But where are these big themes, where are these all-toouniversal motives when we examine US violence? Neither patriotic nor religious motives surface as important impulses behind the perpetrator of American violence. Racist attacks — like those carried out by those sheet-clad bigots, the Ku Klux Klan — still occur, but not in great numbers (thought, since the advent of AIDS, gay men and women have discovered themselves to be the new victims of random Klan-like attacks).
For the most part, then, the American criminal is not defending a political, religious belief when he lashes out against his victim(s). No: more than 60 per cent of violent acts taking place today are drug-related either an addict stealing for money, or dealers battling over their "domains."
There are escalating numbers of cases of abuse — child, wife; escalating numbers of rape incidents. Aggression, it seems, is boiling over from the melting pot that is America. And senseless violence proves the key ingredient of this aggression.
Nietzsche once wrote that "'love of the neighbour' is always something secondary, partly conventional and arbitrary — illusory in relation to fear of the neighbour." His analysis amoral, anti-religious and downright disdainful of humanity — has never seemed more accurate than in the plight of America today. Time and time again, neighbours pretend to be deaf, dumb and blind to the violence that surrounds them so fearful are they of retribution.
Time and time again, the violence that explodes is between criminal and victim who know one another — in fact this is true in more than half the crimes committed each year.
Here in more than a few sections of Washington, the neighbourhood Safeway has two or three armed guards patrolling its aisles — ah to be in England, where bobbies are weaponless and Safeways safe!
So permeated is this society with fear of others, that if some ill-fated motorist should suffer a flat tyre in the middle of a highway, no one but no one would stop for him; and Lord help the hapless tourist driver who rolls down his window to ask a passer-by how to get to point B: the pedestrian, fearing a mugger/ rapist/deranged-murderer-atlarge, feigns deafness or a sudden great hurry and leaves the innocent questioner to his puzzling maze.
Where lies the solution? Peaceloving leaders like Martin Luther King were quickly despatched to a better world for their pains to preach a non-violent life; the all-powerful gun lobby squashes all efforts by concerned citizens to alter the permissive gun-sales laws of the land; and drug barons run entire districts of major cities and are now setting their sights on wealthy suburbia for expansion purposes.
How do you channel anger, frustration, desperation into something other than violence? How do you teach someone who views his environment as inimical, his neighbour as a threat, and only drug or alcoholinduced dreams as bearable, that existence need not stoop to this sadness? Where is the root from which the tenacious ivy of violence spreads?
The answer to all of the above is, obviously, complex. Yet you only need to walk through Harlem or Little Italy on a Sunday, to see the matrons in their Sunday-best, the children in their once-a-week finery, and even the men gelled or brilliantined into shiny-headed cleanliness, to see that churchgoing still exists.
You have only to tune into the television station of your choice, or walk through the Main Street of Smalltown America to see that the fundamentalists have a true stronghold.
Here, then, is one place to start. In the houses of Our Lord, where eyes and spirits are raised to the Father of Love, where communion means not only with Him but also with all of our bretheren, the scene is set for lessons against violence. At no other time, in no other place, is the community of modern man such fertile soil for seeds of brotherly love. This is when His priests must take their stand as shepherds to an unruly flock and speak of the righteousness of peace and the destruction of violence.
In a violent, trigger-happy society, the Word may well be the only sane weapon of defence.