Saturday, October 25, 2014

Slowly Poisoned

"Red Sky in the Morning"
- At the Desert Retreat House -

Yesterday at a High School in Washington State, a popular 14-year old boy carried a rifle into the school cafeteria and fired a bullet into the head of a classmate, instantly killing him. He then went on to shoot and seriously injure 4 other fellow students and finished his rampage by killing himself.

When I first heard this horrific story yesterday, I was stunned. I immediately turned on my radio and went to the TV to find more information - surely this was "Breaking News," all the media would be covering it.  But I had a hard time finding a report of this incident and when I finally did, I was even more stunned to see the rather  nonchalant manner in which the story was being reported - after all, this was just one more "school shooting" that we have become so accustomed to hearing about.

On the evening news last night there were the "typical" pictures of weeping students running from the school corridors, candlelight vigils with everyone holding hands and singing  "amazing grace"- just like all the other school shootings. A reporter astonishingly seemed to be giving thanks over the fact that this time only 2 children died and only 4 were seriously injured by gunshot wounds in the head.

As I listened to the news, there was no sense of moral outrage, no parents crying out for gun control legislation - just a sense of "acceptance" at it all - this is the way it is nowadays in America, and there is nothing we can do about it, so get used to it.

 Yesterday's news report left me in tears.  Have we become so desensitized, have our hearts become so hardened that we can hear about a 14-year old boy who brings a rifle to school and murders his classmates and just shrug our shoulders over it?

Buddhists talk about "three poisons" that cause our suffering and kill our spirits: "Greed, hatred and ignorance." All these poisons come from the narcissistic desires of a self-centered ego, a desire to be bigger and better than anyone else, a need to "cut off and cut up" anyone who stands in the way of "my" self-gratification. 

When I think about the almost-nonchalant acceptance of that absolutely horrific story played out yesterday in that school cafeteria,  I wonder if in fact it is possible for an entire culture to be slowly poisoned by greed, hatred, and ignorance of the truth that we all belong together and we all are responsible for one another's welfare? 

Of course, the thing about being slowly poisoned is that it all happens quite gradually.  Poison is injected into the system little by little and accumulates over time -  you aren't even aware that it's happening until it is too late.

It makes me think about the scientific principle known as the "boiling frog syndrome." It sounds kind of gross, but the fact is that you can put a frog into a pot of cold water - out of which the frog can jump at any time, then you can increase the temperature very slowly, degree by degree, until the water gradually boils. Failing to sense the growing danger, the frog gets used to the gradually increasing heat, and instead of jumping from the pot, ultimately boils to death. 

As I see it, the temperature is getting dangerously hot - time to jump out of the pot.

In this generation, we will have to repent 
not merely for the vitriolic words and actions
of the bad people,
but for the appalling silence of the good people.
Somehow this madness must cease.
We must stop it now!
(Martin Luther King, Jr.)


  1. I was a little concerned when I read about this incident. I have a 13 year old grandson in Seattle.

    Teaching people that violence is not a solution is easier than convincing them to not use violence to achieve the results they want.

    Our society cherishes violence as a means of problem solving. Whether it is the 'get tough' lock them up and throw away the key' approach or the individual approach as this lad and many others took. Violence in a society is more often than not a reflection of the values of that society.

    Violence is as American as cherry pie someone has said. That is a strange but true sentiment for a society which claims the Prince of Peace as its God.

  2. And apathy is just as bad as the violence we perpetrate and accept.

    1. Apathy is the helping hand of those who recommend violence as a solution.