Society faces a problem ‘far beyond’ anything we can fix alone

Published 6:00 pm Tuesday, May 9, 2023

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“It’s a culture that’s quick to take offense and ready to resort to violence at the drop of the hat.”

That comment, offered this week by a reader in response to the news of the latest fatal shooting incident in Natchez, strikes a chord.

The shooting took place late Friday night, outside a nightclub and left two men dead and two others injured. More than 30 shell cases were recovered at the scene, hinting at what could have been an even more deadly situation

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The shooting took place the same night as four security guards were shot and injured outside a club in Vicksburg and one person was killed, six others injured in another shooting in Ocean Springs. Less than 48 hours later, in an affluent Texas community a gunman killed eight people at an outlet mall.

It is, as the commenter went on to say, a societal problem that “goes far beyond anything Natchez alone can fix.”

Truer words may never have been spoken.

We don’t need the long lens of history to recognize that we live in a society skewed towards violence. We’ve watched it slowly erode our communities over the past three decades, and we are no closer today to resolving the cause of the problem – or controlling its symptoms.

Mayor Dan Gibson reflected on the issues on Saturday, acknowledging the problem and hinting at public officials’ frustration in trying to curtail or contain the growing gun violence.

“Obviously illegal access to guns is such a growing problem. We know honest people do things the right way. Those who are not honest still get them somehow and that’s got to change,” the mayor said. “And that’s not just a local problem. That’s a problem all across our country. As mayor, I have to ask the questions ‘what can be learned and what can we do going forward?’”

He went on to acknowledge that strategies of the past may not be the most effective moving forward, and pledged his support for investing in better policing: more law enforcement officers, more security cameras, and more support the police. And he acknowledged that we must also address some fundamental societal issues. The mayor talked of increased funding for youth activities, reopening parks and playgrounds, and identifying at-risk children and providing them with counseling and support.

The plans are a start and, more important, a set of tangible responses that can be taken and measured.

But what we really need to acknowledge and to address is a deeper, more fundamental issue that is hard to quantify and uncomfortable to discuss: a seismic crack in the moral fiber of our society and our culture.

No one issue alone could cause this shift: not access to guns, racism, economic disparity, a lack of education, single-parent households, violent video games or illegal (or legal) drugs.

The lack of a moral compass – that core belief in an absolute good and an absolute evil, and the desire to choose the good – compounds each and every one of those societal challenges. The absence of that compass, leads to the devaluation of life and leaves a void that is easily filled but never satisfied.

That compass is the true north, and one that is recognized in one form or another by people of faith, whether Jews or Muslims, Christians or Buddhists. Even most agnostics and atheists acknowledge good and evil, right and wrong.

Each time we read of another shooting, another act of senseless violence, we also hear the cacophony of blame. It’s tempting to want to add our voices to the discontent; some might argue that this column does the same thing.

Yet, our challenge, as a society and as individuals, is to acknowledge that the root cause of the problems we face cannot be solved only with a law, a regulation or even a much-needed investment of money in the support systems and programs. After all, how can we instill and nurture a fundamental and basic respect for life in a people when our society seems to thwart every effort?

For Christians, our moral compass is God and his teachings. The simple commandment “to love one another as I have loved you” is the second greatest commandment because it contains multitudes. It is simultaneously simple and infuriatingly complex.

As are the challenges we are facing in society today.

Stacy G. Graning is regional editor of The Democrat. Contact her at