By Robert A. Vella
Today, as we grieve over yet another slaughter of human lives, I’d like you all to consider the meaning of a personal anecdote of mine. This story is, unfortunately, very real and quite commonplace in America these days.
Earlier this afternoon, I bumped into a neighbor of mine whom I like very much. She’s a sweet, pleasant, church-going, married-with-children Gen X-er who gets along extremely well with all our neighbors. No one I know of has ever said anything negative about this cheerful, upbeat young lady. She is the epitome of a good, responsible neighbor.
We talked for a while about yesterday’s terrorist attacks in Paris, the recent mass shooting in Roseburg, Oregon, trivial matters such as odd pet behavior and sports, and the weirdness of human dreams. It was an enjoyable conversation, as usual.
Then, my neighbor described a dream she had not long ago in which she felt joy over firing a rocket into the White House that killed President Obama. I was taken aback. Such an expression of malevolence was the last thing I would have expected from her. My response was immediate, yet restrained.
“It’s not good to feel pride over murder,” I suggested.
“I know,” she replied, “but the large crowd [in my dream] was cheering.”
Americans generally share the opinion that terrible acts of violence might be commonplace elsewhere, but are random anomalies within their own country… that the Dylann Roofs and Chris Harper-Mercers of this nation are the result of individual moral failings. As many of you might already know, I completely disagree with that opinion. In my view, egregious acts of violence are the natural result of latent hostilities building up in unbalanced and dysfunctional societies. Murder, whether spontaneous or intricately planned, is almost always preceded by the emotion of malice. Not all hostility ends in murder, but the prevalence of hostility in a populace is correlative to the number and kinds of murders committed by that population.
If good citizens like my neighbor harbor such latent hostility, what are not-so-good citizens feeling? Has America become a breeding ground for hate?