I remember my mother and other accountable adults in our community teaching other children and me many important lessons of responsible citizenship. We learned those lessons in Sunday school and in the sermons we heard each Sunday. Not all lessons were spoken. Many were lessons we learned through observation of the examples set by our “teachers.” Their behaviors during the week translated those sermons into demonstrations usable for us to construct an accurate portrayal of expected and acceptable behavior, and should there be any misunderstanding, the local trees issued enough “logs” to convince us of our indiscretions.

Central to their common-sense lessons was the idea that a community or society could not thrive or flourish without order. That order was based upon a general pattern of mutual respect for each other. We learned and expected the “Golden Rule” as minimally acceptable in our general dealings with others in our community.

With the exception of those few whose frustrations or inner demons would not allow them to accept respectful interaction with others, ours was a peaceful community. We respected the rights and privilege of others to live their lives without injury or interruption. I can only speculate, but life was the most tangible commodity available to us — from which all blessings flowed — and we respected and valued the lives of others as we valued our own.

Times have certainly changed! If there is any question of that, the events in the past few weeks of this writing prove my point. Three University of Virginia students were slain on a bus after a field trip to D.C. Six patrons of a Colorado Springs, Colorado, nightclub were killed under circumstances that have not yet been fully defined. In what appears to be an eruption of workplace animus, six men and women were killed in a Chesapeake, Virginia, Walmart. Rather than being unusual, these events have become no more than additions to a seemingly endless series of unnecessary and heinous homicides.

American excess and overindulgence are singular factors in the violence that appears to be self-generating. We continue to struggle with our original sin of racism. The other -isms and increasing levels of intolerance plague us. Poverty and wage stagnation are constant irritants. Along with other health issues, the remediation of mental illness is underfunded. In reality, the cause for each murderous event is as individual as the shooter.

There are some who would solely justify our national violence for these reasons. I would tell them that the citizenry of any other nation in the world experiences the same, similar or unique stressors that could serve as justification for the same slaughter we experience in our country. The only clear difference in higher rates of murder in this country is the availability and proliferation of firearms. Placing firearms into the hands of hate-filled or mentally ill antagonists with relative ease can only result in the personal and societal damage inflicted upon us.

Listening to the television in the wake of these latest events, I have learned that gun violence has claimed 39,000 Americans this year. Additionally, over 600 mass shootings have been reported in the U.S. for three consecutive years. In any society, this level of carnage is unacceptable. In the richest and most technologically advanced society/nation in the history of humankind, this slaughter cannot be justified.

Rome, which is declared by Eurocentric historians as the greatest empire in history, fell from internal discord and disruption. The corruption, division and humanitarian disregard that grew without limits festered and ultimately led to its downfall. Before the fall, Rome ignored its internal challenges.

Our national challenge is to chart a path that leads away from self-imposed destruction — BEFORE OUR FALL!

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