Over the past several days, we’ve all been exposed to lots of information surrounding the school shooting, gun control, mental health issues, heroes, villains. Not to mention an absurd number of questions that we still don’t have answers to—and may never have answers to.
I’ve been publicly quiet on the incident until now. I felt it important to let things sink in for a few days. Gather more details. And to see what would transpire in the days after the tragedy. As with many big stories that rock the nation, I find the sociological response to be genuinely intriguing, and it takes a few days for that to begin playing out.
The rest of this piece is focused on specifics surrounding the event—not just the shooting on Friday, but much of what has transpired in the days following. Some things I’m disappointed in our country for, while others, I’m quite proud.
No surprise here. I think we’ve all been disappointed with the media at one point or another. The American media has been misguided for many years. And here’s what’s most disturbing.
Our news is inundated with negativity. You get home from work, kiss your spouse, hug your son, eat a lovely meal, kick up your feet, and flip on the TV to find wonderful stories about… 1 person shot in a drive-by, 2 more killed in a fatal car wreck, an armed robbery on the 23rd block of Everywhere St., Bombs flying over Baghdad, 4 troops killed in combat, 19 in a suicide bombing in the Middle East.
If you’re lucky enough to still be alive by the time they get to sports, do you even care anymore?
Negativity in the news doesn’t make someone shoot up a school. But when violence & negativity comprise the majority of your news consumption, they contribute toward the social norm. And consistent, relentless exposure to such violence tells us that violence is OK… even commonplace, in today’s society.
Immediacy & Speculation
“Real-time” is one of my least favorite buzz words of all time. Just like many of us, I get sucked into checking Facebook updates every couple of minutes, constantly refreshing the page to see what’s happening right this second. We’re already past the out-of-control phase. For many people, the need for immediate information has taken over their lives.
The media is the worst culprit. It becomes a race who can break the story first. Who can update the body count before anyone else does? It’s so bad, if you listen to breaking news coverage, you’ll hear Wolf Blitzer repeat the same information over and over and over again. He even prefaces his sentences with, “And once again, here is what we know…” If I did that in this article, you’d stop reading. If someone turned it into a drinking game, the whole world would be wasted.
When the media isn’t stuck on repeat, it’s speculating. They’re interviewing people, force-feeding them questions, looking for the specific answer that validates their pre-conceived notion of what happened. Guess what, guys? That random resident of Newtown, CT—a town of 27,000, by the way—he doesn’t know why this guy did what he did. No one does.
As bad as the media is, I urge you, the human being whom makes her own choices… take a step back. You don’t need your information right now. It can wait. Think about what’s important to you as you go throughout your day. And be in control of your every choice, no matter how much crap the media tries to throw in your face.
I’ll make this very clear from the get-go. I strongly dislike guns, and I’d be thrilled if the only people who were allowed to carry them were law enforcement officers. No personal protection. No birthday parties at the shooting range. No hunting.
I realize I’m in the minority with my beliefs (it’s OK, I’m used to it). But if I had to settle for a compromise, let’s talk about assault rifles. How in the world did our country get to a point where any mentally-stable, non-criminal citizen could buy a semi-automatic assault rifle? Call me ignorant, but that’s absurd.
I’d love to get into why his mom needed 3 guns in the house anyway, one of which was a semi-automatic assault weapon… but that’s speculation at this point, so I’ll save that for another time.
Let’s outlaw all guns, from everyone, everywhere, except law enforcement. And paintball guns. Those can stay.
Changing Gun Laws
Am I the only one who finds it a little weird, that the very people we depend on to pass bills & amend laws (politicians), are some of the most heinously aggressive & misguided people in our society?
Mental Health Issues
While I am glad the gun conversation is front & center, I do think we’re grossly overlooking the mental health issues we face in this country. I don’t know all the stats, but I know it’s a big deal. And I’m pretty sure our health care system is not doing much, if anything, to address it.
I believe it’s even more important to tackle this issue than it is the gun issue. With mental health, we’re talking directly about an individual’s health & well-being. Their quality of life. How they interact with others, are perceived by others and how they perceive themselves.
I’m confident that there are enough passionate professionals in the field who will not let this issue get lost. And I’m hopeful that something will be done, if only a few small steps at first, to bring care to the mentally ill.
The mental health issue is a much more difficult one to discuss (than gun control), but as is almost always the case, the more difficult task is the more important one.
Violence, Vengeance, Vulgarity & Video Games
Our world is filled with all these things. I pointed blame at the media earlier, but we’re all at fault. We fail to realize the things we do in our everyday lives that help paint this picture of what is acceptable in society. Or perhaps even worse, what is expected.
- The vulgar language shouted by the boy’s dad at his baseball game, directed at the teenage umpire.
- Video games with titles like “Assassin’s Creed”, “Left 4 Dead” & “Kill Zone”
- The radio show host who laughs at the story of a caller who beat the crap out of whomever.
- The defensive back who delivers a career-ending, bone-crushing blow to the head of a wide receiver, and then stands over his lifeless body taunting him & celebrating with his teammates.
- The sport of boxing. Or ultimate fighting. Enough said.
We’re surrounded by violence in this country. And again, that alone does not make someone walk into a school & kill innocent children, but it’s absolutely part of the problem. It doesn’t matter whether you have a mental illness or are completely well. The proliferation of violence is contagious, and in this country, we’re even starting to embrace it. And that makes me sad beyond comprehension.
I mean, seriously. They call them First. Person. Shooter. Games. You don’t get any worse than that.
Bring back Gandhi & Desmund Tutu. Mad respect for those two. They’re more manly & cool than any two clowns in today’s spotlight.
Heroes & Human Beings
With all the things we’ve done, and are doing, terribly wrong in this country, it’s still a beautiful place to live, filled with some amazing individuals. Some people (and TV networks) have made a point not to say the shooter’s name, and focus on the victims instead. I can certainly admire that, and will honestly say this is the first tragedy of this kind where I will remember more about the victims than I will about the shooter.
I hope I forget the shooter’s name in due time. And part of me doesn’t even want to know why he did it. Regardless of the reason, I know it won’t make any sense to me. I don’t think the same way he thought. Most of us don’t. And that’s why most of us will never understand why.
Instead, I’m going to remember 27-year-old first grade teacher, Vicki Soto, and principal, Dawn Hochsprung. They’ve been heroes to their kids all along. And they did nothing different on Friday.
Hug your kids. Hug your friends. Call your parents, tell them you love them.
Tell your teacher how amazing she is. Learn your principal’s name.
Stop to think about all the people who have helped you along the way. Say thank you. And remind them that you’ll always be there for them, too.
Take a stand. Against guns. For mental health. Or any other issue you disagree with. This country is only as great as the people who live here. Be thankful you have a voice. Now go express it.