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Citizen's View: Resolving a conflict of interests: Either we like violence, or we don't

Again we were reminded that violence is the instrument of evil.

Immediately after news broke of the latest U.S. mass shooting incident, this time at a southern Oregon community college, pundits, politicians and police experts began — as if on cue — the predictable scrutiny about “how” and “why” this type of incident seems to have become such a regular occurrence in our lives.

From the East Coast to the West, in small towns or large cities, in churches and colleges, in theaters and restaurants, on military bases and business offices, in shopping malls and private homes, “live” on TV and posted on social media, and even in elementary school classrooms, no locale seems to be exempt or safe from this type of barbaric atrocity. And statistics show it’s only getting worse.

Through the tears and prayers, everyone seems to yearn for some rational explanation of these senseless and horrific tragedies, even though all acts of mass homicide are by their very definition “irrational.” For the next few weeks, at hundreds of daytime flower-festooned memorials and nighttime candlelight vigils across the nation, people will assemble and display grief, disgust and confusion as they search for answers and seek solace. Criminal experts, psychologists and even religious leaders will offer their theories as to why anyone would commit such a heinous act.

But in our insincere quest for understanding such hideous acts of evil, could there be a better explanation? Like maybe we like it?

The truth is that we have become a country of hypocrites. As evidence, consider that after watching the events unfold in Roseburg, hundreds of thousands of people across America flocked to their local theater and paid $15 a ticket to see movies like “Black Mass,” “Sicario” or “Out of Compton,” in which actors commit exactly the same offenses the movie-goer abhorred just hours earlier.

Ironically, we collectively suffer from a visceral conflict of interests, what psychologists refer to as “cognitive dissonance.” Our culture of violence and fascination with firearms has overpowered the traditional qualities of movies and blurred the lines between fantasy and reality. We have become so conditioned, accustomed — and at times even bored — with the last violent movie that we demand the next violent movie be even more graphic with greater destruction, hatred, sadism, brutality and viciousness.

Our nation should decide whether we are entertained by and enjoy aggressive hostility, or we don’t. Until our elected officials can agree on a solution to gun violence in either political or practical terms, can we at least agree to stop liking it so much? The real question of “why” after a mass shooting rampage shouldn’t be about the motive of the shooter, but rather “why” this type of behavior — fictitious or real — fits into our value system at all.

Unless or until we as a civilized society are willing to admit to our insatiable appetite for all things evil and refuse to accept these acts as “routine,” the American homeland will continue to be a free-fire zone.

Oregon City resident Chris S. Geiger has been a career public emergency responder for over 30 years and has volunteered as a crime victim advocate.