The Fetish of Individuality that is the United States
I wish I had thought that up, but I confess I heard it in an interview and I can no longer remember who said it. At any rate, for me it gets to the heart of a warped belief system in this country.
The other night I watched a documentary on the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, where girls and young women burned to death because there were no laws in place to make their workplace safe. The staircase door was locked, the elevator could hold only a few people at a time and the fire escape was so decrepit, it collapsed. Girls as young as 14 jumped to their deaths, while others died wreathed in flames. Predictably, public outrage was great, and that outrage led to federal laws being passed to protect workers in their workplace. At the end of the documentary, the narrator said: “but before this could happen, women had to burn.”
When I heard those words, a chill ran through me, because it brought to mind Sandy Hook and the massacre of 26 people, 20 of them first-graders. Public outrage was great then, too. But not enough to pass new laws to protect other children from the same fate.
We have sunk to the level of making our children pay for our fetish of individuality. We think our personal freedom to carry an assault weapon is far more important than the lives of our children.
If a society cannot keep its children safe from itself, then it has failed its primary purpose—that of perpetuating itself—not to mention a certain reverence for life. Fetishizing personal freedom spells the end of a civilized society.