"For every thousand hacking at the leaves of a problem, there is one striking at the root"
That quote is attributed to Henry David Thoreau and I’ve seen it rendered in a few different ways but the model above is the most common and expresses well the idea. Every evil has a root that allows it to grow and then be expressed in a variety of ways. The expression of evil is the leaves. It is useful to trim the leaves to curtail the expression of evil but evil will always exist until we can identify the root and take action against it.
The evil of slaughtering innocent people is growing in our nation and in the world. There is a large segment of our society – politicians, educators, entertainment types, religious leaders – who have seen the evil and misidentified (either purposefully or ignorantly) its root as the proliferation of guns. Obviously the use of guns can kill people, but they really are not the root of the problem. Guns in the hands of those who guard our political leaders and their families are seen as a blessing. Guns in the hands of law enforcement and military personnel are good not evil. A gun in the hands of a father or mother protecting family during a home invasion could be seen as a good thing.
Since guns can be used for both good and evil purposes, what is the deciding factor? You have to add in the other element of the equation which is the person using the gun. If the person using the gun is evil then the gun (or knife, or lead pipe, or poison) is used for evil purposes. Logically, (and the amount of logic required to reach this conclusion is minimal) the gun – the inanimate object - cannot be good or evil. It is the person using it that determines the nature of the usage. To assign evil to an inanimate object is pure nonsense and a diversion from the real problem.
We live in a time and place where standards have largely been thrown away. It becomes increasingly difficult to tell right from wrong. I wonder if those concepts can even be taught anymore in schools. To teach right and wrong is to hold up something as better or worse than something else and that will inevitably offend someone or hurt someone’s feelings and is therefore not allowed. We live in a time and place where religious teachings have been thrown aside, where they are rarely allowed to be expressed or considered in a public place. And yet, what is the basis for morality if not religious teachings? How do we in the Western world know that it is not right to kill someone if not for the Ten Commandments and a clear understanding of them?
The root of the problem of slaughtering innocent people is not an excess of guns. It is the vacuum created by not allowing moral truth to be taught in society. That vacuum will then be filled by whatever feels right to an individual even if what they feel is completely and fully wrong. Murder is wrong – completely – but without the teachings of religion you would not naturally know that.
So if these teachings are not allowed openly in the public square then one key part of the solution – the striking at the root – has to be that we teach them more clearly in the home. We need more homes with parents that understand their duty to teach children to understand truth and to act on it. We need more homes and more parents who teach right versus wrong, truth versus error, and good versus evil, and who teach their families to act for right and against wrong. Only then will we begin to see this evil of slaughter (and similar evils) fade away. The longer we keep misidentifying the root and offering solutions that allow us to feel good about trimming the leaves, the larger the problem grows. Feeling good about your solution doesn’t solve any problem, it’s only a diversion. Often a real solution is painful and takes serious courage.
We all see the same things. How we interpret the data has long term ramifications. We are in the midst of watching national leaders and opinion makers continually misinterpret the data and thus try to correct a massive problem in a way that will never fix it. We are being led by a stunning array of self-congratulatory leaf hackers who feel good but solve no problems.
A return to morality, to the teachings of the Savior of the world, is the only real and lasting way to make the correction.