Saturday, December 15, 2012

Sandy Hook Tragedy & My Views - A Social Commentary

**The Husband's Turn to Hijack the Blog Again**

Let me say this up front. Nearly every piece of information in this blog is MY OPINION. I do my best to base my opinion on facts whenever I can, which can make me seem very wishy-washy. My opinions seem to change about almost everything... I mean, I guess that is normal, right? I do not claim to be an expert... pretty much ever. I am not smart enough to be an expert, and I think to be an expert you need to know EVERYTHING about the subject. I think it is funny when I see someone on TV that has '_____ Expert' in their title. More often than not, they have a TEAM of people that know a whole awful lot about something... but THEY them self are not an expert.

To cover a wide range of things and to help me keep myself on track, I will divide this up in to sections. I am going to write this blog very raw, so it might be a little disturbing. As a parent, I can not write these thoughts without emotion. My soul was shaken to its core yesterday. All day long, whenever any of us would talk about it, L was in my mind. I fought back tears for most of the day every time someone would bring it up. I am fighting back tears just typing those last couple of sentences.
I am fascinated by serial killers and murderers. I have multiple books about them.  For years, Rachelle has been a little disturbed and worried about this.  I enjoy reading about them, what they were like, how they were raised. I try to find and understand their tipping point. As best I can remember, very few of them had a bad childhood or were abused. Often times there is something that to most rational people is just a very trivial event that sets them off. This applies to rampagers and serial killers alike. The difference being that the serial killer often has a justifiable mental condition for them to continue to take lives. Rampagers are often just pissed off about an event ("temporary insanity") and when they snap out of it and realize what they have done, kill themselves so as to not live with the guilt and have to face the public outrage. Obviously there are exceptions, but based on what I know and have read, this is the typical profile.

Who in the hell kills little kids?
I think that is the absolute most disturbing thing to me. Not that he killed his mom, or that he went in to a school and shot and killed others. The most shocking and disturbing thing to me is that he was able to walk in to an elementary school, in to a Kindergarten classroom, look at a room full of 5/6 year olds and pull the trigger, multiple times. Very disturbing.

The "Facts" and My Theories
 As is the nature of "news reporting" in this day, I have heard multiple reports that turned out to be false. I had heard that he killed his mother IN the classroom and then turned the gun on her students.  That made sense to me.... that is how these kind of things go. There might be a few collaterals on the way to the target, you get your original target, the adrenaline is really rushing now, and you start indiscriminately firing on anyone in your path. HOWEVER, the latest that I read said that he killed his mom AT THE HOUSE, and then drove to the school, and you know the rest. To me, that does not suggest blind rage. I heard a medical professional (I believe it was a psychiatrist) that was commenting on this. She said that by doing this he was killing another part of his mom. That makes me wonder if he thought of those kids as more important to his mom than he was. It has been said that they had a fight the evening before, or the morning of (again, the 'news reports' are all over the place when it come to the facts). Was this a central theme of the argument? Did his mom actually say something to support my assumption? We will probably never know.

I have heard some say that he possibly had Aspergers or was in some way on the Autism Spectrum. He has been described as 'painfully shy', 'socially awkward', and 'a very good student'. This could support the ASD claim, but nothing has been confirmed.
 At the risk of sounding like a jerk, I am on the fence if I want it to be an ASD diagnosis or not. On one hand, of course I do not want any negative attention on the autism community. They (as in the advocates) struggle enough as it is to be accepted into mainstream society and I would not want anything to set that back. On the other hand, if it comes out that he did have Aspergers or Autism, maybe this tragedy will lead to more research, more funding, better treatments, etc. etc.

Universal Health Care
 I have never been a proponent of ObamaCare. I have been to countries that have a free healthcare system and it has many flaws. Hell, the military medical system IS Universal Health Care, and if you follow Rachelle's many Facebook posts about the subject, you KNOW that the military healthcare system is a pain in the ass. After reading some very thought provoking posts and commentaries in the last day, I have come to the opinion that we DO need some aspects of Universal Healthcare in place. Most importantly, access to and care of those with mental health issues. I believe it is crucial that we focus on changing the stigma associated with mental health disorders. Far too often, those with mental health issues are looked down upon, medicated, and/or thrown into either an institution, or back in to society without the proper supports needed to help them get better. We must do a better job. We are the most advanced society ever, and every day we become more advanced.

Gun Control
Probably the most contentious and widespread argument to be debated is, and will continue to be, gun control. That if the killer did not have such easy access to guns this tragedy, and many more like it, would easily be prevented. That when they wrote the 2nd Amendment, they were not thinking about technology and modern weaponry. I find it hard to argue the constitutional argument. I tend to agree with those people in a basic sense. I do not agree with those who say that taking guns off the street will solve the problem and the facts support my opinion. There are many things that are illegal... and every one of those things are still a very prominent part of our society. Drugs are illegal, yet we still have a drug problem.
 Looking at the Washington D.C. and Chicago gun control laws that have been ruled unconstitutional, the murder and violent crime rates DECREASED in number, by as much as 14%, in those cities after the laws were ended versus when they were in place. Nationwide, in states that have Right-to-Carry laws, the violent crime rate is 24% lower than the rest of the U.S., the murder rate is 28% lower, and the robbery rate is 50% lower. The only conclusion I can make of this is that when lawful citizens are properly armed, unlawful persons are less likely to commit violence.  

Society, in General
Easy access to violent video games, tv shows, movies is another huge argument. I do believe that our society is disenfranchised with face-to-face social interactions. I am an example of this. I would much rather communicate through email than I would through personal contact. I can formulate my questions and responses more thoughtfully and articulately. I can type something, think about it, and reword it so that it makes my point stronger, or sometimes even changes my opinion once I see it written out. I've wondered if the video games and such alter our sense of reality, of good and evil, so much that we lose touch. But I do not think that is it. I think it has more to do with the WAY we are raising our children. We have lost touch with what it means to be a parent. We are consumed by such a fast paced lifestyle and the pursuit of something better that we do not take the time to teach our children these fundamental life lessons and skills. My dad never taught me to shoot a gun, but he did make sure that I knew that guns do, in fact, kill things... make them dead, forever. I cried the first time I killed a living creature. A pigeon. Since that day, I have shot and killed many a squirrel, rabbit, and raccoon. But I have never forgotten what it is like to take the life of a living creature.

I went to Basic Training with a number of people who were experiencing their first time holding and shooting a gun. Perhaps, even to this day, the only thing that they have ever shot was a piece of paper with a target on it. It was not until I started writing this blog that I had that thought. Thinking about it more, that saddens me. I am not saying that everyone should go out and kill something so that they know what it is like... but it damn well would not be the worst thing in the world (done legally of course). Step up as parents, take your kids out of the house and teach them some valuable life lessons that the generations before us learned growing up. Heck, just playing outside is a start in this day and age.
I don't think it is because of the violent video games, though that might admittedly be biased because I enjoy playing those shooting games that are often blamed. If I die in the video game, I come back to life and continue playing. I have a hard time thinking that anyone can get this confused with reality. Does anyone really believe that when you shoot someone that they just come back to life across the neighborhood? It might desensitize us to the violence, but surely everyone can understand that 1) It is a video game and 2) that death is forever. Perhaps that is just the optimist in me, but I really hope not.
The immortality displayed in movies, to me, is a more likely companion to the real life violence. Rachelle pointed it out to me as we discussed the contents of this blog post so far. When you watch a movie and a character is shot multiple times and does not immediately die, or even lives long enough to tell the hero who the bad guy is... maybe that does more damage to our psyche. Perhaps that leads people to believe that one bullet does not really kill. But then I think back to my childhood and the shows and cartoon that I watched. I can not even count the number of times that I saw Wiley Coyote blow himself up, or Tom maul himself with a hammer, Jerry narrowly escaping each and every time. We were subjected to a LOT of violence, but it was a different time and often it was animated.

I believe a lot of the problem in the United States can be attributed to the declining importance of basic manners. Maybe not the extreme violence, but just the general lack of care and concern for our fellow man. Do we live such a fast paced life that we can not take the time to say please and thank you? We can not allow common decency become extinct. This 'me first' attitude HAS to stop. I am as guilty as the next guy at times, so this is definitely not a holier than thou issue.

Having said all of this, I believe perhaps more than any reason, that it boils down to media sensationalism. In the rush to break the story, facts are misreported and, as we have undoubtedly seen over the last 24 hours, we just flat out get the wrong information. Again, because we live in the information age and everyone has access to the newest story, we are inundated with bad news as soon as it happens. Fifty years ago, the majority of us would not know anything about Sandy Hook until we read the evening paper... after a lot more of the facts were known and the rumors were laid to rest.We would be reading a fairly comprehensive article of facts and not assumptions or 'breaking news'. I think this kind of immediate news leads us to believe it is more commonplace than it really is, which then causes the uprising of the 'we need more security/gun control/tougher laws' groups. I do not want to dismiss the need for some reforms, but violent crimes are actually on the decline. We just hear about them more often because of the flow if information.
Along with the availability of the internet and the free flow of information comes the 1st Amendment (and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted by the United Nations) and the rights of Free Speech/Religion/Expression. This is perhaps the greatest freedom that we enjoy, but it also comes with what I perceive as downfalls. We are free to spout off inaccurate and vile information to anyone without regard to the consequences, with very limited exception. The anonymity of the internet allows us to say things we normally would not say and to do things we would never dream of doing otherwise. This causes those who are not as strong in their core values to take what they read and hear as a challenge to do something even bigger and more heinous knowing that they will forever be immortalized. Their accountability is non-existent, but their story will live forever.
 Freedom of Speech is a tricky issue. If I advocate for changes to the First Amendment, I have no leg to stand on to those who argue that if we can change one amendment, why not the other. What we need to do is take a good hard look at ourselves as a society and change it from the inside out. 

Fundamentally, we need to be better people. That is the core issue. Take responsibility for your actions, take responsibility for the actions of your children. Teach others respect, tolerance... most of all teach LOVE.


  1. Well said, Shannon. You covered a lot of subjects related in some way to this tragic event and I agree with your perspective all the way around. I'm hopeful that a focus on affordable, easily accessible and affective treatment for mental health issues will somehow work it's way out of this tragedy. I am very concerned with the autism link and what that could mean for our children. As though our job of advocating wasn't already difficult, it will surely become even more daunting. Thank you for sharing some rational thoughts. Well done, my friend.

  2. Wow! Very impressed! My exact thoughts. Decent people have been taught the basics of human decency. If you don't feel right walking away from clerk at McDonalds without saying thank-you, chances are, you won't feel right shootin' 'em either. And you don't have to make a big production of telling your kids, ", what do you sayyy?". Just use manners of please, thank you, door holding 100% of time yourself and the kids will follow suit without the showy display of, 'See what a good parent I am?' Show the children what a good adult becomes. I'm not a church-goer, I straddle the fence and refuse to be a hypocrite, but it doesn't take Bible thumping to raise children that realize the basic tenant of being part of society is respect for human kind. Then those children who have social akwardness might be accepted into the fray at a younger age and not feel so isolated. Even Disney has kids making rude comments to each other in the name of comedy. It becomes the norm and more socially akward kids are going to grow into angry isolated adults that feel like they never had a place and hate the people that seemed to breeze through social acceptance. Gun laws will never change a young fragile heart. Only acceptance and kindness as early as possible will.