The Terrible Tragedy (A Look Beyond Guns: Societal and Cultural Factors That Need To Be Considered As Well)
I was upset when I heard what happened and cried some when I thought of all those kids who's life was stolen from them. I was flipping the television channels and saw a children's Christmas cartoon was on about Santa Clause that I remembered watching when I was a kid. I thought those kids who were killed are not going to have a Christmas this year and I was overcome with sadness and teared up a little. All those empty school desk, empty Christmas stockings, empty bedrooms, empty kitchen chairs, all those broken parent's and siblings hearts. It just is not right what happened, nothing can make what happened right, nothing can easily heal the hurt so many feel after this cruel and vicious act against the most innocent of our society. These children did not have to die, this tragedy did not have to happen, this tragedy could have been prevented. Imagine how much better this world would have been if those kids had lived.
I know it hurts to think about such because such does not change what happened but it allows one to contemplate what could have prevented this tragedy and the true loss this tragedy caused not just to the children, parents, and teachers but to the entire world. It hurts too much to imagine and hear what it was like in that school and classroom during this terrible massacre, so I wish not to spend much time thinking of such. Instead I think what was and what can be. We can not let this evil act cause us to fear, become vengeful, or depressed about the future. We should memorialize the children and adults lost, celebrate their lives they lived, and all the good they brought into the world instead of spending all are time considering how their lives were lost and what we lost. In spite of all the evil in the world, the hardship, the loss of loved ones, this world is still a wonderful place with many wonderful people. I think of all who were lost but I remember all is not lost.
Seeing The Humanity In All
I also think of, which many do not want to, the young man who carried out such a unspeakable act of mass murder. I think why didn't his family get him help? Why didn't the teachers talk to him in his school? Why did he feel compelled to do such brutality to innocent children? What could drive a person to such madness? I suppose we will never fully know the answer to any of these questions. Perhaps he was paranoid and delusional, perhaps he had a rotten childhood and thought it wasn't fair that these children could be happy, perhaps he in his insane mind thought he was saving them from the suffering and hardship of this world, perhaps it is something more sinister and he enjoyed hurting and killing children. I don't want to spend too much time contemplating such a dark mind as his had to be. I though wonder if this could have been prevented if this young man received psychiatric help, was properly medicated, or perhaps institutionalized. I know what the shooter did was morally and legally reprehensible and was absolutely pure unadulterated evil, but I find myself still seeing him as a human being.
Some fault me for seeing the humanity in those like this shooter. They don't understand how I can not hate them and wish for them to suffer cruel deaths and be executed if they lived. They think somehow in also feeling empathy for the aggressor that you do not as fully feel empathy for the victims. I would say the exact opposite is true, those who can feel empathy for even those like the shooter more fully feel empathy for the victims. I am a big proponent of human rights and I believe human rights are universal without regard to what a person thinks, feels, says, does, or who a person is. Human rights abuses do not justify more human rights abuses, crimes do not justify more crimes, hate does not justify more hate, violence does not justify more violence. Of course sometimes violence is needed to prevent more violence but such a statement as a general rule should hold true in most situations.
I think until we get better at identifying people in need of help and understanding the why behind them doing the bad things they do we will never solve our crime problem in our society. Adam Lanza was probably a sociopath and probably never could be normal but had he had an early intervention and received the proper medical help he could have lived some kind of life without harming others. Remember Adam was the same age of those kids he killed at one time and had he gotten help then this probably never would have happened. I have no idea for sure but I suspect besides mental illness, there is a history of neglect and abuse, and probably a lot of bullying and being excluded. Adam Lanza could not help the brain he was born with, the neglect and abuse that may have happened to him, and the bullying and being excluded he probably suffered but he made a conscience decision to commit this evil act so he was primarily responsible for what happened.
Had the shooter received the proper mental health services early enough this tragedy likely never would have occurred. I think a major overhaul of our mental health system is needed. Our mental health services in this country are grossly insufficient to meet the need of mental illness in our population. Mental illness is much more common then most realize, with millions in this country suffering from some sort of mental health related issues. Unlike some other conditions mental illness is often not easily apparent to people, sometimes not even to the person suffering with the mental illness. Now most with mental illness, including those with serious mental illness are not in any way criminally inclined and are in no way a danger to the public. A small percentage of people with serious mental illness though are criminally inclined and these are the ones that we have to find some way to identify and find treatment for before they go on to commit serious crimes.
I think the biggest hurdle to mental health treatment is the feeling of social rejection and personal shame for asking for help. This is especially true with those with serious mental health issues and those suffering with serious delusions and socially unacceptable thoughts and feelings. I mean someone like Adam Lanza is not likely to feel safe to confide in someone that he was having paranoid and delusional thoughts and was thinking about killing kids. How many do we have in society who could truly deal with something like that. The fear of social rejection and stigma and possible imprisonment or confinement to a mental institution keep the vast majority of those like the shooter silent. If there was some anonymous hotline they could call or place they could go to ask for help where they could feel safe to share their true thoughts it could help seriously troubled people before they act on those thoughts and delusions. If they were found to be considered a serious risk to themselves or someone else, some procedures could be made to have state mandated treatment. Few want to hear this because it is an uncomfortable truth, but in our society there is far more then most realize like Adam Lanza who are seriously mentally ill with criminal minds who without help will go on to commit serious crimes against members of our society. We have to as a society acknowledge this and seek a humane way to treat these people before they go on to commit terrible acts.
Some Contributing Factors
We need to also deal seriously with our culture of violence, the all to common phenomenon of domestic violence, neglect, and child abuse in our society and in homes across America, and the issue of bullying and social ostracizing that occurs in our Nation's schools. These issues are of such a nature they can not easily be solved by legislation and political action alone but instead require a deeper look into our culture and changing people's hearts and minds.
Violence In Our Society
Our society is saturated in violence, now I don't mean to sound like a preacher in saying that, but it really is. The streets across America are violent in far too many cases, many people's attitudes and utterances are of a violent nature, the media were all exposed to today glorifies wanton violence, criminal acts, gangsters and mobsters, far too many people turn to violence to solve their problems, far too many suffer violence by their own loved ones in their own home, far too many kids look up to and idealize violent actions and violent people in movies, television, and games, many people are obsessed with firearms and knives. Many human societies have violent aspects of their culture but none in the modern industrialized world seem as saturated in violence as our culture. Violence is literally everywhere in our culture including in television, movies, and games kids often watch and play. Many parents try to shield their children from seeing media containing nudity or sexual content but have no problem with their kids seeing people get shot at point blank range, people getting their heads or or other body parts chopped off, violent depictions of warfare, etc.... With video games today that look ever more realistic kids are not just seeing simulated violence but are actively engaging in simulated violence, and no I am not talking about Mario stepping on a baddies head, but simulated murders of ever more realistic looking human beings. Some games go further and you play as a criminal street thug robbing, hurting, and even killing innocent people and cops. This would be fine if only adults were playing these games but the problem is these rated M games are routinely being played by children who are not even teenagers yet. No I am not advocating for government censorship but parents need to do a much better job of shielding their kids from such violence. Violence in my opinion is far too common and celebrated in our culture.
Domestic Violence, Neglect, and Child Abuse
Many children in our Country are exposed to or experience themselves neglect and abuse most often by their own family members. Children in these situations are far more likely to have behavioural, mental health, and substance abuse problems. Neglect and child abuse in our society is of epidemic proportions as is domestic violence. Many would like to think things in this area have vastly improved and may point to statistics. However when one considers many more cases of domestic violence, neglect, and child abuse go unreported rather then reported it puts things in perspective. Children who come from dysfunctional, broken, abusive, and neglectful homes are much more likely to end up with major depression, anxiety, substance abuse issues, and even to end up in the criminal justice system. The prisons in this country are filled with people with such backgrounds and experiences growing up. The solution is much more complicated then taking kids out of homes with domestic violence, neglect, and child abuse and punishing offenders. For things really to change education is needed especially for new and young parents. I see no reason why a book by the department of health and human services or some other department should not be written that contains advice for parents on child care, teaching discipline should not involve screaming, violence, or harsh forms of punishment, telling why domestic violence, neglect, and child abuse is so damaging to children with statistics showing the much higher likelihood children have of worse outcomes from such situations, and resources that parents, guardians, and babysitters can go to for more information and places they can call, go online, or go to in situations of crises. Lastly society needs to learn all forms of neglect and child abuse are damaging to children. We often hear discussions of sexual abuse in the media but rarely do we hear about the much more common forms of abuse which can be equally as damaging; neglect, emotional abuse, and physical abuse. Too many people think these last three forms of abuse I mentioned are somewhat acceptable because their so common or not that bad. This societal attitude needs to change to where all forms of domestic violence and child abuse are seen as damaging to children and not legally or socially acceptable.
Bullying, Social Ostracizing, Peer Pressure, Addiction, High Risk Behaviors
Bullying and social ostracizing is far too common in our schools at all grade levels. Now with technology kids are exposed to bullying in many cases in their own homes and the bullying they are exposed to seems crueler then ever. Bullying these days goes much further then childhood mischief and boys will be boys, it in many situations rises to the level of terrible cruelty driving far too many young people particularity young men to suicide. Now we have to ask ourselves what is wrong with our society where so many of the children of our nation have become so cruel and malicious they drive their classmates to suicide. I believe the children in our nation are canaries in the coal mine to major social ills that have come about in our society in recent decades. Look at how many feel so disappointed in life they zone completely out, turn to getting high and binge drinking, engage in unprotected sex, get lost in the virtual world of text messaging and the internet, torment their classmates because they feel so bad about themselves, disrespect their teachers and parents, hate and loathe themselves, turn to cutting, self mutilation, even suicide, say terrible things about themselves, develop eating disorders and serious cases of mental illness, some even turn to violence and crime. If these things are not a cry for help I do not know what is. We adults are foolish to blame the youth culture, we came before them and had a great deal of influence of these developments for generations. I am tired of hearing so many of my fellow adults look down on the young people in this country failing to understand their generations had a major part in laying the groundwork of these problems to begin with. We were foolish to think our actions would not have a major impact on future generations and how they saw the world. Therefore it is time for many to get off their pedestals of judgement and seek ways to help these kids instead. I think education in the schools about these issues, teaching tolerance and the importance of not ostracizing other students, offering better mental health treatment, offering substance abuse counselling, teaching good health practices, schools better identifying and reaching out to kids in need, offering kids alternatives to negative situations such as after school programs, all could go a long way in changing things. Most of the changes though need to happen in student's homes, for if a kid's home life continues to be broken it is very hard to overcome that influence.
What The Results Are Of All These Factors Combined
Now you take a kid with serious mental illness, place him in a society saturated with violence, in an abusive and neglectful environment, and who is exposed to being mercilessly bullied and ostracized in school; how can anyone be truly surprised if that kid ends up with a lot of problems in life. Add those born with or who have developed because of their environment criminal tendencies factor and one can begin to understand how some of these kids snap.
Guns In Our Society
Lastly I wish to speak of the issue getting the most attention, which I see as important but far less a factor then the other things I mentioned above, and that is gun control. Our society is obsessed with firearms, especially in red states, rural, and small town America. What used to mostly be a fascination of hunting rifles, shotguns, and pistols has in recent decades morphed into a fascination with high powered semi-automatics and assault weapons. Our society went from John Wayne Westerns to Bruce Willis Action movies as it were. From John Wayne's Winchester Model 1873 rifle to Bruce Willis's Heckler & Koch assault rifles. Many of these guns sold today in shops and on our streets are designed to kill large amounts of people in a very short amount of time. Some people argue our military and law enforcement don't actually use these weapons so they must be safe for civilians. The truth is many of these high powered semi-automatics and assault weapons are simply modified versions of the same weapons used by our military and law enforcement. With widely available modification techniques and tools these weapons can have the same firepower as the military and law enforcement versions of the weapons. This does not even mention modification to ammunition to make the bullets even more lethal, tearing up the insides of the victims shot with this ammunition. These kind of weapons are way to prevalent on our streets and way too commonly found in the worst crime scenes. No citizen needs these weapons for self defence or hunting purposes. They have one purpose and one purpose only and that is to kill efficiently and effectively a significant group of human beings within a very short period of time. Don't give me that crap it's fun to shoot these weapons at the target range, well that may be so but that is no reason to allow these weapons in the hands of citizens. Lots of illegal things are fun for certain people but this does not justify making something legal. The NRA in my mind once a respected organization has morphed into a extreme, no compromise, violence promoting organization filled with zealots. It is time to stop considering what the gun lobby has to say and start listening to the average man, woman, and child on the street about gun control. This time we should not cease until the gun laws are tightened in this country, for the lives of innocents are depending on us.