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Guns, prayers, and America's lost boys
A new FT post from me
This morning I have a new piece up at First Things titled, “The Children Who Kill Children.” This is my attempt to think through why today’s mass shooters are so much younger than in previous generations. While most of the country is preoccupied with debating guns, I believe the most urgent, most fixable problem is much closer to home.
Here’s an excerpt:
Young American men are adrift: jobless, friendless, sexless, creedless. For many of them, the only color to their days is the blue light that emanates from the computer, smartphone, or video game TV. It is said that some of these adolescent terrorists have mental illnesses. This could very well be clinically true. But in another sense, couldn’t that kind of lifestyle itself be a source of disorder and anguish? Historically, mass killers were usually men who were old enough to have lived and abandoned a former life. The current generation of shooters have had no life to abandon. We cannot afford to stop asking why.
The idea that policy proposals must take precedent over cultural or spiritual efforts is misguided. For one thing, the two are not as separate as some suppose. A “red flag law,” for example, would empower concerned citizens to persuade authorities to temporarily seize the weapons of a suspected murderer. But the effectiveness of such a law would depend very much on interpersonal relationships. You cannot see a red flag in someone you never see. Many young men today are socially invisible, perhaps clocking in and out anonymously at a meaningless job but lacking the kind of thick attachments that make life worth living. As the pandemic has repeatedly demonstrated, government attempts to engineer behavior always overpromise and underdeliver.
Read the whole thing here.