No!

Please don't tell me we are going to reduce the Sandy Hook School shooting (and the several other recent cases of mass shootings) to a debate about gun control and leave it at that. Of course gun control is a central part of the debate, but we seem to do everything in our power to avoid the real problem: our unwillingness to say, "No!" to ourselves and to one another. The real problem lies at the root of American society and is responsible for more than the horrible mass shootings we have witnessed. The real problem is responsible for a dysfunctional political system, a perhaps permanently broken financial system, a decaying educational system, a failing health care system and the implosion of social institutions including aspects of family and religion. The real problem will not be identified and fixed by specialists in any one of these broken silos of national life. This is not a problem for politicians, economists, educators, physicians or religious leaders and social scientists. This problem needs to be tackled by individuals, by leaders, whose overarching view of life, human values and the future, transcends any one of these narrow disciplines. The problem is not only gun control; the problem is self-control. The problem is not gun ownership out of control; it is a once-great society out of control.  We have become a nation of many overweight, overindulged, over-entitled, overspending, over-entertained, over-regulated, over-litigated, over-taxed, over-tolerant, undereducated, under-disciplined, under-considerate and under-caring people. America has softened in what it expects of itself and hardened in what it expects from everyone else. We get outraged when the nasty little secret of our fast-deteriorating culture breaks out into ugly spots on the front pages of the media who are part of the very cultural erosion that causes these tragedies. The media showcases violence more than virtue. Hollywood glamorizes destructive behavior while it criticizes those dedicated to productive lives creating jobs and prosperity. Video-game manufacturers and distributors engage the minds and feelings of children in the mastery of violent destruction rather than encouraging the expansion of intellect and development of character. The media have become coping tools for parents who both need to work  in order to pay for their government's largess. Children are left to be raised by a greedy, unregulated industry that pollutes the airwaves with mental garbage and promotes values that are foreign to the soul of America and to the very families whose children swallow it daily. Even the professionals to whom we delegate our values fear to impose them. Teachers avoid criticizing the behavior of students for fear of litigation by parents. Physicians fail to recommend life-style changes to the obese and the unhealthy for fear of being labeled intolerant and discriminatory. Political leaders avoid the tough choices for fear of losing popularity. We are afraid to say no to excess,our own and others'. Yes is a nice-feeling word. Our flabby, indulged nation is addicted to nice feelings. However, saying No! is the foundation of self-control.  We are not very good at saying no to ourselves and to our children when we want to do something that is self-destructive. We only say no when we see others being destroyed. It is again time to empower teachers and train them and to say no to your children and support them when they do. Say No! to both political alternatives when you are only offered a choice between bad and worse. Say No! to media that glamorizes violence. Say No! to advertisements that seduce you to buy things you don't need or, even worse, can't afford. Nearly every time you say No!, you are taking a moral stand. By saying no to indulgence you are saying yes to discipline. By saying no to vice, you are saying yes to virtue. By saying no to sloth you are saying yes to productivity. By saying no to unrestrained government spending you are saying yes to fiscal reconstruction. In accepting the hardship that comes with discipline, you embrace the growth that comes with self-control. We cannot regulate and legislate ourselves out of the mess we are in. It will need a changed moral and cultural paradigm, and that can only happen in our homes, our classrooms, and our media. Paradigm change on a national level will only happen when individuals like you and me stop feeling paralyzed and take the revolutionizing of a frighteningly decadent society to be our most important priority. Never before in history have individuals had the access to inexpensive mass media channels the way we have today. Find your voice and use it. Amplify it in every way you can. The majority of Americans want virtue, believe in character and crave growth. Societies, unattended, fall to the levels of their lowest common denominators, not their highest aspirations. Single individuals who are passionate about the future health of America can make a difference. Sure, legislate gun control. Regrettably we probably have to do so. When a society is out of control, it needs to be regulated. Societies that regard freedom only as a right and not as a privilege with accompanying duties, will either decline or lose its freedoms. At some point we will need to stop seeing regulation as the panacea for all ills and start to regulate ourselves. Say No! Say it to yourself and say No! to your children and to your leaders when they seem unable to say it themselves. An appropriate No! opens the way to the much needed Yes! for that which is good, true and right. Sign the White House petition, Stop Excessive Violence in our Childrens' Video Games, originated by a Chris, a reader of this post.    

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