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Society's reaction to killings getting predictable

Nov. 4, 1999

A gunman armed with a (insert weapon) walked into an (insert building) in (insert city) and opened fire, killing (insert number) and wounding (insert number) others.

Too many news stories over the past few months have started out with this same script. Whether it was a Jewish center in California, an office complex in Atlanta, or a church in Fort Worth, the story was always the same. Wednesday, the media inserted two dead and Seattle into the template to report on the latest incident, a day after seven were shot in Hawaii. The shooting didn't even make the lead story on many news broadcasts because everyone was busy covering the EgyptAir jetliner that plunged into the deep waters of the Atlantic days before.

What is wrong with people these days? Does anyone have a basic respect for human life anymore? What kind of society do we live in where people solve their problems by simply killing those who made fun of them, who fired them from a job, or who just held different beliefs?

We live in a culture where there is no shame anymore. Several years ago the U.S. Postal Service dealt with several incidents of employees walking into post offices and shooting people. How did the American public respond? By turning the expression 'going postal' into a joke applicable to anybody stressed out or dealing with numerous problems.

But, since this is America, we have to find somebody to blame for all the recent shootings. This must be somebody's fault, right? Let's immediately rule out the gunmen. They were innocent victims of a society that did them wrong. Let's find somebody else to blame, preferably somebody with money.

Let's all sue the gun manufacturers for selling a lethal product. OK, but a car can be a lethal weapon, and so can a pillow, or a knife, or a rope (anybody played Clue?). Should we sue the manufacturers of all these items as well? Stricter gun controls could be one answer. But how do you stop the people who buy guns legally from going on murderous rampages?

Maybe it's the employer's fault for creating a hostile work environment.

Maybe we should blame the schools for not meeting every need of every student with their limited budgets. Or is it a church's fault for daring to exist and possibly offend those people who don't agree with its teachings?

We live in a culture in which there is no shame because there is no concept of wrong anymore. We have politicians who commit adultery, businesspeople who embezzle, launder, and steal money, actors and athletes who shoot, sniff, and snort everything under the sun, and nobody seems to care anymore. Soap operas have nothing on the nightly news. People pick up a paper to see which singer got arrested for drug possession and lose interest as soon as the next actor gets caught with his pants down, literally, with a prostitute. What kind of role models are these people for our children? And where is the accountability?

Oh, and by the way, what do we do with the survivors who are left behind? The parents who lost children, the teens who lost classmates, the office workers who have nightmares of gunshots, screams, and blood-covered walls.

Let's put them on Dateline so we can all feel sorry for them, then go on about our lives because it didn't happen to us -- this time.

I do not know the answers to these questions. In fact, the more I think about the situation, the more questions I come up with for which I don't have answers. Maybe we just all need to stop and take the time to think about what our priorities are and to think about what we personally value. And heaven help us all at Baylor if we should actually think for ourselves.

Rob Schickler is a junior business and journalism major from Arlington, Va.