SOCIETAL SAFETY: Will Come From Greater Peace, Understanding & Love
The ‘Methodical Massacre’ at Sandy Hook Elementary School has struck a chord deeply within the American psyche about the state of our nation. Many Americans, across a wide spectrum or demographic groups, including with those who are far removed from the horrific tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut. Perhaps, it is because beyond the loss of so many precious young lives in Connecticut, the gruesome details of Adam Lanza’s premeditated attack on school children and teachers illustrates how still vulnerable still are many Americans to random acts of violence by our fellow citizens; citizens in many cases who operate in the shadows of American life – even in sheltered communities, either suffering from diagnosed or un-diagnosed mental illness or assorted other psychopathic or sociopathic personality disorders and for whom quite often there is also a lack of proper treatment or supervision. By the time we learn of the true danger to society of these ‘ticking time bombs’, often it is too late.
In a piece entitled, “I am Adam Lanza’s Mother”, another mother explains the frightening scenario that perhaps many mothers across America are facing in the attempt to control mentally ill children who may some day pose a risk to the rest of us:
“No one wants to send a 13-year old genius who loves Harry Potter and his snuggle animal collection to jail. But our society, with its stigma on mental illness and its broken healthcare system, does not provide us with other options. Then another tortured soul shoots up a fast food restaurant. A mall. A kindergarten classroom. And we wring our hands and say, “Something must be done.”
I agree that something must be done. It’s time for a meaningful, nation-wide conversation about mental health. That’s the only way our nation can ever truly heal.”
You have to wonder whether Nancy Lanza, “A mother, a Gun Enthusiast and the First Victim” of her son Adam Lanza, were she alive today, might think differently about housing such an extensive gun collection in her home with a son who allegedly suffered from Asperger syndrome and perhaps other forms of mental illness, and a self destructive personality disorder.
We owe it to those families who lost their children as well as the family and friends of Victoria Soto, a heroic young teacher, who along with several other teachers and educational professionals died shielding their students from certain death, not to tarnish the legacy of these heroic individuals or cause their survivors to suffer the further indignity of having to listen to any of us pontificate platitudes or offer faux solutions that provide political cover but not meaningful change. We need to evolve beyond entrenched political positions whether they take the form of NRA sloganeering or anti-NRA campaigns and ‘put reason back in America’s gun debate’. Otherwise we do a disservice to those who died, those who survive them and the future generations we place at risk. The true lunacy beyond the acts of maniacal gunman Adam Lanza in Connecticut is that what happened at Sandy Hook can happen anywhere at almost any time in America. That is what is truly horrifying.
SOCIETAL BREAKDOWN: FUELING MORE LOVING SPREES vs. KILLING SPREES
What a piece of work is a man, how noble in reason, how infinite in faculties, in form and moving how express and admirable, in action how like an angel, in apprehension how like a god! the beauty of the world, the paragon of animals—and yet, to me, what is this quintessence of dust? Man delights not me— nor woman neither, though by your smiling you seem to say so.
And yet even so:
How dare they try to end this beauty?
How dare they try to end this beauty?
We kill too much in America. Too many Americans die as a byproduct of ‘random acts of violence’. But are they truly so random given our present societal values, discourse, understanding and treatment of mental illness? The statistics bear out that more Americans are killed from the use of handguns than any other civilized country on the planet. How do we get America to put down the guns? Surely, we need more loving sprees vs. killing sprees. It is really that simple and yet it is still even more complex to get there. And I do not say that to make light of the situation or to be humorous.
Despite the nobility, the reason, the grace, and the beauty of man, much like Hamlet, I too cannot be delighted. The real question is how do we prevent more of our citizens from going on killing sprees? Few reasonable people would argue that we need to love more and kill less. That is a fact but how do we create or facilitate that reality? Is gun control the magic bullet or is it merely one component of a complex and multi-pronged societal solution to the increasing violence, disconnect and breakdown in civil society? How do we stop other mass murderers like Adam Lanza from emerging at the wrong time from the confines of America’s wealthiest suburban communities? How many other ticking time bombs are out there?
If we choose to recognize and accept that that the solution to preventing more massacres of our young and innocent like that at Newtown Elementary School, is a complex multifaceted one, then ultimately that will be the beginning to fortifying our society and enhancing the security of our citizens. There is no doubt that once we decide to grasp the breadth and complexity of the problem, it will be an exhaustive process to come up with the proper formula or prescription for the proper treatment of certain societal ills which undermine our security.
We may not get it right immediately but we ought to never stop trying. In my estimation, thoughtful restrictions on gun ownership, use and display are merely one component of the solution to secure the safety of many Americans who are actually right now quite vulnerable to the kind of tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut. We owe the victims and their families an earnest dialogue on this issue that leads to thoughtful and creative solutions on several fronts.
GUN CONTROL: Is Not the Only Answer
Cause it’s a bittersweet symphony, this life
Trying to make ends meet
Trying to find some money then you die
I’ll take you down the only road I’ve ever been down
You know the one that takes you to the places
where all the veins meet yeah
You know I can’t change, I can’t change
I can’t change, I can’t change
But I’m here in my mind
I am here in my mind
And I’m a million different people
from one day to the next
I can’t change my mind
No, no, no, no, no
-Bittersweet Symphony, The Verve by Richard Ashcroft (but unfairly credited to the Rolling Stones, Mick Jagger & Keith Richards – for their utterly bullshit legal maneuvers to claim rights to and royalties from this song)
I do not own a gun. I do not want a gun. Yes, perhaps maybe I want to shoot one in a controlled environment with proper training and supervision at a private gun range or rifle range. I had the experience of doing so at Summer Camp on Cape Cod back in the 1970’s even though I was actually quite a terrible shot. Archery on their other hand was more my thing, perhaps because the simple bow and arrow conjured up more romantic ideas of a bygone era. I diverge. Truth is that I recognize that even if I owned a gun, chances are it might prove to be a greater danger to me than to anyone else.
The ‘Methodical Massacre’ at Sandy Hook Elementary School in all of its gruesome, disturbing detail illustrates how still vulnerable are wide segments of society to random acts of violence of private citizens who become unhinged in the quiet privacy of their suburban homes. I would love to believe that tighter gun control laws alone would make us all safer from maniacal acts of the mentally deranged, including the types of mass shootings in the United States in recent years. Some thoughtful restrictions, waiting periods and background checks certainly can be constructive, including qualifications as well as to whom should be allowed to purchase and own semi-automatic and pump action shotguns or what amounts to an assault weapon, more suited for military operations. Yet, I simply do not believe that better, tighter or stricter gun control laws or banning ‘killer weapons’ entirely will magically make us all safer. Instead, I think at best they will make us marginally safer in certain instances. And in others, it might make us more vulnerable, akin to sitting prey to criminals who will always be able to find a way to obtain guns and powerful assault weapons in an underground black market.
Instead we should strive to create the kind of civility, respect and equity in society that would lead to fewer people losing their cookies and engaging in these random acts of lunacy. And where that is not possible, greater manned security may be required. And even then that may not be enough. It will not be easy. It may even be a never ending project for an advanced society or one that hopes to evolve beyond the madness to fortify itself to strike the right balance between societal safety, individual rights, security and privacy. I wish it were so easy to make the rest of us safe from the random break downs in civility and the deranged souls, minds and spirits of men who become undone, but it is far more complicated. It is just as important in these times that thoughtful people not allow society to reach for simple answers to complex problems. We must respect human life and dignity. Any time even one child is taken from a parent, it is a horrible loss and deeply saddening. And that loss deserves thoughtful introspection and solutions crafted by serious people; not band-aids that only leave us unprepared at risk for more of the same in the future. Consider the viewpoint of one commentator who says that ‘It’s Time to Hate Mass Murder and the “Liberal” and “Conservative” Idiots Who Help It Happen’:
We now have the perfect formula for horror: cut mental health funding, cut education in the arts and everything else that builds empathy and the human spirit, worship a military industrial imperial “culture” of violence sold as “defense,” desensitize our young men with violent porn, abandon all gun regulation, accept irony and cynicism as entertainment and “higher education” and then teach unstable young men to shoot and to glorify violence all round.
The Newtown Massacre ought to get us to finally commit affirmatively and deeply to our own evolution as a people, not to protect one political viewpoint or another. Our survival and the advancement of our society requires an affirmation that we need not just a new beginning but also the recognition and acceptance that it shall be a never ending process. We must, however, never give up on striving towards achieving a more rewarding and secure way of life for all of our citizens, even the downtrodden and mentally ill. In the end, happy, loving, secure and completely sane people do not kill other people, regardless of whether they own guns.