02-19-2017  3:22 pm      •     

The violent outbursts of Cho Seung Hui, the student madman who killed 30 of his classmates and wounded more than 30 others at Virginia Tech, may well be the result of the boomerang effect, which returns to the source whatever is sent outwards.
In other words, I think Frankenstein-like psychopaths like Hui emerge from the values and symbols that shape America.
When you look at the more than 3,000 U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq, the killing spree in Virginia, and the hate speech of Don Imus, it is time to hold a mirror up to ourselves.
Is our normal course of hypocritical acts coming back to haunt us? We say we want peace and a civil society, but we pay our peace providers, such as daycare workers and teachers, peanuts compared to the millions paid to the hate-carriers in the media and entertainment world. We are obsessed with war, power, gun ownership and the constant display of soft pornography and gratuitous violence in the media, all of which are accepted as normal behavior.
First of all, people — whether politicians, rappers, preachers — who engage in vitriolic character assassinations, gansta rap songs targeting women for abuse or shock jocks that comb society to hold the powerless and helpless up for public ridicule are stoking the flames of violence. Witness the new sport of stomping and beating the homeless in some U.S. cities.
Moreover, hate wrapped up in violence is part of the capitalistic system that begins a selling spree to our children at an early age. Once, I happened to watch some of the cartoons my 5-year-old niece was watching. Some of the lifelike characters were bloodied and battered before being utterly destroyed. Moreover any parents who have monitored kid-level video games understand that death and destruction is a billion dollar kiddy enterprise.
Equally devastating is the fact that the United States has lowered the bar on when killing is justifiable and acceptable.
Right now we are engaged in a war that is killing U.S. soldiers, Iraqi troops and civilians by the thousands for no justifiable reason, except Iraqi oil. We need it. We take it because we have the billions to finance a war, the firepower to execute it and the lies to defend it. We make our points, even the freedom to choose a democratic form of government, with tanks, bombs and bullets.
So following this national prescription, certain twisted individuals arm themselves to carry out their own twisted mandates of taking what they want and enforcing their will on others — even to the point of mass killings. Their craziness is empowered by a gun lobby that makes their weapons of mass destruction readily available to any nutcase with a buck. In the District of Columbia, the Republicans and the gun lobbies are working to knock down the ban on hand guns, in a city where Black-on-Black homicide is already an outrageous scandal. Before the month is out, the total number of violent deaths in many cities in the United States will surpass the tragedy in Virginia.
Another ingredient in this volatile stew is the scarcity of systems that help people deal with their pain and anguish, according to Dr. Michelle Balamani, a psychotherapist in Largo, Md. As a culture, we have trouble acknowledging the pain and anguish people are trying to deal with. We expect them to stuff it, put it out of the way and move on. 
In schools we focus on the mind, not feelings, Balamani says. We must teach young and old how to do an emotional inventory, how to respond to hateful incidents without violence or the use of alcohol and drugs. There are acceptable ways to deal with pain without hateful thoughts that trigger a violent response. But we must invest in solutions.
Unfortunately, as the Virginia Tech shootings show, even when there is undeniable proof that a person is a "mental case," the individuals fall between the cracks of broken or non-existent mental health systems. On campuses there are few counselors or mental health services available, and in urban areas both are rare indeed.   
Now is the time to look within. We must examine our own actions in our homes, what programs baby-sit our children, the hateful name-calling on our public airwaves, the shoddy rationales for war and invasion and the excusing of hateful gangsta-rap lyrics.
If what we truly want is a peaceful and civil society, then we must stop aiding and abetting so much violence and hate.

Dr. Barbara A. Reynolds, an author and ordained minister, is a radio talk show host on XM satellite radio.

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  • WASHINGTON (AP) — One month after the inauguration, the stretch of Pennsylvania Avenue in front of Donald Trump's White House still is a hard-hat zone. Skeletal remains of the inaugural reviewing stands poke skyward. Random piles of plywood and cables are heaped on the ground inside crooked lines of metal fencing. The disarray outside the president's front door, though not his fault, serves as a metaphor for the tumult still unfolding inside. Four weeks in, the man who says he inherited "a mess" at home and abroad is presiding over a White House that is widely described as itself being a mess. At a stunning pace, Trump has riled world leaders and frustrated allies. He was dealt a bruising legal blow on one of his signature policies. He lost his national security adviser and his pick for labor secretary to scandal. He's seen forces within his government push back against his policies and leak confidential information. All of this has played out amid a steady drip of revelations about an FBI investigation into his campaign's contacts with Russian intelligence officials. Trump says his administration is running like a "fine-tuned machine." He points to the rising stock market and the devotion of his still-loyal supporters as evidence that all is well, although his job approval rating is much lower than that for prior presidents in their first weeks in office. Stung by the unrelenting criticism coming his way, Trump dismisses much of it as "fake news" delivered by "the enemy of the people" — aka the press. Daily denunciations of the media are just one of the new White House fixtures Americans are adjusting to. Most days start (and end) with presidential tweets riffing off of whatever's on TV talk shows or teasing coming events or hurling insults at the media. At some point in the day, count on Trump to cast back to the marvels of his upset of Democrat Hillary Clinton in the November election and quite possibly overstate his margins of support. Expect more denunciations of the "dishonest" press and its "fake news." From there, things can veer in unexpected directions as Trump offers up policy pronouncements or offhand remarks that leave even White House aides struggling to interpret them. The long-standing U.S. policy of seeking a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? Trump this past week offered this cryptic pronouncement: "I'm looking at two-state and one-state, and I like the one that both parties like. I can live with either one." His U.N. ambassador, Nikki Haley, the next day insisted, "We absolutely support a two-state solution." Trump's days are busy. Outside groups troop in for "listening sessions." Foreign leaders call or come to visit. (Or, in the case of Mexico's president, cancel out in pique over Trump's talk about the planned border wall.) After the president signed two dozen executive actions, the White House was awaiting a rush order of more of the gold-plated Cross pens that Trump prefers to the chrome-plated ones used by his predecessor. Trump hands them out as souvenirs at the signing ceremonies that he points to as evidence of his ambitious pace. "This last month has represented an unprecedented degree of action on behalf of the great citizens of our country," Trump said at a Thursday news conference. "Again, I say it. There has never been a presidency that's done so much in such a short period of time." That's all music to the ears of his followers, who sent him to Washington to upend the established order and play the role of disrupter. "I can't believe there's actually a politician doing what he says he would do," says an approving Scott Hiltgen, a 66-year-old office furniture sales broker from River Falls, Wisconsin. "That never happens." Disrupt Trump has. But there may be more sound and fury than substance to many of his early actions. Trump did select Judge Neil Gorsuch to replace the late Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court, a nomination that has drawn strong reviews from conservatives. But the president is regrouping on immigration after federal judges blocked his order to suspend the United States' refugee program and ban visitors from seven Muslim-majority countries, which had caused chaos for travelers around the globe. Some other orders on issues such as the U.S.-Mexico border wall and former President Barack Obama's health care law are of limited effect. Trump says his early actions show he means to deliver on the promises he made during the campaign. "A lot of people say, 'Oh, oh, Trump was only kidding with the wall,'" the president told a group of police chiefs recently. "I wasn't kidding. I don't kid." But the Republican-led Congress is still waiting to see specifics on how Trump wants to proceed legislatively on top initiatives such as replacing the health care law, enacting tax cuts and revising trade deals. The messy rollout of the travel ban and tumult over the ouster of national security adviser Michael Flynn for misrepresenting his contacts with Russia are part of a broader state of disarray as different figures in Trump's White House jockey for power and leaks reveal internal discord in the machinations of the presidency. "I thought by now you'd at least hear the outlines of domestic legislation like tax cuts," says Princeton historian Julian Zelizer. "But a lot of that has slowed. Trump shouldn't mistake the fact that some of his supporters like his style with the fact that a lot of Republicans just want the policies he promised them. He has to deliver that." Put Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., in the camp of those more interested in substance than style. "I'm not a great fan of daily tweets," McConnell said Friday, referring to the "extra discussion" that Trump likes to engage in. But McConnell was quick to add: "What I am a fan of is what he's been actually doing." He credits Trump with assembling a conservative Cabinet and taking steps to reduce government regulation, and promised: "We like his positions and we're going to pursue them as vigorously as we can." The challenge may be to tease out exactly what Trump wants in the way of a health care plan, tax changes and trade policy. At his long and defiant news conference on Thursday, Trump tried to dispel the impression of a White House in crisis, squarely blaming the press for keeping him from moving forward more decisively on his agenda. Pointing to his chief of staff, Reince Priebus, Trump said, "You take a look at Reince, he's working so hard just putting out fires that are fake fires. I mean, they're fake. They're not true. And isn't that a shame because he'd rather be working on health care, he'd rather be working on tax reform." For all the frustrations of his early days as president, Trump still seems tickled by the trappings of his office. When New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie visited the White House last week to discuss the national opioid epidemic over lunch, the governor said Trump informed him: "Chris, you and I are going to have the meatloaf.'" Trump added: "I'm telling you, the meatloaf is fabulous." ___Follow Nancy Benac on Twitter at http://twitter.com/nbenac
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