Sandy Hook Massacre is not Isolated It’s Part of Something that’s Systemic
Part of the challenge before us is to move this of this national conversation away from seeing these acts of violence as isolated, out of the ordinary occurrences and see them as systemic. This is not comfortable for many to do. The reason being is that when you look at mass shootings from a systemic level it calls into question our actions or lack of actions. It calls into account our own complicity in furthering this culture of violence. It brings forth our own contradictions. This includes the types of conversations and steps we take to ensure peace vs cheering on and fantasizing about violent responses to complex problems. Far too many of us say we want peace and we want our children to live in peace , but our actions say otherwise. We applaud violence. We accept violence.. We enable violence in many aspects of our lives and on many levels. From the music we listen to, to what we watch on TV to what sort of laws we allow to pass on or not pass on our watch…
Its gotten to a point where talking about love is something seen a perverse, out of pocket and even unnatural. That in itself is crazy, because so many of us profess we are God fearing and church loving, but you wouldn’t know that in the ways we embrace this culture of violence.
We have to take stock in what are we modeling for the kids we say we care about? What seeds are we planting? How are we helping them as well as ourselves to heal? We tell them they have to be ruthless in business. We tell them negativity sells and that by taking the high road you are weak sauce. We scoff at compassion? As we bury 20 kids this week, in what ways will we change our thinking?
Our contradictions include politicians who deliberately avoid important conversations about gun safety, assault weapon bans and mental health checks for those who wish to own guns, for fear of angering the NRA gun lobby. Frankly put there’s been lack of leadership. Right now many elected officials are talking a good game. They’re gonna show up at the funerals. they’re gonna hold press conferences and express extreme sorrow. They’re gonna do like they’ve always done after a tragedy like this.. but once the dust settles and the cameras are gone and lobbying money rolls in, gun control and gun safety discussions are buried. It’s the height of hypocrisy. When will that change? When and how will we make them change?
Our contradictions include mainstream media oversimplifying complex issues, manufacturing outrage and pushing fear buttons by scapegoating and pitting groups of people against one another. Following such paths may be politically comfortable and expedient and make for good TV, but its counterproductive to the steps we need to take to turn things around. When will we recognize the type of damage they are waging on folks? When will we say enough is enough to fear mongering?
Mental health beyond Adam Lanza
Ideally we should all be talking about mental health. We need to know what was a Adam Lanza suffering from? Was it depression, bi-polar disorder, panic attacks, extreme anxiety, post traumatic stress disorder (PSDT)? Was it psychological or physical? Did he have a chemical imbalance? Was help available? Affordable? Accessible? How widespread is his condition? Do the people involved in the incidents listed earlier also suffer from similar health challenges? What sort of investments have we made to help people get well? If we’re willing help Adam Lanza in the suburbs of Newtown and understand he was a troubled man are we willing help Ray Ray in the inner city of Chicago who may also be suffering?
Adding to these difficult questions around mental health is the issue of suicide. Long time educator, poet and scholar Mark Gonzales spoke to this issue the other night at a Pecha Kucha gathering in Oakland. He reminded us that we can not see the frequencies of mass shootings separate from the high rates of suicide that are taking place in this country every year, especially when you take into account that in many of these incidents the perpetrators killed themselves or acted in such a way that they would be killed. Gonzales noted that every year in the US 1.2 million people attempt suicide. In our military, more people have committed suicide than died in combat. What is that about? How does that relate to those who act with reckless abandon and are quick to pull the trigger at the slightest provocation? Whats the mental challenges afflicting those who can’t imagine themselves living a long life?
These are hard questions. When we look at what took place at Sandy Hook elementary, our grief, anger and collective disbelief makes it easy for us to sum everything up and conclude Lanza and others who do these mass murders are just ‘evil’ and simply need to be locked away and removed from society. To a degree that may be true, but the frequencies of killings both on en mass like in Sandy Hook or what occurs daily in our inner city streets, suggests that sooner or later we are gonna have to cross that bridge and honestly deal with mental health. There’s no getting around it. We can only hide from reality for so long.
In having this conversation about mental health we have to be honest and note that our discussion has to move beyond Adam Lanza and why he snapped. It’s also gotta also be about his mother Nancy Lanza and the millions of people who live in this country like her who felt a need to buy all those weapons in the first place. Was she really a ‘gun enthusiast’ as described in the news by her friends? Why did she have so many guns in her house where her son lived knowing he was troubled? Was she someone who was fearful or angry who felt the only way to feel safe was to stockpile weapons? If so, what was driving those emotions? Was she fearful of the government? If so what brought about that distrust?
Did she like so many others believe the government is going to collapse like in all those end-of-days, doomsday prepper reality shows. Did she think martial law and total government take over is imminent?
Was she fearful of crime? What was she afraid of in Newtown a place that was depicted as one where crime hardly occurred? Did something bad happened to her to stoke her fears? Was she ever healed from it? Was she fearful of a certain type of person rooted in media stereotypes? The angry crack dealing ‘Willie Horton type Black guy? The ‘illegal’ border jumping Brown guy? The ‘American hating’ Middle Eastern Muslim terrorist?
And while such scenarios and characteristics may not have applied specifically to Adam Lanza’s mom, they sure as hell do to many who went out and increased gun sales by a whooping 20% since the re-election of President Barack Obama. That’s on top of the massive increase that occurred when he was first elected. Eventually we’re gonna not only have to have a conversation about race, class, economic inequality and uncertainty, distrust and all those messy, uneasy topics that have been avoided, but we’re also going to have to take some hard decisive steps to resolve these long-standing issues. Like I said earlier, up til now, playing to people’s fears and anxieties has been profitable for a whole lot of folks.. That’s gotta stop or we’re gonna see more of the same. The Massacre at Sandy Brook is not in isolation.
In honoring the 27 people killed last Friday in Newtown, Ct, we’re gonna have to take some bold steps and move away from our comfort zones. We talk about how courageous the teachers were who protected the kids and gave their lives. We’re heaping praise on Dawn Hocksprung, Rachel Davino, Anne Marie Murphy, Lauren Russeau, Mary Sherlach and Victoria Soto for making the ultimate sacrifice, but how many of us are willing to make sacrifices in our social, political and economic outlook to bring about better tomorrows? We can’t have more of the same. We reached a fork in the road..Love or Violence..Ignorance or Consciousness.. Fear or Enlightenment… The choice is ours..RIP to all the children killed this weekend at Sandy Brook..Charlotte, Daniel, Olivia, Josephine, Ana, Madline, Dylan, Catherine, Chase, Jesse, James, Grace, Emilie, Jack, Noah, Caroline, Jessica, Avielle, Benjamin, Allison..RIP to all the children killed around this country to senseless violence ..RIP to all the children killed to senseless drone strikes and other acts of war and exploitation