Of course my heart, as I’m sure all our hearts, goes out to the families of the victims of the Newtown tragedy. I want to preface this post with the fact these are my own observations and opinions – this is merely an editorial I hope will start a conversation into solving an abhorrent, yet increasingly common ailment of society. I have more questions than answers, but I feel strongly that only in coming together as a community searching for solutions, do we stand a hope in abolishing these atrocities from happening.
This incident hit home stronger than ever due to the many innocent young souls lost, and the brave teachers that died trying to protect them. The victims are not just those that lost their lives – consider the six year old that witnessed the carnage who must find the courage to walk back into a classroom again. It boggles my mind. The fact I spent the day after the massacre surrounded by children of the same age at the Christmas party organized by BAFTA LA made it all the more poignant.
The anguish in those parents faces in Connecticut haunted me as I watched my friends play soccer, children screaming with glee throwing snowballs and building snow castles (I did find the humor in how southern California kids are more accustomed to building sand castles than snowmen), singing and dancing, jumping on bouncy toys, and playing games to win tickets in exchange for gifts.
We were in an open park. I was well aware of how easily it could have happened there. In fact, there actually was another shooting incident that evening in a shopping mall I frequent with my family near Newport Beach.
It was a bittersweet experience to get to play Santa’s helper and hand out all the toys, t-shirts, and dvd’s donated by BAFTA LA members, and the studios. As joyous as the occasion was, the shadow of sadness for the families whose holidays were anything but joyful this year persevered throughout – constantly racking my brain for what could have prevented this tragedy, and how we possibly prevent the next?
I’m finding it as difficult as the next person to tear my eyes away from the 24/7 coverage of the event. Perhaps this is part of the healing process? We are humans, therefore our minds will seek answers, but could it possibly be part of the problem? Is it about searching for answers, or is it about ratings? Does our media report responsibly enough? I found it offensive when they started drawing parallels between Adam Lanza’s possible diagnosis of Aspergers syndrome and cause of the attack. Children with Aspergers are much more likely to be the recipients of bullying and violence, than the perpetrators. There is absolutely no known evidence that links the two, so to make these ignorant assumptions puts these already vulnerable children with Aspergers at greater risk for increased ostracization.
When mentally ill individuals gain posthumous fame – does it inspire the next desperate person to do the same? I can’t help asking myself, are we looking for the answers, or someone to blame? Yes, these acts are committed by sick people, but it is a society that is less than healthy that breeds the perfect storm for these situations to happen.
I know my European friends like to point their fingers and say it is an American problem, but the truth of the matter is it could and does happen anywhere throughout the world. Having said that, our lack of gun control laws does play a role. You will never convince me that semi-automatic weapons meant for war, have a place in our homes. I am personally against handguns as well, although I understand people feeling they have a right to defend themselves. So where do you draw the line?
The most eye opening part of the puzzle I’ve run across these past few days is an article written by a mother of a mentally ill son, entitled I Am Adam Lanza’s Mother. I implore you to click this link and read it. I cried when I did. Clearly she is a mother who loves her child, but his problems are too big for her to handle alone. We are failing these families. We have got to start searching for ways of treating these troubled youths before it escalates to another Sandy Hook or Columbine. Incarcerating them is not a solution. It costs us billions in taxpayer dollars anyhow, and only serves to criminalize them further, making them more dangerous, before releasing them back onto the street due to overcrowding. These people need facilities that offer them treatment. Yes, it will cost, but not as high a price as what the victims of Newtown are now paying.
The answers may well come in a form that asks us to open our minds further, find forgiveness and deeper understanding in our hearts; to broaden our concept of what the holiday spirit means. It goes without question that the families of the victims are in our hearts, but what about the families of the perpetrators? Nancy Lanza is a victim as well, and was probably one long before her son shot and killed her. I think it is time we force ourselves to stop labeling these ill individuals as monsters, examine what causes their mental illness, treat them, and fix our flawed system. Yes, this could happen again, but it doesn’t need to if we make guns less available – especially to people with histories of mental and emotional instability, and send those in need to facilities that safely house and treat these illnesses appropriately before they escalate to another violent tragedy.