Death by a thousand cuts is a form of execution that originated in Imperial China where the condemned is executed, not by a single blow, but by a thousand little cuts which kills him slowly over time. It also refers to the process in which a major negative change in society occurs slowly in many unnoticed increments that are not deemed as alarming. And what we are experiencing in America today.
It is easy to point the finger when a tragedy occurs like we witnessed in Uvalde, Texas or in Buffalo, NY last month. Obviously, we should place the blame on the shooter himself, but many of us are pointing the finger at each other as well. ‘It’s the right’s fault’, ‘It’s the left’s fault’, ‘It’s the NRA’s fault’, ‘It’s the anti-gun lobby’s fault’, ‘You didn’t pass my law’, ‘You didn’t enforce my law.’ It’s easy to point your finger at one person or group of people and say, ‘you are to blame. You are responsible.’ But there is an old saying, "when you point one finger, there are three fingers pointing back at you." We should all point the finger at all of us. There are no innocuous sins. We do not reside is a vacuum. Everything we do is either adding or subtracting to the collective unconscious of our society, of the human race.
And what have we been adding to our culture? We have spent years and years peddling in hate, and now we are shocked when someone acts out in hate. We are constantly inundated by images of violence. We are entertained by gun violence in movies and simulated war video games where we practice killing our fellow man. We have become desensitized to seeing the image of a person being killed. Violent movies and video games do not directly cause violence, but they add to the cultural mindset of violence which is so prevalent in our society today.
We have spent 20 years waging wars on foreign soil which killed thousands of innocent civilians in foreign countries, and our media has regularly displayed those killings for all to see. Whether these wars were justified or not does not change their impact on a collective society watching the death counts tallied and the images of death displayed on TV screens and websites. Both of the 18-year-old shooters only lived 6 months of their lives when the USA was not at war. Are we a country of peace or of war?
We reap what we sow. Are we sowing unity and love or hate and division? Our social media is filled with so much vitriol and hate that it has become toxic. Twitter and Facebook are cess pools of hate used to verbally bludgeon political opponents with name calling and ad hominem attacks. If we don’t agree with someone, they are vilified, and called “Hitler”, “fascists”, “Nazis”.
We are as divided as ever. We cut people out of our lives if they have different politics than ours. There are powerful people in our country who are so convinced that they are right about everything that they want the power to silence anyone who disagree with them. We cancel people if they espouse the “wrong” beliefs or opinions. They are stripped of their humanity, deemed so horrible that they are not even worthy of forgiveness or redemption. There is no grace for even the most contrite heart. How much arrogance does it take to label another person unworthy of forgiveness?
We are sowing hate and division in our classrooms by teaching Critical Race Theory to students as young as the first and second grade, dividing them by race, pitting students against each other based on the pigmentation of their skin, labelling one skin color as the oppressor and the other as the oppressed, denying children of their humanity, and reducing them to their outward appearance. And then we scratch our heads when an 18-year-old decides to kill a classroom of children, and wonder how was it that he couldn’t recognize the children’s humanity before he pulled the trigger.
Over the last 50 years there has been a complete breakdown of the American family. Over half of marriages end in divorce. Kids being born and raised in single parent homes is at an all-time high. The United States leads the world in the highest percentage of single-parent households. The number of kids in America being raised by a single parent has triple in the last 50 years. Children and family are not being put first; they are marginalized in our society, an afterthought. Marriage is a convenience, just as having children has become one.
For the past 49 years, our country sanctified abortion, saying it was okay to kill unborn babies. The mother determines the humanity of the baby. She decides if the baby should live or die, based on her own desires and convenience. If the mother wants the baby, then the baby is human. If she doesn’t want the baby, then the baby is not human. It is not a big step to go from that mindset to a person taking it upon themselves to determine if 19 little kids in a classroom should live or die.
And when the draft of a Supreme Court decision that would overturn Roe v Wade was leaked, Supreme Justices’ lives have been threatened – people deciding if these Justices should live or die. When the country is continually told that if anyone holds certain political beliefs, they are “Nazis” and “Hitler”, it only follows that some person may take it upon himself to assassinate those who hold those “evil” political beliefs. Our President and White House has not condemned these threats because they share the same political beliefs as the assassin and not the potential victim.
In 2020, we witnessed 5 months of rioting that killed over 30 people, injured thousands, burned whole city blocks to the ground, and we were told that this was the appropriate reaction to a tragic incident. We were told that these people just needed space to destroy things. They were called “mostly peaceful” protests, and encouraged by many of our political leaders. We condoned violence for 5 months and then are shocked when other violence is committed.
We have been told that the best way to reduce crime and violence in our cities was to defund the police. We have allowed violent criminals out on low or no bail, and turned a blind eye to the violence that is destroying Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, Detroit, San Antonio. We yawn at the 40% increase in violence and murder in the streets of our major cities, and then are shocked when a shooter decides to kill children in a school.
Guns are the third leading cause of death among children between the ages of 5 to 18. In 2019, 2,462 school-age children were killed by firearms – that is almost 7 kids per day, and no one says a word about it. The country screeches to a halt with one school shooting, but there is no outrage and shock at the thousands of other school-age children who are killed by guns each year. If we are not outraged when children are gunned down every day in the streets of our cities, why are we outraged when that violence bleeds over into our schools? Why does the location of the child’s death make the death more tragic?
Can we point to one direct connection that led to these recent school shootings? No. But maybe all of these things over the years added up to create a culture in which a certain person concluded that his only next course of action is violence. Every time we sacrifice a standard, every time we compromise a principle, every time we turn a blind eye to wrongs, we are adding to a culture which results in 19 slain children. It is the law of cumulation: a lot of little things add up to one big thing.
It’s time to look inward. It’s always time to look inward because the person inside is the only person we can control. Are we acting selflessly or selfishly? Negative emotions, hate, jealousy, revenge, spite, pride, arrogance, greed are the selfish emotions. Positive emotions, love, forgiveness, compassion, understanding are the selfless emotions. Too often, we, collectively, live in the world of selfish emotions, only feigning the selfless emotions selfishly. But what are we bringing to the table? How are we influencing the culture? Positively or negatively. No one thing is the cause for the problems in the world, but they all come together. What are you bringing to the world? What are you contributing to society?
Judd Garrett is a graduate from Princeton University, and a former NFL player, coach, and executive. He has been a contributor to the website Real Clear Politics. He has recently published his first novel, No Wind.