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.