Wednesday, December 19, 2012
Thoughts on the tragedy in Newtown, CT
I used to be a middle school and then a high school teacher.
My dad was an elementary school teacher my whole childhood.
The idea of this act of violence happening just hit me like a brick and I didn't...couldn't...really talk about it without just crying and spouting rage.
So...I want to just address it. I won't announce this post online anywhere...not on Twitter or on FB. It's just for whoever reads my posts. Why? Cause I'm not wanting to fan the fire. I'm just wanting to express my thoughts in general.
I've heard people spouting on about gun control...mental health benefits...prayer/God in schools...and so on. I read a blog post by an author and friend of mine, John Hartness, that I thought was an interesting idea. You can read his Modest Proposal for gun control HERE. He and I'd be interested in your thoughts on that...and I think he's got a good idea here.
Now...as to the "why"...no one can know that except God. That doesn't stop everyone, me included, in thinking about the reasons. Me personally, I do not believe it comes down to one thing, one person, one problem, etc. I think it's a culmination of issues...I have six of those on my mind...and none of that is God in schools. I happen to believe in seperation of church and state (unless its a school based on that religion...ie: catholic schools) and you choose to go there/send your kids there.
Anyhoo...here are my thoughts...
#1. THE. MEDIA. I feel this is truly the heart of the issue. If a person is either depressed, vengeful, and/or wanting to end their existance...they use to just kill themselves. Or if they wanted their parents dead, they did it at home. Now...well...they can do it in public and go out in a blaze of glory...get their "fame." The news stops everything to report about them...put their name on papers...put their face on the news. They will become infamous. They will get the attention they feel they so richly deserve. And the media gives it to them. We know the killer's name before a single victim (yes, some of that is due to notifying family) and that's wrong. The victims should be names we know, the killer should be given a number, just like in jail. Their face should never be seen. Besides, the curiosity of the people isn't so much about WHO as it is WHY. And the "who" part is more on...was he/she young or old, did they have a connection to the location or people, and what is their background. None of that can be explained by a name or face. We should really remove both. Know them by numbers or numbers with letters. Random things you will forget unless you study it in behavioral science.
#2. QUALITY TIME. Due to the economy, many parents today are having to work two jobs to support a family (either because of low pay or because one of the spouses is w/o work or not in the picture for one reason or another) and they spend less time with their kids having quality time. That time also is wonderful for teaching them values as well as other things. However, not many of these families can do much about the problem of no time for the "family unit." They MUST work or those kids won't eat or have shelter, and those things are much more important than family time and I get it. Yet...I think it should be something the family unit strives for again. My family had dinner each night together. No phones, no TV, nothing but discussing things in our lives. Support, love, and attention...all things our busy lives seem to not put focus on anymore.
#3. RELIGION. Parents tend to not discuss religion in the home much anymore as it's become the norm to not go to church. When I was a kid, 80% of families went to a church of some kind, whether they were religious or not. Now most families don't force religion on their children. I agree with not forcing...I do not agree, however, in not exposing them to religion. Expose and let them decide...from middle school through high school...after that, its their call. Now, I may not attend church regularly myself, but I have a background in it and I learned my love/respect of others from there as much as from my family. In fact, when my life at public school was utter shite, and my home life was having stress, my friends at church were who made me feel good about who I was...who I could be. So...there are other reasons church is good...support and friends...as well as values taught. Not just Jesus. Not just God. Not just religion.
#4. MENTAL HEALTH. Either parents do not have insurance to help their children if they show signs of mental instability OR worse, they turn a blind eye to it. NO ONE likes to think that the one they love could have something wrong with them. It has become quite an issue in this country; ignore the problem and it will go away. Sadly, that doesn't work. But it is WIDELY practiced. I think it has a lot to do with perception...what will people think of my family if one of them needs help? What does that say about ME? News flash: It's not about YOU! Quit thinking you did something wrong if your child needs help. Sure, you could've had an influence or hand in it...but 8 times out of 10...it's very likely a chemical imbalance that can be treated. (Note: If you did have a hand in their issues, damn it, be an adult and own up to it...learn, apologize, help them! It's your responsibility.)
#5. TV/VIDEO GAME/MOVIE VIOLENCE. No...these do NOT cause the problem. I repeat...they ARE NOT THE CAUSE. Mind you, they do create an air of violence being both "cool" and "ok"...much like smoking used to be seen. When I was teaching middle school theater in Hickory, NC, and my classes would do improv scenes...if I put a ban on violence they were stumped. The boys especially. They would stand there and look at me with NO idea how to create a scene without violence. That is sad. (Note: You might then point a finger at fantasy books (YA and adult) as they too have violence, mine included. I can't speak for others, but I know I try to keep it minimal and story based...and show concequences when it fits. Most authors I know do NOT use violence for the sake of excitement and sales. That, however, is not so much the case for a lot of TV, movies, and especially video games. There's your difference.)
Last but not least...
#6. GUNS. Firstly, they are WAY too easy to get your hands on. I think you should be able to own a gun if you want one to protect yourself. I see no reason to stop people from owning them. I DO think that there should be testing done in order to get one, a yearly fee, and insurance that would penalizes you if your guns are used by you or someone else to kill another human being. (Someone is huffing and puffing right now that they shouldn't be held responsible if someone steals their gun and uses it to kill someone.......I'm not saying you go to jail....I'm saying you are penalized financially for not locking up those things appropriately.) Secondly, I think that you do NOT need a semi-automatic weapon to protect you and your home. A six shooter...a shotgun...fine. They will kill and protect you easily enough. I highly doubt that an army of 20 are going to break into your home, which is why semi-automatics are good for. One gun with a few shots should do you fine. If the young man who went into the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT had only had a revolver with six bullets...unless his aim was stellar...chances are, only a few would have been hit before someone tackled him.
Those are some of my thoughts. Only thoughts and opinions. To be honest...I have NO idea why. I can only speculate...which is what that above is.
I point no fingers at just one thing...I don't think we can. I think it's a mixture of the above and evil. There is extreme good in this world...and extreme evil...and sometimes evil wins. But let's remember, good can be born from the evil. Bad things happen. It's what we do about that...how we react...how we learn/grow from it that adds more evil or brings light.
My heart is broken for those families...not just those of the children who died, but for the families of the teachers who died for those children as well. May God bless all those affected this holiday season. If you are someone who talks to a higher power...please do so, for those families. Lift up a prayer or chant...etc. If you have kids...hug them. Tell them you love them. Show them every day how every life has value. I think that is so very important.
I cannot fathom this kind of pain...it just takes my breath away to think on it...may God give them some them the peace only He can...somehow...
And Dad...I'm so blessed that this was never a situation when you taught school. Thank you and mom for all the time you spent with me...teaching me right from wrong and the value of each life. You both worked very hard to make sure I had more than just clothes on my back, a roof over my head, and food in my belly. It was hard work to find that time, to give up time for self, in order to to mold/teach me. Know that I appreciate it and you. So thank you. I love you both with all my heart.