Utoya IslandI have decided that reading the daily news voraciously is not good for my health. I don’t understand why almost all news coverage has morphed into a ‘reader’s theatre’ open-mic affair, with one small bit of news being thrown out like a hunk of raw meat while crazed lions from the left and the right pounce in and tear it to pieces. The few facts that were presented at the start are so quickly mauled into a bloody mess that there’s no way to even identify ‘fact’ from fiction.

Indeed, nowadays it’s not even necessary to use actual, provable facts when speaking, even if you are a member of the United States Congress.   Which leaves me browsing the internet instead, where I can scan headlines quickly before any facts are slaughtered in front of my eyes.

This last week most of the headlines have been unbelievably upsetting. Congress acting atrociously. A psychopath shooting scores of teens to death. Government buildings exploding. One ‘expert’ after another sounding off on religious tolerance; fundamentalist ‘rights’; drug and alcohol addiction; government response times.

But the article that resonated the most for me was this one by Dennis Henigan called, ‘Actually, Guns Do Kill People’ on the Brady campaign website.  The most startling statistic he presented is that in Norway 76 people were killed in one day of astounding violence. In America, more people than that are killed by gun violence every single day of the year!  Of course Norway’s population is a fraction of that of the U.S., but per capita, there are 1.1 deaths by gun per 1 million Norwegians vs. 1 per 33,000 Americans each year.

I don’t believe in carrying a gun. I don’t think anyone should, unless it is an integral part of your job. Because for every pro-gun argument, it seems obvious to me that individuals carrying guns for ‘self-protection’ never serves the greater good. Rather, by carrying a gun, I increase the chance of that gun going off and wounding or killing someone. Even if some psychopath were to attack me or my children, what are the odds that I would have my gun at the ready, and be in such a state of mind to use it effectively, only injuring the attacker? The odds are not high, and the risks are just too great. Therefore, for the greater good, I will not carry a gun. Or keep one in my house, where my children, or visiting children, might pick it up.  

It seems to me that one aspect of American life that is becoming exacerbated is that there is no sense of ‘the greater good’ among us. If I have health insurance, why should I care if  ‘poor’ people; or ‘mentally ill’ folks; or someone else’s ‘children’ have it, too? If my job pays me an abundance of money and I am able to work as my own boss with my own set of rules, why do I care if other people have little or no job security or adequate wages? I’m doing fine, thanks, now leave me and my money alone!

As a mother, it is impossible to put yourself in this mind frame of ‘me, me, me’ and physically mind your children without a daily heap of the ‘greater good’. You must slow down on walks so that the littlest among you is not left behind. You must drive out of your way and spend money you’d set aside for other things on eye glasses and inhalers and lactose-free infant formula. You navigate the day by taking into account all the needs of everyone in the family, and then prioritizing based on the ‘greater good’. Parents who don’t do this are labeled ‘unfit’ and oftentimes have their children removed from their home. You just can’t ‘mother’ without making accommodations for the weakest link among you.

Society cannot function well without doing this, either. We all suffer if the weakest among us are not immunized. We all are in danger if we refuse to pay an equal share of our income to maintaining roads and bridges, schools and hospitals. We all must slow down and obey the rules of the road when driving, or disaster ensues. We all must lay down our guns if we want a society in which eighty people a day are not being shot to death.

The greater good is a mother’s mental road map. The U.S. seems to be heading in a different direction all together.