I am reading a book of essays by Joseph Epstein (The Idea of Culture) and Dennis Prager’s second volume on the Bible (Genesis). I think I can say with certainty that the most recent shooter was not reading these books nor were any of the recent shooters reading anything similar. I think we will find, if we investigate more deeply, what all these shooters have in common is a deep nihilism and existentialist despair. Married men with deep ties to their community and deep bonds of friendship, trust and love suffer also, at times, but have some pride of ownership for this generation and for future generations. There are times I have despaired, briefly. But I have 1) always felt the love and support of close family members 2) have always felt a duty to my family, my country, my faith tradition to my “little platoon” in my school which has taken the place of the Regiment (a sort of substitute and continuation of the clan’s tribal levies). When you feel part of a tradition, part of a something bigger than yourself you are far less likely to hurt fellow citizens for whom you will quite naturally have love and respect. When I read of these massacres and killings. I say to myself, “How dishonorable!” I think to myself I would never dishonor in this way my family, my country, my school, my former Regiment (in my case the US Marines). I would die for my family, my country and for a Great Cause but I would not kill innocents out of desperation and I think, a spirit of jealousy and revenge. I know people act out of hatred, jealousy and revenge. And these base killers, I surmise, act out of desperation at their miserable, alienated “dead-end” lives in order to inflict pain and suffering on others as a kind of vengeful act of murder and mayhem. These killers cannot have been happy, well-adjusted people. They cannot have loved as I have loved. They cannot be as loved and appreciated as I have been appreciated by others. They cannot have been virtuous citizens who took pride in Old Glory and the Great Republic and its splendid ancient heritage of freedom.
I have not achieved great things in life. I was not a great baseball player though my love of the game has given me great solace and pleasure. I was not a great singer or musician but I can sing songs in several languages and know dozens if not hundreds of songs and poems by heart. I was not the greatest coach of soccer, baseball or softball. I was mostly distinguished by my teaching sportsmanship and love of the game not winning and for always valuing academics over ephemeral sporting glory. One time my soccer team came close to tying for the championship but fell short 2-1 due to the superior skill and training of our rivals. But I am proudest that the entire team graduated from high school. My military career though honorable was brief and undistinguished but I am proud of the fact I volunteered and worked hard at getting in and finishing basic training. I failed my first physical and passed by using extra strong glasses. But I wanted to serve as my father and uncles had served and I wanted to serve honorably. Financially I have only been a marginal success but through hard work I have managed not to lose the middle class status my working class parents did so much to achieve. I never did great things or had great jobs. In fact, I had many dirty and miserable jobs but I am proud of the fact that I always worked and strove to support myself and support my family often taking extra jobs and rarely taking a real vacation. I love Spain but have not been back to visit for almost 30 years. But my wife and children have been able to go back to Spain to work, visit and study because of my sacrifices. And when they came home the house, the garden and the pets were all thriving and in order. Academically, I have been a dedicated teacher and have always done my best chiefly as a language teacher. I can say with all honesty I was a relatively successful rural schoolmaster helping students mostly on the lower scale of society.
Of me it could be said, charitably, that I did my bit for my country and for my school. Some give some and some give much more while some give all. No, I have not created works of art nor gained anything more than a small countywide reputation for diligence and caring. As a father and as a husband I have always tried to do my duty morally, financially and academically. As a man I have tried to keep His Commandments, to be a Good Neighbor to others and to teach reverence for life and for our great freedoms and traditions which my father, translating from Gaelic, called “our splendid ancient heritage.” A good conscience is the best reward.
And “when the evening comes at last, and there is peace on every hill” how peaceful is the sleep of the man of honor, the father, the soldier, the citizen, the teacher. For he saw not the sacred flame extinguished, he saw not the Colors lowered in dishonor or defeat in his time. Others look at the flag and see some colors. I feel a pride in belonging to this great though imperfect nation. I feel gratitude for those who came before me and who fought and sacrificed for our liberty and independence. I see, in my mind’s eye many things. I see the blood of patriots at Belleau Wood, Iwo Jima or Normandy. I see the 50 stars that symbolize our Federal Union and the blue that symbolizes hope for the future. I see white that stands for liberty and justice for all. I see the thirteen stripes that remind me of the Original Thirteen Colonies and our humble, fragile origins. And of course the Red, White and Blue remind me as it reminded George Washington, FDR and Churchill not merely of the Great Republic but of our mother country. A person who belongs, a person who has reverence for God and Country, a person who loves others would not massacre innocents in nihilistic, suicidal rage. A gun is only a tool and it is only as good or as bad as the man who wields it. The USA has always been a nation in which hunting and the bearing of arms was more commonplace than most countries. Yet up to the 1950’s and early 1960’s mass shooting were almost unknown. So we have to look at many factors not merely the relative easy access to firearms and ammunition. The most important factors are, in my view, the spiritual, social and psychological factors of a few depraved socially alienated and culturally deracinated individuals.