A TRAGIC INCIDENT

October 2 was the birthday of Mahatma Gandhi. Traditionally, some celebrate the day as World Vegetarian Day. Gandhiji was an apostle of nonviolence. For him nonviolence was the essence of life; a creed. In order to follow him, many on this day abstain from violence. Therefore, it was quite surreal to learn that on this day a man in Las Vegas killed 59 people and wounded 500+ for no reason. All the victims were civilians enjoying a concert. The assailant chose to mow down so many people for which there seems to be no explanation. He also killed himself. This sort of mass killing defies any logic.

In a way Americans have been conditioned to tolerate this sort of tragedy. Death of anybody - say a young child, a newlywed couple, a nursing mother is sorrowful. The finality of death can never be altered. And senseless acts like this create a permanent void in the hearts of the surviving loved ones of those who die so tragically. It looks like mass killing is a new phenomenon which is not confined to one specific geographic area in the United States. Timothy McVeigh killed 168 and injured hundreds of people in Oklahoma City. At the Sandy Hook elementary School in New Town, Connecticut 20 young children were killed by a deranged assassin. Similar incidents also happened in Charleston, Orlando, Fort Hood and Columbine. These are the names of places in random. Over the last few years, there have been many others.

In order to reduce this sort of senseless violence, efforts are being made to control the availability of guns. The kind of instruments people use also determines how excessive their assault can be. Ordinarily, one would think it is a good idea to reduce gun use because many more lives can be saved that way. But America is different. So many people here are so crazy about guns that they do not want any control. Any kind of effort to control gun use meets organized opposition. Even in the face of a tragic incident like that of October 2, the news is out that if the President does anything about gun control he will lose all the support from his base that helped elect him. The gun lobby is strong. It pours millions of dollars to elect pro - gun legislators at all levels. Even presidents are not immune to its wrath.

America is also a land of many contrasts. Within a hundred miles from the Capital city there are Amish communities who do not possess a single gun. Nor do they send their children to a military academy. As religious pacifists, they do not join the armed forces. When the United States had draft, Amish youths were exempted from joining the military. Like the Amish, there are Mennonites and Quakers who reject the state sponsored violence i.e. military. Many Quakers, on their part try to aggressively proselytize others toward nonviolence. While violence in different forms - from mass murder to military aggression - swirls around us, groups like the Quakers, Mennonites and Amish keep their cool and preach brotherhood and love. All of them preach simplicity. However, the modern world has become enormously complex. There is no one size fits all solution to solve all the problems around us. Each problem requires a unique solution of its own.

One would be surprised to learn that while mass shooting continues in America at different times and at different places the study of nonviolence and the Gandhian way of life is also gaining momentum. It is difficult to tell as to which way the pendulum is swinging. It all depends on one's perspective. It has come to light that while the shooter in Las Vegas was mowing down people, some brave souls were trying to help the victims by carrying them to safety, taking them to hospitals and giving them a drink of water and so on. Which one do we want to remember and emphasize? The killing or the benevolence?


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