We are all shepherds

By A. C. Kleinheider
web posted May 8, 2000

April 20, 1999 is a day most people wish never happened. As the anniversary of that day passes everyone seems to be reflective, still wondering how such a thing could occur. How did things get twisted so sick in the heads of two affluent teenagers that they felt the overwhelming impulse to destroy their school? Who or what could be responsible for this? In America, regular folk like to know when a problem arises that the cause has been pinpointed and that a solution is imminent. A full year later most people still aren't sure we've made any forward progress on this issue. Some blame Big Media for giving heinous acts of violence such notoriety. Some blame Hollywood big shots for polluting the culture with movies and video games. Some think maybe it is the guns and culture that surround firearms. Others think maybe it is simply a mental illness that faceless men in white coats with drugs can fix. Everyone of the aforementioned "reasons" have varying levels of validity and certainly all played some role in these school shootings, some more than others, but they each played a part.

This country's elites like to toss each of these "reasons" back and forth while writing their books, giving their speeches, making their public service announcements, filing their lawsuits, and producing their television shows. Deep down none of their hypotheses really resonate with the regular folk who live in the places they fly over. My message to the elites is stop pontificating and searching, because this one is on us. The buck stops here among the Little Americans, the regular folk, who need to look in the mirror accept the burden and go about the business of taking back their civilization.

Nine year-olds are scared to go to school. Blaming "things" simply is not going to cut it. Columbine and similar events that shake our sense of security are symptoms of a greater problem. These are problems we can't run and hide from. Potential killers are your friend's kids, your neighbors' kids. The guy you passed on the street. The guy you cut off in traffic.

The kid who hangs around your place of business. The 6 year-old you witness berating his mother in public. We are all given opportunities every day to connect with people on a human level and too often we take a pass.

People like Eric Harris, Dylan Klebold or Timothy McVeigh do not just appear out of thin air. They had to have neighbors, somebody had to teach them algebra or coach their Little League team. Somebody saw the look of disconnect in the eyes of little Timmy McVeigh but they dismissed it. It wasn't any of their business. It is time to start making it our business. We need to start taking better care of our neighborhoods, our communities, and ourselves.

In the movie The Outlaw Josey Wales, Josey states that "Governments don't live together, people live together." Exactly. Human beings have a flawed nature; it is not hard to get evil from us. To fight our nature we need each other.

We have to admit to ourselves that "things" like guns, media, and culture are tools and like any tool, it can also be a weapon. The Internet can disseminate critical information to mass amounts of people to inform and enlighten their lives. It can also disperse more sexual perversity and racial hatred than the human mind can fathom. A hammer can be used to build a home or bash a skull. A camera can capture beauty as easily as it can capture perversity. We have to acknowledge that these "things" these "forces" which we use as scapegoats are only tools. They have been used in many instances against the interests of families, neighborhoods, and communities. Every action, however, must produce an equal and opposite reaction. Forces are at work in this society to which we Little Americans must respond. Families, neighborhoods, and communities must play to their strengths, forge weapons of their own and react when forces are arrayed against them, whether they are Big Media, Big Culture, or even Big Government, to ensure their survival.

Something is amiss in our civilization at the dawn of this new millennium. More and more Americans are marginalized, alienated, and some of them, downright crazy. We can blame the guns, the culture, the media, or the government but we do so at our own peril. In the end it is we the people who have to live with one another. We need to become intimately involved in the lives of our families, our friends, our neighbors, the kid who walks our dogs when we are on vacation, everyone. Little Americans, regular folk, must take an interest and nurture their families, neighborhoods, and community because in the end no one else will.

A. C. Kleinheider writes from Nashville, Tennessee and can be reached at kleinhac@excite.com

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