‘Society has become more invested in retribution’


To the editor:

“The gunman acted alone.”

We often hear that after some mass killing, as we did in the aftermath of the killings in a Charleston church. That report leaves us relieved. We don’t want to think the carnage was the beginning of some large scale terrorism.

In a larger sense, however, does any such killer “act ALONE?” Certainly he (it’s usually a male) did not grow his violent tendencies or his hatred out of nothing. What were the seeds that grew into his hatred, and/or the soil in which his violence took root? Unquestionably, individuals — and society — had direct or indirect, intended or unintended influence on his bizarre thinking, his tragic behavior.

Our society has become more self-centered. Increasingly voters want what is best for them personally, and are less concerned with what others need. Such attitudes send subtle messages that we have a right to demand what we want — and to eliminate those who somehow threaten us.

Society has become more invested in retribution. If ISIS attacks Christians in Iraq, some demand we bomb them into perdition (a polite word for hell). Or we can’t wait to see some accused killer “strapped into the ‘chair.’” No wonder a victim assumes his right to strike back.

Society has become more dependent on violence to express itself. A collision of two hockey players erupts into fisticuffs. A family disagreement erupts into spouse abuse. A street argument erupts into a gun fight. No wonder the offended one feels no need for a reasonable settlement. No wonder he feels no compulsion to restrain himself in his reaction.

Yes! YES!! There are many who act responsibly in the face of distressing or damaging circumstances. I rejoice at their positive examples. Unfortunately, the fragile psyche sees only the negative possibilities. The negative influences of “knee-jerk” thinking, the ugly examples of extreme (even violent) reactions have become too numerous.

Although we must hold people accountable for their behavior, we must reject the attitude that we have a God-given right for vengeance. Rather, God says, “Vengeance is mine.” (Romans 12:19) The task of a responsible society is to multiply ways to respond to evil or unfortunate happenings in more positive ways.

William A. McCartney


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