On Thanksgiving Day, my wife, Liz, and I hosted more than 20 members of my family for what I must say — because Liz, not I, was the organizer — turned out to be a fine time.
We teased and joked and watched the little kids put on a show and ate like kings.
The next day, Liz and I drove to Bourbon County for an equally enjoyable meal with her family. Liz and her siblings swapped family tales. The nieces and nephews plotted anarchy, or whatever it is they do when they retreat to the other side of a house to whisper and hoot.
The troubling note: we returned home that Friday to learn some nutjob was shooting up a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs. We watched it unfold live on CNN.
Of course, it had been only days since several nutjobs killed 130 innocents in Paris.
Somewhere, somebody’s always shooting up something, frequently in the name of religion or some other cause, sometimes for no reason whatever.
It’s too easy to write off these murderers as true nutjobs, though. Really, the experts who evaluate terrorists and mass killers insist most aren’t crazy.
They’re likelier to be sane, but furious and frustrated and narcissistic and self-righteous.
Everyone has reasons to feel slighted or conspired against. You don’t reach adulthood without having been done wrong. Life is unfair. Always has been. The majority of folks aren’t chronically enraged, though, much less dangerous.
What produces their seething discontent?
Hard to say. A witch’s brew of factors, I’d imagine:
▪ Childhood dysfunction, perhaps, whether an overbearing parent or neglect or over-indulgence. Too much or too little of something early on.
▪ Stunted relationships later on, which lead to emotional isolation and resentment toward those who do appear interconnected.
▪ An outsized ego battered by life’s ups and downs — a cheating spouse; a job outsourced to Mexico.
▪ An appetite for hateful radio or Internet sites, where all things unpleasant are the results of diabolic conspiracies. No woe is the result of happenstance or your own mistakes. Others should be blamed and, if possible, punished.
You can add your own items to this list.
But everyone has reasons to feel slighted or conspired against. You don’t reach adulthood without having been done wrong. Life is unfair. Always has been.
The majority of folks aren’t chronically enraged, though, much less dangerous.
They don’t think the solution to their disappointments is to pop a clip in an AK-47, transform the propane tank from their outdoor grill into an improvised bomb and go slaughter their fellow travelers.
Instead, they see a cosmos where they can exchange silly selfies with their grandchildren. They’re happy they can go to church and worship however they see fit, or stay home and play pinochle if they prefer; no one interferes with them.
They’re pleased to sit down with their cousins and eat turkey and watch football and tell that story about old Aunt Sudie, who once put her false teeth in backward.
Come election time, they’ll blithely vote for a dingbat as irrational as they are. They know they’ve still got a living, breathing democracy. If they dislike the guy who wins an office today, they realize he’ll be out soon and another yo-yo will be in.
In short, they’re thankful for the world’s many gifts of pure, raw joy. They don’t inhabit a malevolent place where they must endlessly defend themselves against the Trilateral Commission or Obama or Muslims or abortionists or roving bands of post-apocalyptic zombies.
Maybe, if there’s a way to help short-circuit the haters and killers before they strike (maybe there isn’t), it could be for reasonably happy, reasonably well-adjusted people — that is, for most people — to start speaking up more.
Maybe they should start saying to the hate merchants and bunker dwellers, “Why don’t you take your meds and have a nap? Or bake a turkey and invite your neighbors over. Spend the afternoon at a beach with your children. Watch Talladega Nights three or four times. Join a church choir. After all, this can be a pretty enjoyable place if you’ll only let it.”
Paul Prather is pastor of Bethesda Church near Mount Sterling. You can e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.