Exactly 20 years ago, in U.S. Senate testimony just weeks after the Columbine High School massacre, I offered these thoughts:
The real problem [of Columbine-like violence in our culture] is in here, in us . . . In the last four decades we’ve created a culture that markets violence in dozens of different ways, seven days a week. It’s part of our social fabric. When we build our advertising campaigns on consumer selfishness and greed, and when money becomes the universal measure of value, how can we be surprised when our sense of community erodes? When we glorify and multiply guns, why are we shocked when kids use them?
Murder - Violence - Death - Penalty - State
When we answer murder with more violence in the death penalty, we put the state’s seal of approval on revenge. When the most dangerous place in the country is a mother’s womb and the unborn child can have his or her head crushed in an abortion, even in the process of being born, the body language of that message is that life isn’t sacred and may not be worth much at all. In fact, certain kinds of killing no longer even count officially as “killing.” Certain kinds of killing we enshrine as rights and protect by law. When we live this kind of contradiction, why are we surprised at the results?
The Columbine murders will mark my [Denver] community for years to come. They’re a wound felt by the entire country — but I don’t think they’ll be the last. We live in the most violent century in history. Nothing makes us immune from that violence except a relentless commitment to respect the sanctity of each human life, from womb to natural death. The civility and community we’ve built in this country are fragile. We’re losing them. In examining how and why...
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