Parkland, Florida, came and went, bringing a new St. Valentine’s Day massacre, another unspeakable horror, and another opportunity for hashtags and political maneuvering over guns in America. It very quickly became obvious that liberal activists had prepared and somewhat organized a campaign against the National Rifle Association ahead of time, waiting for the next mass shooting to occur and striking while the lead was still hot.
Still, we need not doubt for a moment that Jimmy Kimmel’s tears were real. In that moment when you think about the murder of children and brave faculty members acting as human shields, you’d have to have a darkened, cynical imagination not to care, not to be moved. And in that moment of assessment—assuming you don’t know any of the victims or their families personally—you run the emotions through the grid of your morality, your sense of history and how this event compares with what you know of it, and your faith. If you’re an outspoken atheist or a functioning one, you are outraged by “thoughts and prayers,” a sure sign of craven inaction on the part of selfish Deplorables clinging to their guns and religion. If you’re an imprecise theist, you “send out” your “thoughts and prayers” not to the God of Heaven, but to people—victims, who cannot read your thoughts from afar nor answer your prayers. If you’re a Christian, you recognize that the Devil is real, that fallen man is capable of tremendous malevolence, call upon the name of the Lord, and cry maranatha.
Every group mentioned above holds in common this assumption: It’s going to happen again. That’s reasonable. What’s to stop it? We may suspect that even the advocates of total gun control know in their heart of hearts that, were all of America’s guns to be melted down tomorrow and formed into a Tower of Babel, reaching perhaps the moon, mass killings in this country, committed by young, mostly white males against their classmates, would continue somehow, diabolical necessity being the mother of murderous invention.
It isn’t difficult to foresee the status quo remaining the status quo, with the left blaming the NRA and weeping and hyperventilating over its usual “common sense” proposals to ban whatever it currently wants to ban—bump stocks, “high-capacity” magazines, “silencers” (suppressors), “assault weapons” (already banned), “assault-style weapons” (scary-looking semiautomatics that have the same lethal capacity as “hunting rifles”), etc. And with the right proposing solutions that amount to turning public schools into prisons, with metal detectors and law-enforcement at every Checkpoint Charlie, and teachers not simply free to defend their students with lethal force, if capable, but obligated to do so. It’s a recipe for sustainable instability.
Suppose, instead of trying desperately to come up with a silver-bullet answer to mass shootings, we imagined the opposite. How would you go about creating a society in which mass shootings were likely to occur?
You’d need to foster motive and create opportunity.
Regarding motive, you have an advantage because the seeds were sown long ago in the Garden of Eden. The inclination to place love of self, of selfish desires, above love of others begins not in the present but in the past, in fallen human nature. The key is to deny it, to make even speaking of sin verboten, and to teach the opposite: the tabula rasa. Eliminate any societal structure or cultural artifact that deliberately and obviously cultivates self-restraint in a context of duties that are not chosen but inherited. Live in John Lennon’s “Imagine,” and wish upon a star.
This is more difficult than it sounds, because man is not a soulless ape with a large brain but, rather, an incarnate soul, and that soul has a built-in sense of right and wrong—a capacity to see God’s rules woven into nature. “Thou shalt not kill” is written on the heart, and murder is both enticing and disgusting to sinful human beings. So it is necessary to suppress their full sense of themselves by insisting to everyone that they are animals, biological machines that evolved apart from Mind and design, and that their loathing of taking innocent life is merely a chemical impression confected by their DNA, inherited from primitive ancestors who at tribal council voted to stop killing and eating one another as a means of furthering their individual self-interest of passing on their genes. Less is more, said Homo erectus, and anyone who believes otherwise—that God made everything for sentient and sapient man’s dominion—must be ridiculed consistently and declared an enemy of science.
You also have to hide the obvious conclusions that can be drawn from such a worldview, since, in order to achieve a consistent pattern of mass killings, you have to have periods of relative calm. A state of constant and utter lawless rebellion does not allow for the existence of Academy Awards and a Department of Education. You must, as C.S. Lewis said, “condition” people—encouraging them constantly with threats of both shame and state-monopolized violence to believe that all of their inherited moral desires are fulfilled in the pursuit of equality, which substitutes for the Form of the Good. Though all of your materialist science teaches the opposite, you have to insist that the one rule we must live by in order to prevent the Lord of the Flies from coming again is that everyone is the same in every way that matters. Boys have a penis, and girls a vagina—except no, let’s not say even that. Let’s make up a term of opprobrium for that sort of thinking: gender binary, heteronormativity, transphobia.
And here’s where we get our class of killers. For, since equality does not actually exist, we have to suppress inequalities wherever we find them and pretend they are arbitrary. Technology will lend a hand, but we must frame the very act of noticing that, say, boys seem designed to exert a greater physical strength than girls, obligating them to be protectors and ultimately husbands, fathers, and providers; and that, say, girls seem designed with the capacity to both attract the attention of boys and bear children, obligating them to be wives, mothers, and nurturers—we must frame the very act of noticing these things as a grave evil. All of our ancestors who recognized these things, who lived according to these realities, were evil. Over long time, they built institutions to cultivate this evil, which we are eliminating. The Old Boys’ Club that is the history of the world was a society of oppression. Every patriarch is Hitler. To aspire to live according to the traditions of the past, which to varying degrees reflected the natural order, is to aspire to be a Nazi—to be the sort of person who has no regard for human life itself, willing to slaughter en masse your perceived inferiors.
Young men will, in such a society, have no true role to play, no role model worthy of emulation, no hope for the future. But they will remain morally conflicted souls in bodies that are stronger and hormonally more aggressive than girls. You can underscore just how capable of responsibility you find them by forcing them to register with Selective Service at age 18, while taking away their right to purchase guns until they reach the age of 21. You can surround them with girls making kissy-face in short shorts, string bikinis, and prom dresses sporting cleavage, bare midriffs, and backs, daring the boys to look and chastising them for noticing. You can pacify them by giving them free pornography, consensual sex without obligation, role-playing video games, the incessant enemy of silence and reflection and mental rest that is the smartphone, and social media. You can dangle before them a desk job behind a screen that requires no physical exertion, while guaranteeing they will not be able to support a family. You can ensure that they see women as equals by glorifying celebrities who use filthy, coarse language in mixed company. You can reward effeminacy, privilege homosexuality, punish masculinity, and redefine marriage.
But some will see through the subterfuge, even if they do not comprehend the realities the conditioners are concealing. Of that group, most will not become mass shooters, despite our best efforts; they will be restrained by remnants of civilization—cultural artifacts, stories of faithful men who did their duty, churches that occasionally offer unqualified counterarguments to the conditioners, work, sports, community activities, intact families, and above all, unreconstructed fathers. The existence of these will be enough to restrain most.
But not all. And where there is a depraved will, there is always a way, especially when one with such a motive is warehoused five days a week with 3,000 of his peers in a building that has all of the features of a concentration camp—in a word, opportunity.
Triggered by the Tempter’s promise that they can be as gods, craving the media attention they are certain to get, and believing that they have no role to play except as a foil to progress (because that’s what they are taught), they will act accordingly, embracing monstrous evil on their own terms and achieving infamy via an instant modification to a Wikipedia page.
What’s left to stop them?