by Paul Kashmann
There’s not a hell of a lot you
can do about crazy.
I don’t know that we can prevent the James Holmes’s
of the world from wreaking their havoc when they lose contact with reality and
slide over the edge into some other mind space that makes dressing up in combat
gear, breaking into a crowded theater and shooting indiscriminantly
at innocent men, women and children seem like a reasonable set of actions. Not
to mention setting a complex web of lethal booby traps at home that could bring
down an entire apartment building should someone stop by to inquire as to the
reasons for the aforementioned slaughter.
Individual cases of extreme mental disfunction can sometimes be ameliorated through a
combination of skilled intervention and appropriate medication. But in a world
of seven billion inhabitants, with thousands, tens of thousands or perhaps even
millions of mentally unstable individuals forming an off-kilter subset of the
greater population, sooner or later someone is going to spin out of their inner
orbit, all hell will break loose and we’ll experience a senseless debacle such
as what happened 13 years ago at Columbine High School, and most recently, on
July 20 at Aurora’s Century 16 multiplex.
I believe our governing representatives do
us no favor by balancing our dollar-starved budgets on the backs of those in
need. Cutting programs and services to our at-risk populations invites all
manner of catastrophe. While recognizing we can’t put an impenetrable stopper
in the civic consciousness to keep “crazy” from leaking out, we owe it to
ourselves to do all we can to ease the pain of those unable to help themselves,
whether their challenges are physical or emotional in nature.
The Aurora tragedy was shocking and
heartbreaking, and a stark reminder that we are probably never quite as
insulated from potential harm as we’d like to think. For the families
immediately affected we can only extend our most heartfelt sympathies. No one gets
off this planet alive, but your number should not be called when you’re six
years old, getting ready to watch Batman. Or when you’re the young mother of
that young child, expecting to bring another young one into the world just a
few months down the road.
I stand with all those who cry out for more
rational gun laws, and whose hearts cry out in pain at such a violent rending
of the human fabric.
But there is a disconnect
the Aurora shootings brings to mind that I find curious and unsettling at the
same time. United Nations studies reveal that some 40,000 global residents,
including 16,000 children, die EVERY DAY from hunger-related conditions. That
is equal to one child every five seconds. This is a situation that could be
greatly diminished, if not eliminated entirely, if, as a planet our governments
came together with a commitment that death by starvation is simply unacceptable
in a world where so many have so much.
Where is the outcry at an ongoing
catastrophe of such unimaginable proportion? I understand it is far easier to
relate to the folks who lost their lives in the Aurora theater
than to the millions – many in developing nations, but in ever-increasing
numbers in the U.S. – who are suffering and dying from lack of adequate
food and water. But, while I understand it is more difficult to make that leap,
I don’t understand why – as a culture – we can’t get there at all.
The United Nations Food and Agricul-ture Commission states that in 2010 925 million
people were undernourished, meaning they are not receiving adequate sustenance
to maintain normal growth and development. The Southern Baptist Hunger Fund
puts the number at 1.02 billion.This
means that as you sit reading this article, with a bowl of popcorn or other
comfort food within easy reach, one of every seven people in the world is
In 2008, nearly 9 million children died
before they reached their fifth birthday. One-third of these deaths are due directly
or indirectly to hunger and malnutrition. Those children fortunate enough to
survive early childhood malnutrition do not get off scot-free. More frequently,
they suffer irreversible harm – including poor physical growth,
compromised immune function, and impaired cognitive ability.
Other studies show that the world produces
enough food – some 3,000 calories per person per day – to feed each
and every one of Earth’s residents to a degree that promotes healthful human
development. Farms, ranches, orchards and gardens worldwide produce 17 percent
more calories per person today than was the case some 30 years ago.
Unfortunately, a variety of economic and political barriers (notably,
corruption) prevent those calories from being distributed equitably among the
Those barriers need to come down. This is
not the 15th century, where to reach someone in the farthest corners of the
developing world requires sailing the high seas for months, and then trekking
across impenetrable mountain ranges. The most remote reaches of the globe are
but a day or two away, if that. Yes, the problems to be faced are complex, and
will require the expenditure of many dollars. But does it not violate the
tenets of any legitimate spiritual practice to know this plague of hunger
exists and to throw up our hands and turn away?
This is a problem that will require the
entire family of nations to act as one, and its solution will require an effort
continuing for generations. And to effect such a
solution would define us, as a species, in a far more positive light than
anything we’ve done before.
states on its website that, “The U.S. was the leading donor of official
humanitarian aid in 2010,” and “The U.S.’s official development assistance
(ODA) was equal to 0.2 percent of gross national income.” I doubt that level of
commitment will get the job done. I understand global economics are such that
this is a bad time to ask everybody to give of themselves,
but sometimes there’s an imperative that can’t be denied.
In closing, I borrow – and amend
– the words of late-night comedian/news commentator Stephen Colbert. “If
this is going to be a nation of people who would present themselves as
spiritually-based, but don’t help the poor, either we have to pretend that
Yahweh, Jesus, Buddha, Moses, the Dalai Lama, et al. were just as selfish as we
are, or we’ve got to acknowledge that they commanded us to love the poor and
serve the needy without condition and then admit that we just don’t want to do
pretty clear to me.