Last year a BBC article told the story of Julia Rogers of Newton Abbot, Devon. After over-the-counter remedies for backache didn’t help alleviate her pain, she went to her doctor complaining that it seemed to be spreading into her abdomen. She was sent for blood tests and later for an ultrasound which showed “excessive bowel gas.” There were seventeen subsequent visits to doctors and on two visits to the emergency room she was sent home with painkillers. Nobody seemed to take her seriously, but she was referred to a gastroenterologist for another opinion. She decided not to wait several weeks for the appointment with another “expert” and scheduled a scan at a private hospital at her own expense. On June 11 she was told that she had inoperable advanced pancreatic cancer.
How often do we hear stories about solutions to serious problems that start with just treating the symptoms instead of searching for the root cause? We can joke about using a tourniquet around the neck to control nosebleed, but this also indicates another problem: Sometimes an improper cure can be worse than the problem it is intended to solve. It almost seems to be in the nature of being human to either overreact to a situation or ignore it and not react at all. Both extremes are deadly.
Words cannot adequately express feelings about the tragic events in Charleston, South Carolina last week, but we must talk about it. Failing to address serious issues in our lives, our work places, and our thoughts does nothing to work toward solving the root problems we face, so we must share our ideas and confront our fears rationally. We also need to look at the subconscious motivations that somehow surface when we talk without thinking about the totality of the event. Spreading half truths and offering pet biases as solutions is really just putting a band-aid on an open artery.
Not a day had gone by after the nine innocent people were killed during a Bible study at a church in Charleston when the “ultimate” solutions poured out of half-thinking pundits. For some, the Confederate Flag was to blame. If only that flag were banned from public places then events like this would not happen. The anti-gun lobby decreed that if guns were controlled then this would not have happened. Racists accused other types of racists for the deaths. One map posted by a liberal news outlet showed all the southern states highlighted in red as if they were the problem. While all of these and other theories should be included in the conversation, we should never think that any one of these pet grievances is a total solution to the root problem. Eliminating the symptoms of evil will not eradicate the evil.
In an article in Esquire Charleston Shooting: Speaking the Unspeakable, Thinking the Unthinkable, Charles P. Pierce points us in the direction of a solution by reminding us not to hide from such events. They must be part of the common dialog and we must think deeply about them and talk about them. Of course, no one is immune from injecting a bit of personal vitriol to a situation as he did by referring to South Carolina as “the home office of American sedition.” Really? How ironic that in an earlier interview about his book Idiot America – How Stupidity Became a Virtue in the Land of the Free he stated “… the zealot is very often the hardest person to argue with, because he doesn’t know what he doesn’t know, but he knows what he believes.” So by revealing his own moment of zealotry he masks one of the reasons why a band-aid approach won’t work.
If you believe that flags, guns, race, regional affiliation or something else impact the situation don’t stop talking about your beliefs. It is only by talking and debating issues that we can drill down to the root cause of our problems. If you blindly hold to the fact that your way is the only way, you may be part of the problem. There is a cancer in our world that needs to be diagnosed and excised. Violent actions by our fellow humans are the result of something evil. Charleston joins the long list of global atrocities that include Paris, France; Tyrifjorden, Norway; Kauhajoki, Finland; Erfurt, Germany; Veghel, Netherlands. Think bigger than yourself. Imagine a world without evil and make it happen.
Image credit: Brian Snyder/Reuters via WSJ