One needs look no further than the three recent mass shootings to know that our society, and our culture, has some major problems. Like other such tragedies in the past, many of us look toward the surface issues… guns, video games and online chat forums, to “fix” them instead of asking the hard questions. And sadly, far too many in the media and on national political stages look to score cheap political points for their pet issues before we have even buried the dead.

These surface symptoms of the larger problems do not cause evil to take root in people, but mask what is actually happening within our society. It is easier for some far away politician or pundit to say an object or an opposing politician is to blame. It makes it easier for everyone to say look… we are doing something, and then going back to our everyday lives thinking that something was actually done. In reality, not much is changing within the hearts and minds, or addressing any of the root problems that lead people to reject moral principles and deem life to be meaningless, of no value.

Broken families, behavioral issues that go unnoticed, unreported or ignored, the hyperbolic rhetoric of toxic masculinity, demonizing identities through race and religion, a whole generation watching a far away war that has cost both blood and treasure… all of this has impacts. None of them are good. Our society says it is better to medicate our children from a young age with all manners of mind-altering drugs, and says parents don’t matter. We’ve allowed God to be erased from public life, under the guise of tolerance, and government has filled the void. We celebrate victims of oppression and demonize heroes who are erased from our history for problematic opinions from a different era, regardless of the lessons both good and bad that these writers of history have taught us. There is no future that is conceivable to young minds when every input in their lives says everything is okay and nothing is wrong.....anything goes.

Our society has lost its anchor, the force that helps temper extremism in all its forms. We have lost our faith in God and in each other. And sadly, our elite class cheers it on, pouring gas on a fire that has been smoldering for longer than I have been alive.

Politicians decide what our children learn and the values they hold. Video games, phone apps and television fill voids once overflowing with family, faith and charity. We revel in a culture that celebrates death and uses it to push ideology. We encourage self-styled “virtuous” mob behavior to express disagreement and leave behind the importance of redemption, grace and forgiveness.

All of this is so much bigger than who gets your vote, at any level.

We all would like to stop evil; we all abhor avoidable and tragic deaths. Political narratives that declare one side wants people to die is not just wrong, but is meant to instill fear in our hearts and further divide our society.

We all would like to think that someone will protect us. Usually most assume that protection would be left to the government. But a government so strong to unilaterally decide what rights people are allowed is also strong enough to take away all our rights under the banner of being for our own good. That is scarier than anything that we encounter in today’s world.

It is past time we wake up and start really paying attention to what is happening around us. It is past time that inconvenient truths are spoken aloud once again. And it is time people clear the noise that surrounds them to focus on what is

actually important.

We have allowed ourselves to be driven by money and consumerism. Not just keeping up with the Joneses, but a perverted virtuous greed that allows the gods of free markets, capitalism and profit margins to supersede communities and our neighbors.

No single economic or political system has the corner on virtue. And while capitalism and free markets have helped so many out of poverty, unfettered immoral actors leave behind a wasteland of the broken. Society is a reflection of not just our best, but also our least. And it is absolutely a reflection on those who chose blame and fear-mongering, rather than humility, reflection and responsibility.

We must reconfigure our priorities as a nation, and we must fix what is broken.

We have given away our voices and votes to people who speak in sound bites and continually move on to the newest outrage in an ever-changing news cycle. We reward selfish narcissism as a path to happiness.

Yes, there has to be change. But the necessary correction doesn’t involve passing a law or filling out a ballot. It comes from the fabric of our nation and society, we the people.

Staff columnist Toni Butero can be reached at tbutero@mattosnews.com or by calling (209) 862-2222.