I am like anyone else who has witnessed the horrible tragedy last week at Sandy Hook Elementary School. It is hard not to have watched it all unfold without having your emotions wrenched. These kinds of mass killings leave one speechless. What can you say that can adequately express how you feel or make any substantive difference? Yet, we are all somehow compelled to say or do something.
I avoid getting into debates with people over what I think are unwinnable areas of discussion. For me, these include politics, religion, Middle East peace, who makes the best pizza…and gun control.
It’s that last one that is in the news again because of the shootings in Connecticut. It makes me want to call time out! I think, once more, we have jumped the gun, no pun intended. I agree, we need to have more restrictive gun laws in this country, but I also agree that I don’t think guns are at the core of the problem that leads to these horrific killings. Guns are only the enablers. Why is it we don’t put as much time and energy into discussing the real issue? Hold that thought.
It is sad how some have reacted to the murders at Sandy Hook. An example: former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee said on Fox news that the blame lies in the fact that we have not allowed God in our public schools. As I said, I won’t debate religion, but when I see the pictures of the little children who were killed last week, Huckabee’s statement turns my stomach. Even more discouraging, if you look on his website, is that a lot of people agreed with him. Speaking of asinine, Texas Governor John Perry called for arming our teachers. There’s a great idea: let’s poor more guns into the problem, especially into our schools. It’s true what they say, things in Texas are bigger—even their idiots.
If gun control has merit in this debate, so too does our country’s preoccupation with violence. I know, I sound like a grandfather when I criticize the violence on television, at the movies, and in our video games. I know I am in a minority. Most think my thinking is distorted and over-reactive.
I have never been one who is entertained by watching violence. Of course, I know it is not real when I see someone blown to bits just before the sexy car commercial comes on. But I am tired of that argument. I don’t buy it anymore.
Imagine the horror of being in that school Friday morning and hearing the gun shots coming toward you. Why is it then, when we see a similar scene in a crime show on television it is something enjoyable to watch? Viewers find it exciting. They actually make a conscious effort to tune in and watch it. The movie, Fargo, comes to mind. Folks loved that movie. It won two of seven Oscar nominations. I walked out on it. It had too much graphic, senseless killing for me. Movies are made to involve you, put you in the scene, make it all seem real. They do all those things for me. Guess I’m a sucker viewer. That’s why I don’t go to violent movies. I get sucked in. I get scared to death. My blood pressure can’t take it.
Just think of the hours of violence our young children are exposed to…and it’s not all make believe. Just watch the local news on a regular basis and you will be exposed to convenience store stickups, drive-by shootings and baseball bat beatings of homeless people. There are so many of these kinds of events that I don’t even think they should be shown on the news—they are not news. News is something that is “new” or unusual. This kind of violence goes on all the time. I’m told normal children grow up assimilating it as normal. Shootings are no difference from car crashes. They happen all the time. Get over it.
Okay, now back to that thought I asked you to hold. What happens when all the violence we create and display in our media is viewed by children who are NOT normal? How do they interpret these events? How do they assimilate them into their everyday life? This, I think, has more to do with Sandy Hook than gun control, increased security in our hallways or stronger punishment for the perpetrators.
Normal people can deal with what is normal and abnormal. They can tell the difference. But can we say the same for an individual who has some kind of serious mental disorder. Can this individual tell the difference between real and unreal, right and wrong?
Think about it–there is one thing common to all these mass shootings that everyone can agree on, and that is this: any individual who walks into a kindergarten class, a movie theater, a shopping center or a college campus, and is armed with weapons which he uses to arbitrarily shoot and kill anyone he sees…that person is not mentally stable. I don’t care what the shrinks say; I don’t care what the courts say. This kind of person is not normal. They’re nuts!
Mental health is obviously a very complex issue, but in this case, at least on the surface, it is somewhat elementary. All these people who went on shooting rampages are crazy—it’s as simple as that! They have to be. No normal person performs this kind of act. Only a crazy person would do something like this. It is, I think, the common element and the root of the problem of these mass shootings.
We, as a country, do a poor job dealing with the seriously mentally ill. We place a stigma on them that says “stay away” or put them away. Our budget cutbacks always take money and facilities away from helping them. It is sad to say, but we cope more easily with people who commit crimes than we do with those who are mentally ill. If you and are confronted with a criminal you almost know what to say or what to do, even if it is nothing more than to cooperate and hope he goes away. But if we are confronted with someone who is seriously sick in the head, we simply are not sure how to handle the situation. It’s panic time.
We can argue guns, God and whatever for whenever. If we do not make a genuine effort to identify and deal with serious mental illness, especially among our young children, we can expect none of us will ever be safe from experiencing the horror at Sandy Hook.