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My Heart Goes Out To Newtown, But I Hope They Do Not Turn To Social Media For Help

by Alex Iwashyna

in Cultural Norms (that are abnormal), WTH

I grew up a few towns over from Newtown, Connecticut. I have fond memories of playing sports against their schools and watching the fireworks on the Fourth of July although I have to laugh when the news calls Newtown a small town since it was big compared to mine. Since the shooting at their elementary school, which took the lives of a 20 children as well as 6 adults and the innocence of many, many more, I have been holding a small vigil in my heart and praying as have many.

Beyond this grief, we, as a nation, are grasping for solutions to this pattern of mass shootings that we have seen an increase over the last decade. In the last 30 years, there have been over 62 mass kills and 24 of those have been in the last 7 years. (source)

After Aurora, I thought we searched for answers so quickly because we were afraid to grieve. I called for us to wait and feel before debating gun control and mental health, but time as passed, all I did was wait myself into more mass shootings. And even those who debated got nothing, so I think the immediate discussions and calls to action are justified.

However, I hope this town, state and our government do not turn to social media for solutions as I have seen the following offered as serious answers to keep tragedies like Newtown’s from reoccurring:

1. Mentally ill people should all kill themselves BEFORE shooting people instead of AFTER shooting people. I’ll be sure to let 20% of the population know that. We’ll raid people’s medicine cabinets and medical records, and for every bottle of Prozac we find, we can just line them up and hand them a gun.

2. If the media would stop reporting these tragedies, they wouldn’t happen. Because having a free press leads to mass deaths and censorship saves people? Oh wait, maybe I have my amendments mixed up.

2a. Don’t use the gunman’s name EVER. Because by not using Adam’s name (instead referring to him as an anomaly of evil), we are sure to create a society where money will be allocated to support families raising a similar child, who isn’t yet this ill. And families will happily seek help by walking into the nearest hospital and saying: Please help my evil 12-year-old. He may grow up to be like he-who-cannot-be-named.

3. If parents were allowed to discipline their children like they once were, we may have avoided a lot of the problems we have had with young people doing stupid stuff. Because all the studies linking spanking, whipping and corporal punishment to anti-social and increasingly violent behavior are science, and science has number and charts and facts, which is very, very disturbing.

4. Crazy people should be banned. From what the person wasn’t clear and how we could tell who was “crazy” I’m not sure. I guess we could just judge each other by our hair, clothing and skin color because that always goes well. Let’s see, these guys are all young, white males. Go round ‘em up, sister.

5. God doesn’t stop shootings in schools because we banned God from our school. How exactly are we keeping God from school? Hallway monitors? Or is it the separation of church and state that goes back to the founding of our nation long before school massacres were prevalent? Or are we just saying “too bad those dead kids didn’t pray harder?” What a terrible God to believe in. I guess I’ll stick with my invisible God who can go everywhere with me without a teacher forcing others to say prayers that have nothing to do with their belief system.

I wish I could say these comments were only said by people without power or prestige, but sadly, I cannot. (However, Morgan Freeman officially did not say anything about watching the news.) From neighbors to friends to elected officials, science and thoughtfulness are easily thrown aside for angry rhetoric and quickly shared Facebook images because we want to be different enough to feel safe without having to change much about what we do, think or say.

While I believe in discussion, debate and strong opinions, name-calling, soundbites and self-righteous remarks will not help the victims of the last decade of violence or keep us from having more. For Newtown and for our future, I would ask for a moment of reflection before typing or sharing an idea. We are all in this together whether we like it or not.

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{ 20 comments… read them below or add one }

Leigh Ann December 16, 2012 1

It kills me that something like this brings out the “I KNOW EVERYTHING” part of everyone. People say the stupidest things only in an effort to be heard. I hope they’ll look back someday and see how ridiculous they sound.

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Naked Girl in a Dress December 16, 2012 2

I wrote a post about the tragedy today, too. My focus was to look away for a moment, recognizing there is still good in the world. It won’t erase what has happened from our hearts, but my thought was to provide a brief respite.

Friday midday I could handle no more so I stepped away from Facebook until this morning. Reading the account repeatedly, and opinions of so many was more than I wanted to see. The break was good for me.

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Jester Queen December 16, 2012 3

Well spoken, and thoughtful. If the Twitter Tragedy Police jump your shit, I’ve got your back.

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erin margolin December 16, 2012 4

me too! I’ve got your back! great job, alex!

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julie gardner December 16, 2012 5

Yes.

Yes yes yes.

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Robin | Farewell Stranger December 16, 2012 6

Good on you. I cringe at the rampant sharing of Morgan Freeman’s words because I just do not agree. And much of the rest of what you’ve listed is just ignorant.

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Tara Morris December 16, 2012 7

All very valid questions. Particularly, #4. As someone who suffers from mental illness being labeled as “crazy” is a start into changing the view of mental illness in this society. I liken the word to retard. It is offense, derogatory, and outdated. Also, the Morgan Freeman thing is a hoax, which I thought it was.

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mmh1 December 16, 2012 8

#5 is the one that almost made me break my rule about no religion/politics on Facebook. I thought God was omniscient, omnipotent and omnipresent. If so, then none of us can keep him from being anywhere he wants to be. Thus, as you say, He must be a terrible God. Why would I want to believe in such a God?

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Doris Nelson December 17, 2012 9

My church had 28 candles burning yesterday. The two extra were for Adam and his Mother. Adam and the families need the prayers the most.

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Lance December 17, 2012 10

why ruin a great column with a lame comment.

As Julie said, yes, and another yes, and another after that.

Is it okay I’m hugging the screen?

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tracy@sellabitmum December 17, 2012 11

Seriously. Thank you. Thank you. xo

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Galit Breen December 17, 2012 12

Careful with our words, with other hards, with the speed of things. Yes.

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Ali December 17, 2012 13

Well put! You, my friend, are one smart lady. This whole thing makes me sick.

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Denise December 17, 2012 14

We as a society have a lot of work ahead of us and these ridiculous sound bites just waste energy. The fact that people actually believe that crap shows how off rails we have gone.

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Becca December 17, 2012 15

I purposely did not watch the tv thru this weekend because I could feel the pain through the Internet, and I did not want to expose either of my overly sensitive daughters to the sadness on the tv.I did look at facebook, and twitter.

The following has been running through both of these feeds from people I consider to be friends.
1. Teachers need to be armed in schools ~ funnily enough my oldest thought the teachers kept guns in their desks.
2. The mentally ill or anyone with any kind of mental health issue must be registered with both state and federal governments. ~ this seems remarkably close to forcing the Jews to wear golden stars during WWII.
3. Westboro baptist church is going to picket the funerals in Newtown
4. It is a travesty and horror that we would violate the 2nd amendment by having an honest discussion about why anyone needs an assault rifle.

I’m just tired of having to have these discussions and the sadness that we all go through everytime this happens. I’m tired of people blaming it on President Obama, the lack of god in the classroom, and the laws that now say we can’t spank our children anymore. I am much more concerned about the fact that it is cheaper and easier to buy a gun than to obtain mental health services. For instance, my own daughter, who might have aspergers has had her original appointment for testing rescheduled three times. And we are on a year long waiting list for treatment at the autism center in Cape Girardeau. Somebody explain why it is so hard to obtain decent healthcare?

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Lily from It's A Dome Life December 18, 2012 16

Thank you for writing this. Just thank you. I have been so saddened by all of the things you listed and outraged and shocked. The one about God and prayer in school has been bothering me the most today. It’s such a mean thing to say. It also suggests that some people are immune to this type of violence because they pray better than other people. It smacks of superiority to me. These people can not empathize with the victims of violence. They assume it only happens to “other” people. It’s also just plain mean. I don’t believe God is that vengeful or that jealous either. Anyway, I haven’t been on the Internet much the past few days because I needed a break from these “solutions”. I couldn’t put it into words and I appreciate that you have done it for me. Again, thank you. It’s a relief to have my scrambled thoughts organized into words. It helps me make sense of them.

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Skye December 18, 2012 17

All of these make me sad. I think I find #5 most offensive. Thank you for the thoughtfulness behind this post.

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Katie December 18, 2012 18

I just posted today on the fog and noise in my head that I couldn’t sort through.

You did it for me.

Yes.

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Erica December 18, 2012 19

Love your number 5. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

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Jen December 19, 2012 20

Well done. You effectively put into words exactly what I was trying to on my own site. This is why I stick to painting and not so much the writing. Society will fall because we are so blinded and divided over issues than because of the issues themselves.

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