible. As in Shirley Jackson’s short story, “The Lottery,” these tragic events have become a recurrence in our lives where the only winning ticket is a losing ticket. The crazies hold that losing ticket, and the only defense decent people have is to pray the crazies strike somewhere far away from them and their loved ones.
In the “The Lottery,” Shirley Jackson dramatizes the permissiveness of society to permit pointless violence and cruelty. In her story, she portrays the people of a small community as blind followers in the inhumane stoning of a fellow villager. They demonstrate little regard for consequences as long as they are not the one stoned. The same permissiveness could just as well be written about our society’s response to the pointless violence and inhumanity we have seen in such places as Columbine, Sandy Hook, Aurora, and Las Vegas. As a nation, we cringe at the horror, but like the villagers in “The Lottery,” we are reluctant to do anything about it. Truly saddened for those who lost their lives or loved ones, we pray for the victims, then turn away thankful it did not happen to us or our loved ones, and go back to leading our lives as if it could never happen to us. Across the country, we condemn the act, but speak cautiously of corrective actions for fear of offending those who think differently about the issue. Our inability to address the issue is the very permissiveness Jackson speaks to in her short story.
As a nation, we loathe the violence, but we are politically and helplessly insecure to stop it. Politicians reside in the pockets of the stone lobbyists, they keep quiet for fear of political consequences at the poles, or like so many of the citizens they represent, they embrace a non-wavering interpretation of an amendment never intended to put Americans in jeopardy. Many citizens stand opposed to common sense solutions out of personal insecurities that the government can’t protect them, and criminals will have all the stones and they will not. As a result, the nation lives in constant dread of mass violence, not knowing which city, town, or village might be its next victim. The bottom line is too many Americans ignore the connection between their continued inaction and inability to address the mass violence issue and the body count of those ungodly attacks on America.
Too many oppose removing the tools of carnage. They shy away from taking the stone from the assassin’s hand reasoning he will simply replace it with a stick or gravel, and the carnage will continue. They ignore that the stone allows the killer to maximize casualties, which is the very reason mass killers choose stones to carry out their attacks and not gravel or sticks. Their argument always disintegrates to stones don’t kill people, people kill people, and they have a point, so in the name of humanity, the aim of society should be to rid itself of both stones and killers and not quibble about which is eradicated first. Granted, a citizenry without stones will not cure the crazy problem, but it will serve to make the madness less deadly.
Having been raised in the South, I grew up with guns, and I believe strongly in my Second Amendment right to own firearms for sport and protection. However, I do not believe there is any common-sense reason why any citizen should possess military style weaponry designed for one purpose – to kill people. Those weapons belong only in the capable hands of the military and law enforcement. If all citizens were blessed with common-sense, a sense of morality, and a sane mind, I might think otherwise, but that is not the case. At present, it is far too easy for the crazies to get their hands on high powered military style weapons, and that needs to change immediately.
Unfortunately, right now, we are at the mercy of a killing lottery run by the crazies and condoned by our inaction. They control when, where, and the extent of the bloodshed they inflict. In the name of common-sense, the loved ones who have been massacred, and those who will be slaughtered unless we do something to drastically reduce the ability of maniacs to wage war on innocent men, women, and children, it is time we placed lives above politics, money, and personal insecurities. In an interview, Shirley Jackson said, “I hoped to shock the story’s readers with a graphic dramatization of the pointless violence and general inhumanity in their own lives.” I wonder what graphic dramatization of pointless violence and inhumanity it will take to shock our nation. It does not appear the bloodshed at Columbine, Aurora, Sandy Hook, or Las Vegas has been horrific enough to put an end to the insane bloody lottery game we are playing.
©Jack Linton, October 8, 2017