(Newsroom America) – What does the sad, shameful and cowardly attack on late-night matinee movie-goers in Aurora, Colo., early Friday morning really signify?
As police continue comb the area for clues; as parents and family members grieve over the dead and dying; as President Obama expressed grief and shock; as lawmakers fumble about for excuses; as activists and class warriors point fingers of blame – what the attack really signifies is that the beginning of the end of civil America has begun.
In fact, the process has been in motion for years now. We have just conveniently averted our eyes, lowered our heads and ignored the obvious: This experiment in self-government, which began with so much promise as a beacon of light and hope for an oppressed world, is failing.
It’s failing because we are failing it.
Can you feel it? Can you sense it? The warning signs are plentiful. We were just reminded once more how close we are to the abyss.
Politicians and activists will once again try to blame the inanimate objects – the guns – used in this tragedy. They will call for bans. They will call for more laws. They will rehash the same tired arguments, using the same tired – and disproved – “reasoning.”
And if the maniac had used a bottle filled with gasoline? Would we ban ExxonMobile?
For you see, it’s the culture – or, more specifically, our cultural decline - driving these senseless attacks. The ultra-maniacal, solve-your-issues-with-violence-committed-against-your-neighbor culture.
It’s what we’ve become. It’s what now defines America.
When you have someone who obviously thinks through, plans and prepares to “allegedly” carry out vicious, senseless attacks like this, that’s not a “gun” problem or a “lack of laws” problem.
It’s a cultural problem.
Our culture is dying. And why?
It’s dying because too few of us seem willing to put forth the effort to make the changes necessary to revive the patient.
We have the means. We just don’t seem to have the will.
That may seem like a cop-out, an excuse. Oh, sure; blame it on ‘the people.’
Well, who else is responsible for the success – or failure – of a culture?
It is “We the People” who have been charged since the nation’s beginning with maintaining the freedom and liberty – and civility – bestowed to us by our founding fathers. Since those heady days in the fall of 1787, when the Constitution was signed, successive generations have since sacrificed much in the way of blood and treasure to ensure the self-governing experiment endured.
How quaint, old-fashioned and “noble” that must sound these days. Almost as much as using the term “statesman” to describe our politicians.
And yet, it is that very concept – that ideal – held by our earliest citizens who felt it was so important it was worth risking their lives over, that they entrusted us to uphold in their spirit, in their honor.
Well, we are failing them. We are failing our national birthright. We are failing ourselves.
The abomination in Aurora is merely the latest in a long stream of atrocities committed against us by our own citizens. In some of these cases, our own children are killing us.
We’re losing our country, one embarrassing, disgusting tragedy at a time.
And that’s because we no longer respect ourselves, let alone the culture and values that made America, in Ronald Reagan’s words, the “shining city on a hill.”
Long gone are the days when John F. Kennedy implored us to “ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.”
The singular sense of purpose that helped liberate the world from the grip of global tyranny twice in the 20th century is dead.
The hope and promise of the shining city has been replaced by cynicism, suspicion, ethnic division, selfishness and violence. We have become a sex-starved, free-for-all, anything-goes video-game society that shuns civility and breeds contempt – mostly for each other.
The promise of achievement in America has been diminished by the compromise of the entitlement mentality, and then again by the frustration of realizing how it is not possible to be handed the American dream, that it must be earned. Of course that’s frustrating; we’ve sold the believers a bill of goods that never was and could never be.
Now, in our angst and disappointment, we celebrate violence; we celebrate the politics of destruction; we celebrate class warfare and envy. We don’t celebrate polite goodness, nobility, compassion and dignity – the very core principles of a successful, enduring culture.
Is such a culture even possible these days?
Well, the Japanese don’t do these kinds of things to each other.
Neither do the Europeans (outside of soccer matches).
Neither do the Mexicans (at least, those who are not involved with the drug cartels).
Neither do the Canadians.
But we do, though we didn’t used to.
Outside of violence incited by organized crime (which has now been replaced by gang-related violence), America the Past Tense was not on a path towards national suicide.
But it is now.
Because we have a culture problem – not “law” problem, or a “gun” problem, or a “need better security at the theater” problem.
Glen Beck says, “America’s no longer a spectator sport,” meaning, we can’t afford to sit on the sidelines anymore.
No truer words.
We can start, say, by not taking our babies and toddlers and small children to see violent movies like “The Dark Knight Rises.”
We can reclaim our respect for one another – insist on it, even – no matter what our political or ethnic or value-system differences.
We can agree to disagree, and leave it at that.
Whatever we do, we have to figure out a way to stop killing ourselves, simply because life hasn’t gone our way or because we are experiencing some temporary bump in the road and feel there is no other way out.
There is always another way out.
Maybe we should start by stop taking ourselves so seriously. Stop putting so many expectations on ourselves. Start being more satisfied with what we have – a job, some money in the bank, a good relationship, children – and not so preoccupied with what we don’t have. Start seeing the glass as half-full, not half-empty.
But whatever we agree to do, the very first thing we have to agree upon is this: Our civil society is breaking down.
You can feel it, sense it, can’t you?
The massacre in Aurora is just the latest sign of it.
This is not a problem we should leave for “others” to do. Washington can’t fix this (and we can’t even seem to fix Washington). It’s not up to the United Nations. Or your local city council.
This is our problem. A uniquely American problem. It’s our country to lose. Or save.
Jon E. Dougherty is the U.S. editor for Newsroom America, and is a candidate for a B.A. in Political Science at Ashford University.