Bob Barr, To some extent, most crimes are relatively easy to explain. For example, greed leads to theft; anger often is a predicate to violence; a desire to “belong” pushes many teenagers to join gangs; and marital discord lies at the root of far too many murders. But the cold-blooded murder of a young child, like 5-year-old Cannon Hinnant, defies all rational understanding or explanation — a senseless act by an individual who has lost all touch with humanity. It is the very definition of inhuman.
It is difficult to recount the details of young Cannon’s murder without being moved to tears. Although the incident was largely ignored by the mainstream media, the pointlessness and savagery of the murder, apparently without any conceivable explanation or motive, is deeply unsettling.
Cannon Hinnant’s murder starkly illustrates the reality that America’s moral soul is dying.
America was founded as a sanctuary for religious refugees. At its core and since its creation, our country has been a society with a shared belief in God and on the moral virtues to which our Founders explicitly paid tribute. It was this spirit of moral integrity that helped turn America into the world’s guiding light for hope and freedom.
Today, that light is decidedly dimmed. Looking at the violence-torn streets of Portland, Chicago, New York, and so many other cities and communities, it has become virtually impossible to recognize the country “made only for a moral and religious People,” as John Adams once wrote.
On the surface the looting and violence may appear to some observers as political acts; but roving mobs beating people within an inch of their lives is much more than a social movement gone too far. What is taking place is clear evidence of a culture in decline — a nation untethered from its moral foundation and facing a future from which no new law or “critical race theory” seminar will protect us.
For decades, Leftists have pointed to the trend of mass shootings as a political phenomenon; the result of an overly robust interpretation of the Second Amendment that has allowed too many guns to “fall into the wrong hands.” Ignored in this scenario are far more crucial cultural and psychological factors that have spawned an environment in which individuals feel empowered to commit mass murder and remain numb to the resulting horror. The resulting decay of civil society is truly frightening.
Until recently, basic institutions such as family, church, social groups, and other person-to-person ties kept the vast majority of people in our society firmly grounded to generally accepted norms of civil behavior. With the waning importance and outright denigration of such personal relationships and institutions, it becomes hardly coincidental we now are witnessing a trend of increasing violence and emotional detachment from individual actions.
Today, religion in general, and Christianity in particular, is openly mocked and condemned. Children are increasingly born into broken or loveless families. In-person social groups are being replaced by impersonal and disconnected “digital” relationships, a trend made even worse during the ongoing COVID pandemic.
In such an increasingly disconnected environment, it should surprise no one that so many people, especially young adults, are growing numb to causing pain in others. This is especially the case when such violence is encouraged by fake friends on social media or explained away (and thereby impliedly approved) by political leaders. America’s value system is being turned on its head; love and reason are pushed aside while hate and violence are condoned if not celebrated. It is a recipe for disaster to which we have only begun to reap the consequences.
To preserve what remains of our nation’s soul and to begin repairing damage from years of attack, we must unabashedly reject the manipulative tactics of political leaders who justify violence as excusable or even necessary. We must push back against those who threaten to completely destroy the only institutions left that promote good moral character. The dark alternative that awaits us is a new “normal” in which nothing that debases life or moral values is beyond the pale; where senseless killings of little boys playing in their driveways is overlooked because drawing attention to it does not advance preferred political agendas.
Bob Barr represented Georgia’s 7 District in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1995 to 2003 and was the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia from 1986 to 1990. He now serves as President of the Law Enforcement Education Foundation based in Atlanta, Georgia.