08/09/2007 10:19 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Something Rotten in the State of New Jersey

Alright, it's not just New Jersey. It's every state in the union, where we and our kids are running out to see the latest Bourne film (praised by a New York film critic for its "thrilling" and "ghastly" and "relentless" violence). Where we and our kids are settling down after dinner to watch our favorite sex-and-gore programs. Where we allow guns to be sold to people with criminal records and mental disorders.

Welcome to America, where the old frontier admonition -- "Don't fire 'til you see the whites of their eyes" -- has simply been updated: "Shoot them in the back."

The appalling slaughter in Newark has sickened me, and has aroused some long-forgotten memories. As a child, living on Manhattan's West Side, I would walk down to Riverside Drive on summer evenings and watch the sun set behind the Jersey shoreline, as the crazy Crisco advertisement blinked on and off. Many times, a group of us would take the ferry from 125th Street over to Palisades Amusement Park. And some years later, a big Saturday night date would mean driving over the George Washington Bridge to go to the Riviera nightclub.

New Jersey was a playground. Even when I lived there later on for a few years, in a big old house perched on the Palisades, it was a delightful suburban retreat -- a place where your kids were safe.

Where are our children safe today?

In fact, where is anyone safe today?

We have spawned a culture of violence, and we should fear our home-grown domestic terror even more than the foreign variety. For its roots are spreading everywhere, insidiously -- in the workplace, in the home, in the schools. Television and films show us, graphically, how to handle anger, frustration and despair: with a bullet. It is not yet life on the killing fields, but it could be death around the corner. It is not like carnage in Baghdad or Darfur, but it is murder on Main Street.

When human life is devalued and disposable, even in fiction, we slip into a seriously altered state of consciousness. We are then just a few steps away from psychic suicide -- as individuals and as a race. The miracle of birth, the sanctity of life, the integrity of death are lost and forgotten. We are no longer walking on a just and stable world but on a precarious, perilous planet.

Religions have not helped us. Nor have governments. Nor has science. Will it take an apocalypse to set us straight?....or to annihilate us?