Another hellish shooting in America, this time in Aurora, Colorado. Another mass murder by a deranged gunman, the 24 year old James Eagan Holmes, this time in a movie theatre. Another round of speeches by politicians deploring the loss of life and calling on us to pray for the dead and for their families. This time, Obama and Romney making the usual robotic-compassionate speeches. It's all become so very normal in America, as we seem to have these explosions of gun violence on a horribly regular basis. The news media will be all abuzz for several days with coverage of the tearful survivors and their families.
One thing likely to be missing: any rational discussion of the need for more gun control in this country. We might not be able to prevent all dangerous individuals from getting guns and wreaking havoc, but doesn't it make sense that if we reduce the supply and ease of access to guns in this society, we might see less of these awful events? I fear that our public officials are too afraid of the NRA (the politically powerful National Rifle Association) and the gun lobby to engage in any such discussion. We can look forward to the next massacre, more politicians calling for prayers for the dead and their families, more media stories about pathetic victims, tearful survivors and traumatized families, and nothing will be learned. This country is brain-dead when it comes to the issue of gun violence. It is one of the saddest things about America. As far as I can tell, the Zombie Apocalypse is already here.
As a Pagan, I see all the more need to focus our spirituality on peace and reconciliation, not fetishes about weapons and fantasies of violence. We do indeed have in Pagan mythology gods with weapons and there are indeed tales of wars. Let us make sure to interpret these things metaphorically and spiritually so that the weaker-minded who are among us now or who may come after us later do not see these elements of mythology as literal instructions for what to do in society today, like right-wing racist nuts such as Anders Behring Breivik who blend in the mythical scenario of Ragnarok from Norse mythology with their own hateful fantasies of "race war." We can be fighters for peace and justice. We can look to smash intolerance and inequality, not the skulls of enemies. We can use the sword of intellect and understanding to cut through ignorance, like the thunderbolt-weapon (vajra) that symbolizes the Vajrayana school of Tibetan Buddhism. In fact, there is much for thoughtful Pagans to consider about how Buddhism put a psychological spin on gods of anger and war and used them as tools for meditative self-transformation.
Above all, let us refrain from glamorizing violence and weapons. In our world today, there are simply too many things going on in our culture that point us toward violence, and so very few that point us away. Let's be on the right side of that equation.