Mental Health or Nihilism?

On January 29, the Senate defeated a bill that would have outlawed abortion beyond 20 weeks (five months) gestation. Reaction was swift on the part of pro-life citizens.

“We cannot tolerate a society and live in a country with any level of pride when our babies are being slaughtered … the effect of this extreme violence on a human body—especially the body of a child,” is one statement of recent vintage.

This statement was not uttered in defense of innocent pre-born human life, however. It was not a reaction to the violence of abortion. It was the reaction to the Ash Wednesday slaughter of 17 teens and their teachers by one of the staunchest supporters of unlimited and unrestricted abortion, Senator Kamala Harris (D-Calif.).  Ironic? Hypocritical? Tone deaf? Immoral?  

Let’s see what she did say about the bill she voted against last month: “The GOP has scheduled a vote on a 20-week abortion ban on Monday. Add your name to demand Congress votes down this immoral bill.” 

She claims to have moral standards, but what are they?

Her use of the word indicates that she understands there to be such a thing as a definite and defined morality but, confusingly, she defines it as both the unfettered need for any woman to rid herself of the child in her body (in ways that  are documented to be as violent as anything that happened in Parkland) and the killing of those teens.  

Our reaction to the shooting in Florida last week and debate about how to prevent another has brought produced many proposals, one being the desperate need to address the seeming explosion of “mental health” issues especially among the mostly young men who are perpetrating these mass shootings.

It may well be the case that we do have a crisis of mental illness as well as inadequate means of addressing that problem in America. But it is also fairly obvious that America is now suffering from a nihilism crisis. Kamala Harris’ remarks above offer a perfect illustration of it.

Kamala Harris has risen in the ranks of her party to become a very powerful legislator and is rumored to be considering a run for her party’s nomination for president in 2020. And yet, she doesn’t seem to have a grasp on life’s most important question. What is life? And why does it or why does it not have value? She’s not mentally ill, obviously, so what is her diagnosis? Hypocrisy? Opportunism? And how does she get away with the obvious contradictions in her moral thinking?

It’s not mental illness that allows two completely contradictory moral standards to hold sway in our culture—it’s nihilism. The lack of moral standards has taken over our entertainment, our politics,  and sadly, the education of our children. Clearly defined morality has no place in the public square. From “do your own thing” in the 1960s to John Lennon’s ubiquitous anthem “Imagine,” the nihilism steeped in our culture encourages us to accept that moral and religious standards are in the past and not necessary. It’s led to obvious contradictions in our public life.

The media fell in love with the North Korean dictator’s sister during her propaganda visit to the Olympics and seemed very pleased that she was “winning the diplomacy games” over Vice President Mike Pence. They scorned him for not shaking her hand and didn’t seem to understand why the vice president would shun her. She participates in the starving and torturing of her own people and imprisons foreigners for the slightest of offenses. She knows that her own brother and great uncle were murdered at the hand of her brother. Otto Warmbier’s parents know why Mike Pence didn’t shake that woman’ hand. But the media have their own calculus and up against the sister of a murderous dictator, Mike Pence, the Christian conservative, comes up short. It’s no contest for the nihilists.

The “Me Too” movement lives side by side with the enormous financial success (mainly fueled by the ticket purchases of young women) of a book and film series about bondage and sadism towards women, “Fifty Shades of Grey.” The latest film has made more than $150 million.

Is Kamala Harris’ worldview our future? Will her confusion about the value of human life become our lodestar? Or is there something we can do to confront the inherent dangers in that way of thinking?

What was the point of all those visits to the shooter by law enforcement? Was there any solution offered? Was there any concept of what was the right thing to do in a case such as his? Does our new culture restrict law enforcement and community leaders from holding someone like the shooter to account for his anti-social and immoral behavior or were our laws and restrictions ineffective because we prize allowing everyone “do his own thing” without interference or moral judgment? Were opportunities missed to correct his violent tendencies because people in authority were reluctant to insist his behavior was unacceptable even though it may not have been legally actionable.

He was expelled from school, but was there ever any intervention in his life by teachers or law enforcement to teach him about his moral obligations to his fellow students or neighbors? Even if there was some pro forma attempt, we know that people like him when corrected receive almost no reinforcement from our culture—a culture that allows a senator to believe that denying a mother the right to abort her child in the sixth, seventh, eighth or even ninth month of her pregnancy is an immoral law.

If we don’t address the nihilism in our culture—the absence of agreed upon moral standards—the contradictions inherent in our confused civilization will continue to manifest themselves in ugly ways. Vague attempts at solving mental health issues or restricting access to particular types of weapons will merely paper over the real and very dangerous problems of a culture that does not value human life and is confused about what is right and what is wrong.

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About Pamela Shuman Lange

Pamela Shuman Lange hails from Chagrin Falls, Ohio. A graduate of Wilson College, she has worked in development, marketing, and public relations for several liberal arts colleges and for National Review Institute. She is active in local politics and is an amateur FaceBook provocateur.