It’s been a week since the atrocity in Newton, Connecticut. As we mourn the loss of innocent life public debate over the reasons why this happened and what should be done about it have become vitriolic. Immediately, the call for stricter gun control, armed personnel in schools, curbing video and entertainment violence, and the use of psychotropic drugs has raged.
I understand the need to make sense of the senseless. I understand the desire to do something instead of nothing. I understand the opportunistic amongst us will use this situation to further political agendas. Never let a crisis go to waste, some believe.
The killing in Newtown is a microcosm of a much larger set of issues regarding the individual and society. Issues man has faced ever since Adam took a bite of the apple. Because Adam was tempted and succumbed to his temptations God has given man free will. Because man has free will he chooses how to conduct himself. Just as darkness is a term to describe the absence of light and cold is a term to describe the absence of heat; evil is the absence of good. Evil comes from mans’ free will to act. Just as Cain killing Abel was evil so was the murder of twenty eight people in Newtown.
The outrage over the use of a firearm to commit an evil act is misplaced. The firearm was the tool but the tool can only be wielded if a person freely chooses to commit an act of evil. Just as box cutters, knives, fire, automobiles, and fertilizer and diesel fuel are used to create a bomb these are simply tools used to commit an evil act. This becomes a question of human dignity and human life. Ultimately, the mind reasons, rationally or irrationally, another human life is unworthy and the evil act of taking another human life is a reflection of how people view life.
Every life is worthy and every human life should be treated with dignity. However, there are many people that advocate for the killing of the unborn in the womb on Monday and then on Friday are outraged by the killing of innocent life. Likewise, too many people are comfortably numb to State sponsored killing. There have been hundreds of innocent women and children killed in Pakistan due to drone bombings. The loss of life across the globe as war is waged goes unnoticed. The State calls this collateral damage and the sad truth is too many people have grown accustom to State sponsored killing. Moreover, where is the outrage from these very same people now screaming for more gun control when there have been over four hundred children killed in Chicago this past year?
Everything revolves around one central issue. Thomas Jefferson said, “The issue is the same today as it has been throughout all history, whether man shall be allowed to govern himself or be ruled by a small elite.” It all boils down to the individual vs. some other collective alternative.
The smallest minority is not a racial, religious, or other group of people. The smallest minority is the individual. The Declaration of Independence set forth the founding principles for free people. Political societies are formed for the sole purpose of better protecting certain unalienable rights endowed upon us by our Creator. Political societies are a reflection of mans’ free will to associate with others for the same end. Individuals act freely to preserve their lives and pursue a course to ensure their own happiness. This is what it means to have liberty. More specifically, in political society it is the concept of rightful liberty which is the unobstructed action according to your own will drawn around the equal rights of others.
Along with rightful liberty comes responsibility. The recognition that free will in a state of nature or rightful liberty in a political society, not only implies, but requires responsibility for one’s actions. You are held personally responsible for the consequences of your actions. Therefore, if any member of society violates the equal rights of another they are held responsible. An important and necessary aspect of any justice system within a political society is the person committing a wrongful act is held responsible. The people collectively are not responsible for the act of one person. There are eighty-nine million gun owners in the United States that did not violate anyone’s rights last Friday in Newtown. One person was responsible for that act. The very idea that the rights of all people should be abridged or denied because of one person’s actions is absurd.
This reflects the nature of many differences we face today. That is the individual vs. collective alternatives. As President Obama said the other day people must sacrifice for the collective good. But what is the collective good and, more importantly, who decides what is good for everyone? Do we have a government – a political society – based upon the free association of people and states, or do we have an omnipotent nationalist government? The same question arises in the question of free markets vs. central planning. Do free markets allow for two or more people to freely engage in commerce and reflect the wants and needs of the people? Or can central planners decide which industries succeed or fail, how much or how little of a good is produced, how much money is printed and the cost of money (interest rates), or how much property is confiscated through taxation to wage war and to kill innocent women and children in Pakistan? The same question arises over property rights. Does the individual or the government own property? Does another person have a rightful claim to your property, and if so, how much and why?
Are we free people exercising rightful liberty or are we enslaved to a collectivist government where an oligarchy of a few hundred people lord over three hundred and ten million people. Can a cabal of people oversee a centrally planned economy? Do these rulers decide who owns property and under what conditions? Furthermore, can these very same rulers institute social, economic, and other forms of distributive justice? Such power concentrated in the hands of the few is inimical to the ideal that government is instituted for the sole purpose of better securing our unalienable rights.
Is man capable of self-governance and self-determination or does man need to be ruled by a cabal of other men? The centrifugal force that is the tendency to consolidate power is accelerating. The 20th century was one of the most deadly in the history of mankind. Collectivist societies such as the Soviet Union, the National Socialists in Germany, the Italian fascists under Mussolini, and the Maoists in China have resulted in roughly one hundred million deaths. Dictatorships, theocracies, and other collectivist societies only add to these numbers.
Collective societies seek to punish individuals that do not conform to the greater good. Collective societies recognize the State as the greatest power not the individual. Collective societies survive only because of violence initiated by the State against anyone that opposes the collective good. A collective society results in people becoming comfortably numb to State sponsored killing. A collective society is void of responsibility because there is so little personal and economic liberty. People living in a collective society, some freely and some forcibly, shackle themselves to the chains of slavery to ensure the survival of the collective. Collective society does not and cannot recognize the value or dignity of human life because the State is above each individual human life. To make individual life equal to or more important than collective society would be the death to the State and centralized power. Just as the killer in Newtown did not value human life and chose to commit an evil act, collective society is evil because human life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness is disregarded or unworthy of recognition.
May God’s grace shine warmly upon the souls that entered the Kingdom of Heaven last Friday and grant them peace ever lasting.