A crazy man recently said something like, “The U.S. will be Mad Max in five years.” He was crazy, of course, and he proved it by taking an assault weapon to a movie theatre, shot, killed, and maimed innocent people who were just out to watch a comedy movie.

The story was big in the news. It was yet another senseless act of gun violence in an armed-to-the-teeth society. An isolated incident? Hardly that. It was just one of a string of such incidents that still has people puzzled over what exactly could be done to stop such egregious events.

Do we restrict the ready availability of weapons like the ones he used? I think that doing so would be a pointless exercise, an exercise in futility. Even if there were strict controls put in place, it would take about a century for the existing weapons to become significantly fewer in number, less widespread. Moreover, the silly-sounding, right-wing mantra is in fact correct! It is people who kill people! And they have used weapons besides guns to do so. We cannot hold guns, per se, responsible.

Background checks before weapons purchases are not pointless, but they won’t even touch the problem. If a crazy man owns three assault weapons already, a counter-based background check will not find him. If a man wants to buy one and he has no criminal record nor other restriction, he’ll be able to buy the gun, then wander off and get crazy or criminal, with a gun in his possession. The background check is no panacea.

Then there are terrorists. Like becoming crazy while owning a weapon, many terrorists, (who don’t always choose guns with which to carry out their evil deeds), only become terrorists moments before they decide to go on a killing spree. Background checks will never reveal such disturbed souls.

Why is this happening? How can we stop it from happening? What’s at the root of this new development in our society?

Here are my thoughts on this complex issue.

Whether you think you know what’s right for everyone, or if you think you know what’s wrong for everyone, it is YOU that is wrong! The only religious, political or zealous belief that we must hold sacred and respect is that there is such a thing as “The Common Good.” It is not there to constrain us, nor to deny us freedoms or liberties. It is there because we wish to live in a peaceful, orderly society in which the pursuit of life, liberty and happiness are supported by protections from those who would deny us those rights, those freedoms.

Absent any commitment to the ‘common good,’ we will, I fear, be facing approximately what the crazy man said. It will be anarchy filled with violence, death and mindless destruction of infrastructure that supports life, communication, health, well-being, education and the simple joys of living.

It was an idea of a ‘common good’ that allowed us to build cities, transportation infrastructures, long-distance communications systems, libraries, schools, hospitals, a system of laws and justice. The Common Good.

Can our lawmakers see this? Can they set aside their concerns for re-election or their lobbied payoffs, or their adoration of the Libertarian jeering rabble and look at the true needs of this society to form laws that serve to protect the common good?

Libertarians have held sway over lawmakers to our collective detriment. Their claim that we need fewer laws not more laws may have some truth to it. Such laws as we must have should be few yet powerful and they should be framed to protect and empower the common good. Would Libertarians be happy or comfortable with my view that crazy people need to be identified (they have their privacy to protect, don’t they?) and watched closely or even restrained in some way?

More importantly for the long-term, we need an education system that imparts the goal and the importance of the common good to the minds of young people. Get them to buy into the idea of a large, pluralistic society that is capable of tolerating many differences, but not differences that dictate to its adherents the destruction of any part of the common good, including people who make them angry. Shooting or bombing or poisoning people in order to make a point goes strongly against the common good.

Oh, it’s coming! This week I have seen disturbing indications that our social fabric is unravelling at high speed.

Consider:

– the proliferation of terrorist groups, each reporting to its own power-crazed Imam, each with his own warped idea of an Islamic Heaven-on-Earth which the troops venture out to impose on others by force

– personally operated drones that can fire automatic weapons with the shooter at a distance, in a hidden location

– hackers can hack into any addressable device to seize control of a car, train, airplane, power system, internet, financial system, water-flow system, pipeline or even nursery monitor

– Privacy is no longer possible, anywhere. Data recorded or transferred is data shared. Data can also be manipulated by whomever controls it to make things look other than they are. In an environment like this, what can we trust as ‘true’ and what is simply fabrication for manipulative purposes?

– My heart goes out to the many African-Americans who have fallen victim over the years to overzealous and bigoted police. Clearly, the justice system does need re-working, re-educating. But in respect for the common good we all need to be re-educated. We are supposed to do what the policeman tells us to do and sort out the justice of it later. That’s how a system of laws works. If you can tell the policeman that you won’t accede to his demands, if you try to get on-the-spot justification of an order before complying, you are interfering with the administration of justice and the whole thing can escalate rapidly, often leading to tragic results.

A shared sense of the ‘Common Good’ should be overarching everything.

Without it, we are lost and the crazy folk rule the roost. Bedlam, here we come!

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