Our Opinion: Cultural challenges are behind school shootings

When terrible things happen, it is human nature to reach out for a simplistic explanation. Faced with the simple spectacle of violence, we want to reach for an obvious reason, a clear villain. In times like those, we don’t want to consider the complexities of real-life situations. We want white hats and black hats and we want to punish the black hats.

If only the world we lived in was so black and white, so simple. It isn’t. It never has been. It never will be. To believe otherwise is foolish.

That’s why Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin was correct last week when, in the wake of yet another school shooting, he asserted that we as a society are faced with a cultural challenge in terms of violence. More youngsters dead, wounded, forever traumatized, and while the simple-minded and politically motivated seek to blame rivals or invoke childlike simplicities, the governor enunciated the truth.

Too much of our music, our film, TV and entertainment overall embrace violence and market it to young people. Insensitivity warrants “Likes.” We endorse our childrens’ embrace of this culture. Our leading cultural influences celebrate the worst of human nature. Our cultural influencers inspire division, hatred and the absurdity of absolutes.

While this is unfortunate and tragic, it is also a result of a relatively young, free nation, where unprecedented freedom and opportunity make us something new on the planet. There is a cost for freedom.

Violence such as that in Kentucky last week isn’t the fault of a gun manufacturer. Nor of guns. Nor of the National Rifle Association. First and foremost, it is the fault of the gunman. Period. But he is a manifestation of genetics and the world in which he lived. We – individually and as we materialize in our culture – are the world in which he lived to some degree.

As a people, we should be able to bear looking into a mirror.