In Mexico City, adjacent to the Zocalo (the immense square in the center of town) is an archeological dig turned museum that is called the Templo Major. Here there is the partially and beautifully exposed remains of an Aztec pyramid that was part of the ritual complex of that society. At the top, under a canopy to keep it from decay by rain and sun, is the stone upon which thousands were sacrificed – their beating hearts cut from their chests to thank the gods who were the sun and rain upon whom depended.
Horrific to our sensibilities, the practice was ancient when Cortez arrived, embedded within a culture that connected life and death, blood and water, sun and life, in ways that made living sacrifice a privilege people sought. We recoil from it, grateful that we no longer entertain the barbaric notion that human lives must be sacrificed to appease the gods.
Then I read this column by Monica Hesse “Aurora’s horror is a sadly familiar exercise in America - The Washington Post”
How different are we? Mass murder has become a ritual in our society. It may not be a function of the state in the way Aztecs did, but our dogmatic belief that guns are sacred to freedom means we willingly sacrifice people to preserve that right. How far removed is this from the belief that beating human hearts must be given back to the gods?
Hesse’s article limns out the ritual we now go through, largely via the media. By the end we will have wept, mourned, and done our part in the ritual sacrifice that our love of guns requires. Then we can go back to our lives, knowing that the periodic bloodletting required of our gun gods has been done, but knowing also that it will be necessary again.
We are heathens about guns, worshipping them as devoutly as any Aztec god, and blind to the waste of life that exacts. Posterity will look back and gag at our barbarism as we do those historic feathered butchers. How could they believe such nonsense, our descendants will ask, as we do now? And America may well be the lesson the future studies to avoid the fate of knavish states paralyzed by beliefs that became their undoing.
We are better than this. We know it. We should be ashamed that we have not the courage to serve the better angels of our nature and cavil to the demons instead.