The term “Black Friday” will forever have a new meaning. That annual shopping orgy on the Friday following Thanksgiving now seems so absurd.
The real Black Friday showed its ugly face on Friday, Dec. 14, at Newtown, Conn., in a deluge of flying bullets and screams of pain and anguish.
On that blackened Friday, 20 kindergarten children and six adults were brutally murdered by a lone gunman firing a semi-automatic assault rifle. Most tragically this carnage was but one in a recent series of multiple gun murders. Friday, the 14th, will forever be “Black Friday” for every anxious and grieving parent throughout the land. Then on Sunday, two Topeka police officers were gunned down in a Dillon’s parking lot. The gun murdering goes on and on.
Again we hear an anguished cry for “change.” The President says “we can no longer allow the status quo.” Our children are increasingly at risk of not becoming adults.
During the “Cold War” children stopped being concerned about “when I grow up,” the anxiety was “if I grow up.” That uncertainty is again a reality for many little ones and their parents.
As Black Friday again vividly shows there is no safe place: a movie theater; a shopping mall, a supermarket parking lot, or even an elementary school. America is under attack from within. What must be done? There are so many facets to this evil.
First we must recognize that throughout the land, in so many ways, our young continually receive a loud and clear message: “Violence solves problems.” Whether on television, in the movies, or through their violent electronic games, we’ve made the witnessing of suffering, death and bloodshed entertainment. Violence as a virtue is the message.
View even the commercials for hyped TV crime shows and count the number of explosions, gun shots and bleeding bodies shown. Always followed by a smug announcer hyping the show as a “must-see TV.”
Even our sports are sinking into barbarity. The “bounty hunter” football, the “in-your- face” basketball, and the UFC brutality with two persons in a cage bludgeon each other into submission with fist, foot, or head butt, all reward violence. I’ve often wondered why they don’t allow UCF combatants to fight to the death. It surely would boost TV ratings, and that’s the only aim of the media moguls.
We constantly encourage violence by demanding a win by any means possible. If you’re not a winner, then you are a loser, and who cares about a loser? That’s why we’ve an epidemic of bullying in schools. We offer rewards for “besting” another person.
If you feel like a loser why not take out the winners? Sadly even grown men feel that packing iron increases their “T” level and somehow they feel manlier.
American society provides the message and motivation to violence. The NRA and the gun enthusiasts provide the multiple means for murder. As Bill Moyers says, “the NRA is the enabler of death ... paranoid, delusional and as venomous as a scorpion.” Their fabricated fear that to be armed is to be defended against some monolithic government taking away citizens’ rights is just a scare tactic to sell more guns.
Remember there is no such thing as an accidental hand gun shooting. A person who invests the exorbitant cost to buy one intends to use it. The disclaimer always will be, “Only when necessary,” but the gun wielder always decides when that necessity arises. I wonder what the necessity was in the twisted mind of Adam Lanza when he decided to go on his killing rampage. We may never know; but he had one and he acted on it.
The tragic irony is that this happened as we were preparing for our annual celebration of the birth of the Prince of Peace. What a radically different message He offers. Jesus’ message is “do not return evil for evil, but overcome evil with good.” His motivation is one of service to others, “the greatest among you must be the servant of all!” His means are “love one another as I have loved you!” The one born some 2000 years ago is diametrically opposed to America’s gun culture, its manufacturers, its dealers and its advocates.
“Those who live by the sword (weapon) will die by the sword.” Jesus of Nazareth was Himself murdered on a dark and evil Friday. Hanging from a cruel cross He forgave His murderers!
What s contrast to the “wait ‘till next year,” “don’t get mad get even,” “when in doubt, take’m out” mantra of our world. So many moderns love to dance at His birth, wish for all a merry time, and invoke His name to promote their causes, while their hearts are far from Him. We want “prayer in schools,” but assault weapons of mass destruction in our closets. Newtown, Columbine, Tucson, Aurora are all expressions of that hypocrisy.
Jesus continues to weep for the innocents who die from the callousness and cruelty of our message of the virtue of violence, our one-up man motivation, and the cornucopia of murderous means we provide to any who wish to “pack iron.”
Yet as we approach Christ-mass, the baby Jesus is the only hope for the babies slaughtered. Without Him they are but waning memories in dust and ashes.
With Jesus all the little ones who died and the adults who died trying to protect them are living and loving children of God in His Kingdom where they await in joy and peace the arrival of all their loved ones.
In the midst of the terrible darkness of “Black Friday” that hope is the only glimmer of light. With His resurrection Jesus turned His black Friday into our Good Friday. Celebrate Jesus’ birth this year with tears of sadness accompanied by tears of joy. He is the only hope for the slaughtered and for each of us. Even when shadowed, have a blessed Christ-mass.
Fr. Bob Layne is a retired Episcopal priest living in McPherson.