Editor’s Note: In the wake of the elementary school shooting that took place on Dec. 14 in Newtown, Conn., Rev. Deborah L. Johnson, founder of Inner Light Ministries, has issued the following statement:
The shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut is a tragedy. Inner Light Ministries and I extend our condolences and join in the chorus of prayers around the world. Flags on our government buildings fly half-mast as the nation grieves. Yes, we are all deeply saddened, but we must do more than mourn. We must act in accordance with a sense of purpose to be a voice of both compassion and action. It is time to call forth the best in our creative genius to create the world we want to see, the world that honors life as sacred and empowers people to be all that they can be.
Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said it 50 years ago: “We are a world gone mad on war.”
Our society consumes a steady diet of violence at increasingly super sized rates. Our nation as a whole, but young people especially—young males in particular—are inundated with opportunities to both witness and participate in murder and destruction through various multimedia venues. Power is now defined as the ability to destroy rather than the capacity to create. In these training grounds, the skill set being mastered and glorified is that of a killing machine with the goal being who can cause the most destruction in the shortest period of time. How many real time massacres will it take before we say “Enough!” and start to take energetic charge of the situation. We can and we must turn this around. We can and we must create consumer demands around matters of social justice as we are doing about issues of environmental sustainability.
It is time to turn the tide. We desperately need a revolution in our values. Let us prepare our society, especially our youth, for a life of cooperation and service as citizens of the world. It is just as easy to design video games that require cooperation, as it is to create ones that demand competition. Imagine games where you can’t win unless you work together, where you are only rewarded for teamwork. Our society has long been fixated on the paradigm of victim/villain/hero. However, there has been a dramatic shift in that our heroes today are measured by how many people they obliterate, not by how many they save. What happened to Superman stopping bullets, rather than shooting them? What happened to twisting the gun into a knot so that it couldn’t discharge? Today’s heroes shoot more bullets than the villain.
I understand the adrenalin rush and the demand for excitement. But what if the excitement was in prolonging lives not shortening them? Don’t blow up the building and start the fire; maneuver through the fire and bring people out of the building. Rescue shipwrecked passengers; scale mountains and crawl through ravines to reach stranded climbers. Let the test be to find creative ways to communicate quickly in stressful situations, to break through language barriers in disaster relief situations. Figure out how to distribute supplies to millions who may perish without your intervention. Drop bundles of food, not bombs, with all of the sensory reward systems so alluring to gamers. Teach trust and negotiation. Put a premium on extending life, not taking it!
We are aware that our being 5-6 percent of the planet’s population, yet consuming 35 percent of its natural resources, is neither just nor sustainable. As U.S. product consumers we are conscientiously trying to reduce our carbon footprint on the world. The U.S. also spends $0.45 of every $1 spent on military expenditures around the world, 10 times the next closest countries. We need to become equally aware of ourselves as military consumers, with weapons discarded and circulating throughout globe, at a volume that is also neither just nor sustainable. Regardless of one’s stance on military spending, the question still remains: “What happens to all of the military assault weapons and surveillance technology that the U.S. continuously builds, upgrades, and then discards?” What about our military footprint on the planet, including our recycled weapons?
This is more than about gun control in the U.S. How many children around the world have been innocently killed in acts of terrorism and military interventions, sometimes our own, using weapons created with our tax dollars? Access and vulnerability to multiple generations of assault weapons is a global social justice issue. How do we drastically reduce our military imprint on the planet and its people? The world awaits our active response. The accountability for massacres such as the one at Sandy Hook Elementary lies in more hands than the one pulling the trigger.