Whom Should We Blame for the Violence?

Maybe someone we hadn't even considered.
Whom Should We Blame for the Violence?
Image: Saiful Bahri / Shutterstock

Seemingly minutes after the tragic shootings, like the one in Baton Rouge on Sunday, the blame-game kicks in again. In this case, the blame is laid on police brutality, Black Lives Matter’s rhetoric, the National Rifle Association’s gun lobby, Hollywood’s glorification of violence, social media rants, Christianity’s otherworldliness, Middle America’s ignorance, conservative policies, liberal policies, Barack Obama, Donald Trump—and so on.

And then there’s the understandable distancing of every group: “We decry this violence! We have never suggested, ever, that our program/policies/agenda condones this sort of thing.”

In other words, it’s always someone’s else’s fault. Someone else’s problem. My friends and I are guilt free. My group or cause is not to blame.

We do this because we’re afraid. If our political and social enemies spot any fault, any weakness, we’ll lose power and prestige, as will our just and righteous cause. And we can’t let that happen. So we keep up the front that our side has it completely right and everyone else has it wrong.

But what would our country look like if instead of trying to find blame in someone else’s heart, we examined our own? And what if, in our self-examination, we found some reason to suppose that we may have contributed to the violence that now so commonly, regularly, like clockwork, characterizes American life?

I recently re-read Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov and was again taken with the religious philosophy of Elder Zosima and his disciple Alyosha Karamazov. It’s best expressed in one of Zosima’s speeches to his fellow monks. He says,

We are not holier than ...
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