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Views from the Right column: How have we come to this?

D.M. OKeefe

By the time this column appears, readers will have heard most of what can be said about mass shootings, why they happen and how they might be stopped. The country is still divided over what or whom to blame for the carnage—guns, a violent culture, or people.

I grieve over the loss of lives undeserving of such a horrific end. Whenever children die because of preventable murder, accident, abuse, or abortion I want to scream, "Stop the insanity! It wasn't like this 60 years ago. How have we come to this?" I can only point to society no longer living by one code of ethics.

Moral absolutism, as in the Ten Commandments, has been replaced by moral relativism. No actions are wrong for everyone in every situation. Judgment is suspended. Doing anything we please is okay as long as no one gets hurt. Seemingly harmless actions in the present might lead to negative consequences in the future, but the risk is worth the satisfaction.

Secular humanism is also replacing the Judeo-Christian ethics that guided previous generations. Without a Creator at their source, the Ten Commandments are invalid. Humans must develop ethics through experimentation and science, not divine guidance. No afterlife means no eternal judgment or punishment.

We put much less emphasis on personal accountability than did previous generations. We value individuality more than social coherence, producing as many concepts of a life well lived as there are people. We've expanded our concepts of injustice. And we're conflicted over laws and enforcement practices that were previously unquestioned.

Our complex, diverse society doesn't lend itself to simple solutions for complicated problems. Some proposed solutions overlook constitutional rights. Australia can confiscate guns because its constitution provides no right to bear arms. Along with that right, Americans have other constitutional protections. For example, the rights of many are not to be violated to control the actions of a few.

We often don't recognize inconsistency. If we favor gun control, can we also favor open borders and less aggressive policing? How do we control gun ownership if we don't stop the illegal flow of guns from outside and approve large scale, unwarranted searches and seizures? Safeguards meant to protect us don't always work properly. Their failure produced Parkland, Orlando, Boston, Fort Hood, Garland, Texas, and New York City three times.

Most Americans think the country has been sliding in the wrong direction for a long time. Government policies and mandates haven't guaranteed compliance or freedom. Sixty years ago, far less drug abuse, sexual promiscuity, pornography usage, borrowing more than can be repaid, and family breakdown occurred. Media and entertainment didn't exploit and celebrate personal violence or disrespect for authority. Christianity and Judaism weren't publicly mocked. Church and temple attendance was encouraged.

Today, popular culture tells us to value pleasure over character and caring for self over caring for others. Hooking up is superior to commitment, and short term success, superior to long term stability. Soldiers and teachers who take bullets demonstrate sacrifice and duty, but police don't. Fathers are expendable. Organized religion is worthless or corrupt. Government can better assist the disadvantaged than can community. For many conservatives, these are symptoms of a spiritually damaged society. For me, they're reasons I value my life in the imperfect 1950s.

Our young people need to know that they were created for something greater than harming self and others. That hopelessness and uncontrolled rage are obstacles to becoming the best they can be. And that caring for others is a prescription for contentment and social harmony. Those things, not power and control, are the makings of heroes.