By Fr. Rolando V. Dela Rosa, O.P.
If you are living in a world with peace and harmony, you will most likely consider death as an unwelcome killjoy, a grinding halt to your tranquil advance to the future. But if you are constantly exposed to violence, fearfully certain that your life will be snuffed out anytime, you will most likely think that death IS your future.
Simone Weil once wrote that when a man kneels helpless, with a gun pointing at him, he becomes a corpse even before the attacker pulls the trigger. The moment he realizes that the weapon pointed at him will not be diverted, he knows that even if he is still breathing, he is no different from a stone or any inanimate object. He feels he is still alive, but he has no future. Death IS his future.
To have death as a future castrates your life of all aspirations. It obliterates whatever hope you have for a meaningful life.
This morbid thought that afflicts many of us today is reinforced by a daily barrage of news stories about muggings, kidnappings, robberies, rapes, murders, and massacres. Death is no longer a far-fetched possibility but an imminent certainty. The fear this certainty generates often borders on paranoia, making us think that every stranger is a potential kidnapper or terrorist; every street corner, a crime scene.
The outside world has become too menacing, with every entrance, gate, or port equipped with metal detectors, and every street post has a CCTV camera. The presence of these security and surveillance gadgets makes us think that there is no safe place anymore. Every open door, gate garage, or window is an invitation for robbery, rape, or murder.
Compounding this is the erosion of public trust in the police and military authorities, the government’s inability to assure its citizens peace and order, the culture of violence perpetuated by movies and television, loss of parental nerve in disciplining children, and collective apathy eating into our moral fabric.
Pro-gun advocates preach that we have to own a gun to protect ourselves. Anti-gun advocates, however, contend that arming civilians will turn the nation into a vigilante state. For, with our growing impatience with inept policemen, opportunistic lawyers, and corrupt judges, what would stop us from using guns to resolve cases? What would stop us from doing a Dirty Harry, annihilating criminals before the police arrive? After all, they seldom arrive on time.
In America, with close to 100 million guns in circulation, school children use their parents’ guns to shoot at their schoolmates and teachers. Draping themselves in superhero robes, they shoot at their victims as though these are cyber characters in a video game.
The recent rally of students in America, protesting against gun-violence, is somewhat ironic. After all, one export industry that keeps America’s economy afloat is the gun industry. While America earns billions arming other countries with sophisticated killing machines, Americans unwittingly use the same weapons to kill fellow Americans.
Violence begets more violence. Violence has its own law that works in unpredictable ways. It is as pitiless to the man who wields it, as it is to its victims. He who takes the sword perishes by the sword. Until we learn to beat “our swords into plowshares, and our spears into pruning hooks” (Isaiah 2:4), many people will continue to go through life thinking that death IS their future.