07/24/2012 12:12 pm ET | Updated Sep 23, 2012

Disassociation Nation

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Can you say "disassociation"? Of course you can. But you're probably disassociated from what it means.

We are a disassociation nation.

From the moment America went full-on industrial, it seems like it's been a steady path towards people never having to be physically present in order to satisfy their needs.

Obviously, it's not all bad: I mean, there are escalators.

But the downside of industrialization is that it's placed a too-comfortable distance between us and all the stuff we have, need or hope for. We rarely have to personally reap the food we've planted or slaughter the livestock we tend in order to eat (which is good for me, as I am a mere petal of a boy).

We have moved farther and farther from the actual town square into virtual ones (which is also fine for me, as petals -- even mere ones such as myself -- smell).

We fight wars from progressively great heights and distances, the blessings of technology steadily removing the personal human element from what was historically an extremely personal experience. That's a good thing, especially given the cost in human suffering war brings upon those to whom it is still waged (and to those who wage it themselves).

I will refrain from further example of my amazingly clever hypothesis, lest the reader move away from this page and settle instead on the You Tube video of a drunken European gentleman wearing a Speedo on the beach determined to put his pants on like a shirt.

So I'll get right to it:

As a culture, we have become so disassociated from reality that we are to the point where even though men, women and children are mowed down in schools, movie theaters and streets by nut jobs with assault weapons, we rush to defend the right to own these absolutely inessential weapons constructed with the sole purpose of shredding human flesh as efficiently as possible, and cite shaky-at-best interpretations of the Second Amendment as justification.

That's disassociation.

These loud, certain voices never look at the puddles of spilled life on the ground, they never see the mayhem wrought from easy access to weapons of the mass's destruction, never see the families destroyed, never acknowledge those obliterated potentials, never hear the cries of terror and wails of grief. They are disassociated to the point of certifiable sociopathy. Never taking a step back, never looking inward or outward, these lost souls are dedicated to preserving their identities as weapons themselves, having long ago jettisoned any empathy for other human beings, and becoming utterly and fatally disassociated from life.

And naturally, they are disassociated from the cold reality that the very presence of this kind of thinking can only and ever result in carnage.

If one hundred people in a room were each armed with knives, there may be a temporary calm punctuated by the occasionally grumpy exchange, perhaps leading to a standoff resulting in no one actually being cut, cooler heads prevailing.

Or there may even be a "peace" of sorts, if one can call a life of perpetual anxiety "peace" (see "The Cold War").

But all it takes is someone having a nightmare and calling out in their sleep; all it takes is someone in a bad fucking mood; all it takes is a simple mistake, a dumb accident. And then that room full of knives becomes a clattering smear of clashing metal and splattering blood.

And that's just a cartoonish metaphor. What about all the people saying the most defamatory, vicious shit they can think of online in chat rooms, social networks, public forums, things any upbringing this side of The Mongol Charm Academy would deem completely inappropriate but would NEVER say when standing face to face with another human being.

That's because they have become disassociated from the manner and etiquette used in a modern society.

Who else?

Politicians, empowered by their fancy suits and authoritative titles lauding over their cowed constituents, and taking orders from their equally disassociated sponsors.

The media, once a formidable institution, now a self-serving machine, cranking out gossip and cant and unreal bullshit 24 hours a day.

And people, who have become so disassociated with the reality of their country that they cling to treacly images of a past that probably never existed, unreal then as it is now.

The irony is that no freedom is ever lost when smart regulations are in place. The guard rails on a highway may restrict some folks from driving the way they want but those rules mostly end up saving the lives of those other drivers who understand that living in a society means behaving in a commonly beneficial way. Ten Commandments, anyone?

In Man's Search for Meaning, Frankl refers to the delusion of reprieve: that when faced with execution the condemned will be deluded into thinking they will be exonerated and released. What else could possibly justify so many people who, despite living in a modern, diverse society, align themselves with behavior that cannot possibly benefit that society or themselves within it? They labor under the delusion that they are protecting themselves from monsters, that they are doing God's work, that they live apart from and without need of others and in doing so will find respite from their fears. Why should they cooperate with the common beliefs shared within a society they view as an enemy?

The disassociation from the fact that we live in a nation, that there are rules, that people's lives intersect and effect each other whether we like it or not is an enemy to democracy. Anyone who thinks they stand apart from society and defies all which govern its existence has less in common with the lone wolf patriot standing up to dystopic forces of oppression -- a myth -- and more in common with the disease known as cancer -- a harsh reality.

Get with it. Associate.