In the aftermath of the assassination of Senator Kennedy, people around the world are asking:
What is happening in America?
What is happening to America?
Why is the once greatest nation collapsing?
Why is violence becoming a way of life here?
All very good questions.
Meanwhile, though, back in the U.S., our public figures act as if they didn't hear them. Gun laws, we find them screeching, from every radio receiver, gun laws, gun laws, gun laws! Make it illegal for anyone to own a gun and enforce that law at the point of a gun. Forget that a murderer does not stop for stop signs and would not obey a gun law either. Forget that it leaves the victim unarmed, but leaves the victimizer free to operate. Forget that it makes self-protection a crime, but leaves the criminal better off than he was before. Forget that an assassin can make a gun or steal a gun or even use another type of weapon. Forget all that.
But how can someone forget such obvious facts? Watch our public officials run from assembly to meeting hall, from press conference to committee meeting; watch them run and run, but never stop to think. Watch them fill the void with pre-historic chants and slogans. That is how one forgets such obvious facts.
One expects, at the completion of one of their pleas for mutual insanity, that these public leaders will begin striking the radio microphone against a hollow log or dancing for rain. One expects this because what he is hearing are the ravings of a throwback, a savage, a witchdoctor, a caveman.
A witchdoctor is a man who reverses cause and effect, attempting to solve a problem by erasing an effect, as if the cause would magically disappear. As if by legislating against earthquakes, he would not be buried by the first one that occurred. As if by passing a law, it would rain. As if by making guns illegal, violence would disappear. As if by the mere raising of a few hundred hands, something which exists, would cease to exist.
The cause of an assassination is not the weapon, but the assassin. The assassin assassinates, not because he can buy a gun, but because of his irrationality.
Murder is illegal; to make the instrument of crime illegal is to give an implicit moral sanction to the criminal, while condemning the innocent to die, without any means of self-protection.
Just as the witchdoctor, uttering a few magical words, evades or ignores the impending eruption of the volcano he is camping on, today's witchdoctors, chanting predigested slogans and raising their arms in magical senatorial ritual, evade the evidence of a growing trend towards irrationality in the U.S.
What critics in other countries apparently see, our leaders pluck out their eyes, in order not to see: respect for the laws is probably already extinct.
To those of you who will continue to chant against effects, even to the moment of destruction—a final comment: pass your laws, but do not moan from the chopping block that you were not warned.
This article originally appeared in print under the headline "Violence in the U.S.—The Reversal of Cause and Effect".