Posted by: mydarkestplaces | December 22, 2012

Eight days later

There’s a whole lot of tragedy that’s happened this week, month, and year. Seriously. A metric shit ton of bad and tragedy and inexplicable wickedness has happened. The murder-suicide involving an NFL player. The shooting at a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin. The shooting at the movie theater in Aurora, Colorado. The latest is, of course, the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. These are just the shootings that made the national headlines. A quick search of “shootings” on Google and the local headlines start making an appearance. Standoffs, gang violence, domestic violence. Shootings abound.

As we work on processing what exactly it means – particularly the latest tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut – we come at it from different angles. How I look at it as a single, childless, woman is going to be different from how you, who may have a kid or two (or three) in elementary school. You who live in Newtown are going to look at it different than how I, who live in Maine, am going to look at it. I, who openly admit to having varied mental health issues, am going to look at it (the shooter, really) in a different light than you who don’t own any significant mental health issues.

I want to be clear. Hopefully if you’re reading this blog, you know me well enough to know that when I say “I’m looking at the shooter differently” it has nothing to do with me sympathizing with him, excusing him, rationalizing or justifying what he did. There’s nothing that could do that, because really none of those things exist for a man who would willingly walk into a school and kill 27 people, twenty of who were small children.

As happens following any large-scale tragedy, the media is struggling to find an explanation. They want the “why”. That’s fine. We all want the why. Also? That’s their job (admittedly, there are some that do it a whole lot better than others). The New York Times on Saturday had an article exploring what was known at that time about this twenty year-old man. They talk to his high school classmates and anyone else who may have known him. This isn’t out of the ordinary. Also not out of the ordinary is speculation about Asperger’s, depression, social and other anxieties. The man (the boy, he was twenty, he was hardly a man) wasn’t on Facebook. That’s become part of the story. He wasn’t on social media, therefore he is obviously going to be a risk. Or, as a friend just said to me, if it was the inverse it would be, “oh he spends too much time on Facebook/online therefore he must be a risk.” Don’t poo-poo that as an idea, it happened with Anders Breivik following the mass shooting in Norway.

I have so many feelings about media coverage, particularly when tragedies like this happen. There’s the macabre sensationalism. There’s the fairly unmitigated horror. There’s the magnifying glass where some beat reporter will go out to East Gish, USA, looking for Adam Lanza’s ex-girlfriend’s third cousin’s illegitimate brother for an explanation of why Adam Lanza cracked.

Strewn throughout will be tales of heroism – the teachers and principal who instead of running from the gunshots ran towards them. The teachers who shielded as many kids as they could with their own bodies. The first responders, firefighters and police officers who didn’t know what they were walking into, but walked in none the less. The parents who lost, the parents who didn’t.

I want to think that, this time, the news cycle will be a little different. This time I won’t be able to write and predict, to the hour, what stories will be written and when. I don’t WANT the stories that ARE going to be written to HAVE to be written.

What I really want to know is what it’s going to take. How many children, mothers, fathers, grandparents, sisters, brothers, cousins, friends, are going to have to die before there is incentive for whole-scale change to happen.

To be clear, I am in no way suggesting that we abolish guns. That is a battle that would be among the most fruitless ever fought. Not because if it was actually successful it wouldn’t yield results, but because nothing would EVER come of starting such a battle except a tremendous headache from banging one’s head against the wall. On the other hand, things can’t go on the way they have been. Existing gun laws are quantitatively not enough. Not to prevent nor to protect.

Let us fall back, regroup (again), and do something that next time may prevent/reduce tragedy on such a grand scale. There’s a disease in our country. And, as with any disease, it isn’t something that can be cured just by addressing the visible symptoms.

As much as I’d like to see AK-47s and other automatic weapons taken off the streets, the issue isn’t wholly the guns. Guns are the vehicle for death and destruction, but something has to push people to the point that they’re willing to wreak death and destruction. Whether it’s an event, a circumstance or some lack thereof, it is a desperate and broken man (or, rarely, woman) who is willing to do the things that have been done.

Let’s talk about a system that’s so broken that even when parents/teachers/counselors/guardians can see there is a problem, they can see a potential threat, their best option is to get that kid arrested. Aside from the links I’ve seen discussed on social media (chief among them Anarchist Soccer Mom), I’ve had friends who’ve told me they have been told the best option for their child was to enter the juvenile justice system.

There are statistics all over the Internet. Jails are turning into mental health institutions. There is a nigh astronomical rise of people – both adults and kids – entering jails so they can get the support and medicines they need. Too often people are making the choice between medicine, counseling and food. Before we even start to tackle where the line should be drawn when it comes to peoples’ access to guns. Before we even tackle where the line should be drawn when it comes to what guns people should have access to. Perhaps we can address the circumstances that drive people to think that mass violence is their only option for healing.


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