America hardly recuperates from the shock of a mass shooting in a certain city when a new incident takes place somewhere else. Seven people were killed and more than 30 wounded in the shooting perpetrated by a 21-year-old man at a 4th of July parade in Highland Park, Illinois. Gun violence in America has become no less than a social epidemic, and as with any other illness of such magnitude it is important to find the right treatment from the root cause of the problem.
Jacki Sundheim, a senior staffer at a local synagogue and Nicolas Toledo, a grandfather from Mexico, were among the fatal victims of the senseless parade attack by a gunman who according to the police acquired the guns legally. Undoubtedly, it is important to keep guns away from unstable, dangerous individuals, but the gun violence epidemic goes beyond laws and regulations since those willing to cause harm will always find ways to achieve their sinister goals.
In order to offer a true solution, we have to go beyond the symptoms of the problem. Human beings are social creatures and individuals cannot be separated from their culture when we are trying to understand a behavior that repeats itself. It is true that in America it is easy to purchase firearms, but what pulls the trigger is the growing egoism and division in American society.
In such a social climate of “every man for himself,” tension and frustration accumulate daily until people with violent tendencies explode in cruel ways. In their unbalanced minds a mass shooting is a way to “fix” the system and compensate for their fears and insecurities.
Lack of meaning and purpose in life are also key triggers. More and more people have no idea what they live for, and life with no meaning and purpose makes human life lose its importance and preciousness. Mass shooters feel that human life is cheap and worthless, and the more this lack of direction spreads throughout society today, the more mass shooters surface.
The remedy to this problem is education. America must treat the deep cultural and social conditioning that breeds these events by initiating a massive federal educational program to infuse people from an early age with new examples, norms, and values. They should be regularly trained to cooperate, build trust, as well as develop social sensitivity to each other through workshops, discussion groups, and collaborative projects.
Education does not refer only to formal systems for providing and acquiring knowledge. The aim of education should not be to simply create a workforce of trained individuals. Education must now focus on cultivating the human being. This means building a value system within a person and an adequate social environment around a person to balance the human ego and direct it toward positive realization.
Such a state will never come about by simply drafting new laws, but only through a change in the way human nature operates in society. Instead of relating to each other through egoistic lenses, we need to learn and develop new supportive, encouraging, understanding attitudes to every person. In order to reach that level of positive change, society needs to forge meaningful and healthy connections through a new socio-educational shift, which will become doable and realistic when America realizes that it has had enough suffering and it is time for an integral solution.
A police officer picks up a water-logged American flag, Tuesday, July 5, 2022, left behind after Monday’s mass shooting in Highland Park, Illinois. (Stacey Wescott/Chicago Tribune/TNS/ABACAPRESS.COM