Cooper: It's up to us to change culture

Cooper: It's up to us to change culture

August 6th, 2019 by Clint Cooper in Opinion Free Press

Rabbi Yisrael Greenberg looks at a makeshift memorial while paying tribute to the victims of the Saturday mass shooting at a shopping complex in El Paso, Texas.

Photo by Andres Leighton

Unfortunately, as was proven over the weekend, hate has no political home.

A mass shooter who killed 22 in El Paso, Texas, is alleged to have posted a racist and anti-immigration manifesto online, seemingly supporting those who claim President Donald Trump holds similar views. Meanwhile, a mass shooter who killed nine in Dayton, Ohio, described himself as a pro-Satan leftist and supporter of 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts.

What vacuous nonsense that so many spent so much time and so many words over the weekend trying to fix blame on someone else or something else instead of on the gunmen, their background and the culture that has led us to this point.

Following a late-Sunday evening recitation of Trump's remarks about the potential mental illness in the perpetrators of the weekend's violence, a CNN interview with an academic type promised a discussion of why such horror may have happened — again.

We were all ears.

The president is completely wrong about mental illness, the expert began. This had nothing to do with mental illness. It came about because Donald Trump is a racist president and ...


High school classmates of the Dayton suspect say he compiled a "hit list" and "rape list" in high school. Clearly, those are not the thoughts of someone with all their mental faculties.

The manifesto, though not fully tied to the El Paso shooter, supported the slaughter of 51 Muslims in attacks in Christchurch, New Zealand, in March. No one thinking clearly would suggest such atrocities were anything but evil.

Democratic presidential candidates spent the weekend massaging their base by blaming everything on Trump. What they don't seem to grasp is that by blaming the president, they gain back no Trump voters they would need to win in 2020.

The president, on Monday morning, delivered words not unlike those uttered after previous shootings by Presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton.

"Hatred," he said, "warps the mind, ravages the heart and devours the soul."

Trump also condemned racism, bigotry and white supremacy, just as he should have but for which he will be given no credit.

Like, Obama, Bush and Clinton, he then went on to suggest a plan he said could be part of a bipartisan solution to such acts.

Trump said the country has to do a better job of acting on the warning signs of mass shooters before they strike, stop glorifying violence (including in video games), reform our mental health laws to more quickly identify potentially dangerous individuals and get them help (but even involuntary confine them if necessary) and see that the mentally ill do not have access to firearms (and even seize them if need be).

"I'm open and ready to listen to all ideas that will actually work," he said. "We have to set destructive partisanship aside."

We hope he believes that, but we have our doubts that either Republicans or Democrats are ready to dig in. Trump doesn't want to alienate those who support him on the far right and those who legally own guns. Democrats don't want to offend those in their base on their far left who want to ban guns, eliminate the Second Amendment to the Constitution or require universal background checks.

"It's not up to mentally ill monsters," the president said, "it's up to us." If we can do those things, he said, the dead in the two weekend shootings "will not have died in vain."

Unfortunately, neither he nor Democrats rarely touch the edge of the issue at the heart of the matter — the hollowing out of the family unit, the turning from faith and the eschewing of community values.

The proliferation of guns, Trump's sometimes inciteful rhetoric (and those of his political opponents), the glorification of violence, the intolerance for free speech, the spread of opioids and other drugs — they're all the results of what has happened to the culture.

The culture that valued family, faith, community and country has devalued to a culture that celebrates the individual to the exclusion of everything else. So when the individual is primary, all the rest is secondary. And when all the rest is secondary, it's also expendable.

We think of the refrain in the Toby Keith song "I Wanna Talk About Me."

"I want to talk about me

Want to talk about I

Want to talk about number one

Oh my me my

What I think, what I like, what I know, what I want, what I see

I like talking about you, you, you, you usually, but occasionally

I want to talk about me

I want to talk about me."

Democrats and Republicans can work together on bipartisan legislation about guns, mental illness and violent content, but they can't legislate values that strengthen family, faith, community and country back into being. We have to do that ourselves. And we can, if we just will.

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