The Root of Evil

This entry is part 41 of 47 in the series Blog1

Jan 1, 2013

One of the most famous quotes of all time comes from Henry David Thoreau who said:

“There are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil to one who is striking at the root.”

After the terrible massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School, we as a people need to take Thoreau’s statement to heart and ask what are the branches of evil that everyone sees and where is the root that most are missing.

One thing we all agree on is that the tragic loss of the 20 children along with the six adults was a terrible occurrence. But agreeing on this point does nothing to identify the evil that caused or may result from it.

So what is the number one evil that is being accused as the cause of the event?

You guessed it.  Guns! They say that if we didn’t have those nasty guns this tragedy would not have happened.

On the other hand, guns have accomplished good things.  Without guns we couldn’t have won the War of Independence and established an example of freedom for other nations to follow.

Without guns during the Civil War we couldn’t have freed the slaves.

Without guns during World War II we couldn’t have defeated Hitler, perhaps the greatest threat humanity has faced.

Without guns police could not enforce the law and no one would be safe in their homes or on the streets.

The fact is that guns are not evil.  They are not alive and do not think and make decisions.  They are neutral just as money is neutral and can be directed toward good or evil.

“But,” says one, “if there were no guns the children would still be alive.”

This argument makes little sense. The fact is that even with an increase in the number of guns, murders of school age children are down 42% from 1992 to 2008. Overall, we are headed the right direction.

Let us apply this banning reasoning to other creations that are not alive and do not think.

If there were no money there would be no one selling drugs, no hit men, no prostitutes working for it, no corrupt politicians, and no means to even fight a war or build bombs.

Is anyone talking about banning money? The last person who tried to do this was Pol Pot in Cambodia.  He thought the people would just work for the good of the country but instead his people starved. The do-gooders eventually learned there that even though money is often directed toward evil that its use leads to essential good things.

On September 11, 2001 planes flew into the Twin Towers and the Pentagon and killed around 3000 people. This was the greatest mass murder in our history, far eclipsing Sandy Hook.  In addition to this there have been numerous plane crashes each killing hundreds of people each, many of them innocent children.

Does this mean that planes are evil?  Why is no one talking about banning them?

Finally, we have what could be called the greatest evil culprit of them all, the automobile.  This kills many more people than all the planes and guns combined – about 32,000 a year in the United States alone – and this does not count several times that number in injuries, many of them crippling people for life.

If any object should be banned for creating mayhem and death it is the family car.

Isn’t it interesting that no one is talking about banning or even limiting the manufacture or use of cars and planes?

Let us examine the question: question: “Why is there no clamor to eliminate or restrict the manufacture of planes and cars but guns are targeted?”

There are several reasons for this. Cars in particular are an essential part of everyday living. Life could just not go on without them. Even though auto accidents kill many thousands of children each year, many more than guns, there is no thought of banning them. Aircraft is in a similar category.  Even though not all travel by air regularly, we depend on planes for transportation of mail, freight, and many items we purchase in various stores.  Therefore, when there is a tragedy connected with planes or cars, instead of asking how we can go about banning or limiting their use, we merely make an extra effort to make them safer.

Whereas all of us are dependent on planes and cars to maintain our quality of life less than half the families in the United States own a gun – around 47% to be exact. Many of those who do not own a gun either do not see the need for private ownership or are completely adverse to it. Therefore, a good percentage of the public do not see private ownership to be essential as are cars and planes. The fact that many see guns as an agent of destruction and killing is also a big negative for them.

On top of this, when twenty children are killed by a mad gunman the press gives about a zillion times more attention to such an event than any twenty kids killed in car accidents.

Damage done to our children is a very emotional issue and if the media can create a story around such an event they will run with it, often giving one tragedy many times the exposure of others.

For instance, many children wind up missing, but the Elizabeth Smart story captured our imagination and the public couldn’t get enough of it.

Many children have accidents but the story of Jessica being tapped in a well captured the headlines for days.

Similarly the mad gunman, Adam Lanza, created a highly emotionally charged story by gunning down twenty children in cold blood. This makes parents who send their children to school identify with the sorrow.  They think, “How would I feel if I sent my kid to school and he was gunned down by a crazy man?”  This affects them much more than hearing about statistics of kids being killed in cars or planes.

The emotion behind the story plus the desire of the media to engage can create major stories out of gun violence.

The fact that the media largely supports gun control just adds fuel to the fire.

The final nail in the coffin for a story like Sandy Hook is that evil was seen to be at play in a huge way.  An accident is just something we have to accept, but evil is something that most feel needs to be fought.


Wherein Lies the Evil?

We have established that guns are neither good nor evil but neutral, like gravity, money and electricity. All can be used for good or evil, to enhance life or to destroy. How they are used is solely determined by how they are directed by some living intelligent entity.

So, if guns were not the cause of the evil that sprang from Sandy Hook, what was?

Was it then this wayward soul named Adam Lanza who used his intelligence and free will to use a gun to kill innocent children?

I doubt that anyone would call Adam a good guy in this situation.  He definitely performed a nefarious deed and seemed intelligent enough to be responsible for his actions. But was he the source of the greatest evil?

Look at it this way.  There will always exist people who have a desire to harm others just as there are tigers out there who would be happy eating you. If a tiger ate someone where do we place the blame?  Do we just call the tiger evil and stop there?

No.  We realize that it is the nature of the tiger to be a predator.  He just is what he is. Instead of blaming the tiger we would blame those who either let the tiger loose or did not protect us from him.

So it is with crazed killers.  They are out there and they are what they are just like tigers.  It is a greater evil to not contain them or protect us from them than that they exist. We can never prevent crazy people from being born but we can do something about how they are to be handled.

So what could we have done to have protected the kids from Adam?

There are four things.

(1) Adam was mentally ill to the extent that his mother was considering having him institutionalized. If we had a system in place that could detect and help such people then the 20 kids may be alive today. Unfortunately, many on the Left support Connecticut’s laws which is one of only six states in the U.S. that doesn’t have a type of “assisted outpatient treatment”. Such legal standards hold that the mentally ill cannot be institutionalized or medicated until they harm someone or themselves.

(2) Allow staff to bring guns to school. No one would be required to bring guns but those who know how to use them for self-protection should be permitted to do so.  One thing most mass killers had in common is they picked on gun free zones to attack. The killer in Aurora, Colorado had several theaters from which to choose and he picked the one where no guns were allowed.  The reason is obvious.  He knew there would be no one there to shoot back.  Similarly, Adam knew Sandy Hook was a gun free school and there would be no one to challenge him.

(3) Have armed security guards at our schools. This would help but it would be very expensive and one guard could be overpowered. An unknown number of school staff with guns would cost nothing and be a powerful deterrent.

(4) Stronger gun control measures.

The massacre could have easily taken place with much stricter gun control measures.  Let us suppose all semi automatic weapons were banned.  Can you still imagine how many people someone like TV’s Rifleman could have killed?  He still could have taken out twenty or more with a century old weapon when there was no one to challenge him.

The only way our kids could be protected from such mass murders with guns is a complete ban on all guns along with a thorough confiscation of them.

Even then a murderer could use explosives, poison or knives as happened recently in China when two crazy people slashed dozens of school children with them.

Yes, if we strictly banned all guns to the extent that it was almost impossible to get one, as is the case in North Korea, then gun violence would definitely go down, but at what cost? Would we be a safer or better country if we did this?


Two Types of People

There are two types of people in this world.  Those who are willing to live with some risk for the sake of enhanced freedom and those who are not.

It is true that even the most fearful take some calculated risk and the greatest libertarian will avoid risk if the danger is great enough but overall people fall into these two general categories of leaning toward some risk or going out of their way to avoid it.

The people for and against strict gun controls are in these two categories.  Those who are tolerant of guns realize they pose some risk. Crazy people can get hold of them and accidents can occur. They feel the risk is worth the benefits, which are:

(1) The number one benefit in the eyes of many gun supporters is that their possession is an insurance policy that promotes freedom.  It would be difficult for a tyrant to take over a people who are heavily armed.

(2) Hunters get enjoyment from the pursuit and enjoy the game to eat.

(3) A lot of the enjoyment from guns, perhaps even more than hunting, comes from target practice and improving shooting skills.

(4) Added protection and sense of security. Those who are overly concerned about risk cannot understand this benefit and only see the possibility of greater risk in a conflict.

The gun owner who is trained will feel confident in his abilities and sees his home as a much safer place because he has the ability to defend it.

Incidents like Sandy Hook verify all the fears of the person in the second category who goes out of his way to avoid risk. After such an event, he is assaulted emotionally day and night through the media of the worst than can happen when weapons are misused.

Instead of putting the risk in perspective he just wants to see no more of this and wants guns controlled or eliminated.

And thus we arrive at the source of the evil made apparent by the Sandy Hook massacre.

And what is that?

It is the lack of judgment so prevalent in our society.

Good judgment requires that we look at all the data and see the whole picture so we can make wise decisions. Those terrified of risk only place their attention on the damage a weapon can do and not on the other aspects of the crime.

For instance, logic dictates that Sandy Hook may not have even been attacked if Adam knew that staff were permitted to have guns at school. And if he would have gone on with the rampage he could have been taken out before he caused much damage.

Instead of including this information in their judgment the fearful will only see the negative aspects of gun possession causing all their judgment centered on eliminating them.

Therefore, even on hindsight, they will support the idea that Sandy Hook should be a gun free zone.

Bad judgment causes people who seek to avoid risk to live in greater risk. Fear generally increases risk rather than decreasing it.

Those who only see part of the picture and fear risk bring into their lives and the lives of others many unintended consequences.  The Sandy Hook massacre was one of these.  Good intentions accompanied by bad judgment laid the foundation for this disaster.

We’re not just talking about bad judgment concerning guns but this same group of people make bad judgments in many different areas of life that lead to tragedies such as Sandy Hook, Virginia Tech, Aurora and Columbine.

Some bad judgments that aided and abetted these tragedies are:

(1) Controlling our youth with drugs.

(2) Babysitting them with violent video games and movies.

(3) Lack of teaching them about the real world.

(4) Lack of giving children a spiritual foundation that gives them the sense of right and wrong.

On the positive side all parents need to go out of their way to help their children feel love and acceptance – but even this must be meted out with good judgment.

The bottom line is that bad judgment is the source of all evil.  On the other hand, good judgment does not eliminate all risk, but weighs the risk. He who has good judgment knows that risk cannot be eliminated but must be factored into the equations of life to bring the greatest happiness and freedom possible.


Copyright 2013 by J J Dewey

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