In what kind of society do so many run amok?
My response to the Newtown massacre was immediate, but I had to let it percolate before letting it out. There are a lot of problems with modern America, some breed anger, some sorrow, some, like John Boehner, the Kardashians, and Honey Boo-Boo, breed sarcastic derision.
But let’s look at this: I’m all in favor of gun legislation, but the fact is that guns are readily available in the USA, and will continue to be. In any case, this kid used his mother’s guns, all legal and tidy. You can likely print a working gun on a 3-D printer soon, or we’ll have the future of laser death rays to contend with. Ever since Cain and Abel, children and murder have been linked. Let’s not fool ourselves into thinking we can ban our way out of this.
Arming teachers puts a loaded gun where kids may have access and putting our kids under guard is a march to a police state. Our kids are under ‘protective house arrest’ too much already – we hardly let them out of doors in or out of school. And what would one unprotected teacher or even a trained guard do against someone with Kevlar armor and a semi-automatic? Banning assault rifles and extended clips are no-brainers, and serious background checks for all sales are all regulations commensurate with the danger. Good news if legislation gets around the NRA lobbying efforts, but not a solution to the problem.
Violent movies and video games are likewise symptomatic, not causative. I find the Bourne movies and Tarantino films fun. I find the first-person shooter games distasteful, but I am not a gamer. Both are desensitizing, and God knows we are a desensitized culture in terms of violence and sex. So is Japan, but they don’t go around killing their own. China has very little pornographic or violent content available to its citizens, yet they have ‘muckers’ – people running amok – stabbing children horrifically in schools. So go ahead and work on the availability of content, but will that curb this type of violence so prevalent in our country today?
Improvement of mental health services is the third area in the talk-o-sphere. Anyone who would do wholesale murder of children is by definition disturbed, and Adam was no exception. It is, by two accounts, his mother’s attempt to put him in touch with the mental health system that precipitated his actions. Given our behindered mental health system, his reaction is understandable even if the action was off the charts extreme. But the reluctance of many to lose their freedom and be drugged to submission reflects the inability of the mental health system to deal with this endemic and epidemic explosive alienation.
In an industrialized society of three hundred million souls, can we keep track of everyone? In the face of this event, and the similar ones that come before and will follow, there is only one true answer: community. Can everyone be included, embraced? It’s a tall order and we must be careful; the ability of an individual to isolate himself in order to do his art or to work through a time of grief or religious struggle must be protected. We don’t want Big Brother looking over every shoulder.
But with children, we really do have to look wider and deeper. Small nuclear families are a relatively new event in human society – maybe just the last 100 years – and it breeds an isolation compounded by easy divorce and social mobility. Kids can isolate themselves in situations where home is impotent, school is institutional, and nothing else in society penetrates the loneliness, the immersion in games or the internet, where the descent into madness results in an Adam.
We have to care for our children – choking off the children is choking off the future, truism but true. We have to reach our arms and eyes out sideways to not just my kids but my neighbor’s kids and my kid’s friends and the kids I see. We are not going back to Mayberry RFD, but we have to establish the equivalent of community in urban schools, in suburban neighborhoods. No Child Left Behind needs an equivalent No Child Left Outside.
This is not business, it’s personal. I have reached out this week to several children within my sphere who could be in trouble. But this small measure needs to be repeated country-wide, and we need to work on making it real in every school – teachers, parents, and kids themselves reaching out to make sure no one is left out of the community, for it is those who are left out who have always made these desperate shouts of terror. But today – with easy access to weapons and images of how to use them – these tortured cries rend our social fabric as never before.
The scene of the 20 mothers and dads left in the firehouse with no children coming home is horrific for any parent, an unthinkable pit of the stomach wrench from reality. No law, penalty, surveillance, or ban is going to solve this for us. It is a personal responsibility, an each-and-every-one task: include us all, reach out and touch the untouchables, leave no child in the emotional cold, use our real arms, not our armaments.