[Humor and sarcasm are my coping mechanisms, but there is no light you can cast on this situation to find an even remotely humorous angle. Please bear with me, as this has been eating away at me since it happened. I feel like I need to say SOMETHING or it might consume my faith in humanity completely.]
Vile and despicable.
How else can you describe it? If the slaughter of innocents isn’t portending the apocalypse, it’ll do for now.
Like any other compassionate human being, I looked on in horror as the events in Newtown, Connecticut unfolded on Friday. As the often inaccurate details trickled out in the media over the weekend, I kept thinking that even if we find out some equally horrifying back story about the shooter, there will never be an acceptable explanation for why someone would viciously, with calculation and determination, murder 20 little kids, their teachers, and his own mother.
The talking heads and pundits started politicizing the “issue” immediately. The proliferation of guns in our violent society, and conversely, the lack of teachers with concealed-carry permits, the news media’s 24-hour feeding frenzy, violent video games, woefully inadequate mental health care, and our society’s distance from the ever-vigilant sky wizard [who, to paraphrase Doug Stanhope, must have taken Friday off] were all paraded out as excuses for how something so horrible could happen.
In other words, the same thing that happens every time there’s a mass shooting.
Guns are not the problem. Yes, they are the tool of choice for aspiring human feces to end the life of another. But, if they weren’t available, assholes like the Connecticut shooter would still make bombs, or poison, or devise some other mechanism to wreak havoc. Similarly, and you would think obviously, more guns (for teachers, no less) are also not the solution.
The utter ridiculousness of the news outlets [Murder, murder, rape, theft, the KILLER hiding in your refrigerator, murder, and some homeless puppies rescued just in time for Christmas: TONIGHT AT 11!] repeatedly pointing the finger at our new favorite boogieman, violent video games, is nearly vomit-inducing. Not to mention that the repeated publicity of these incidents, and especially their perpetrators, only serves to incite copycats looking to immortalize their names in the public consciousness. None of the overtly violent media, including the news, are the root cause.
The same goes for the lack of adequate (mental) healthcare for everyone. While indicative of a society not caring for the most needful of its members, it isn’t the cause either.
Doubly so for our waning faith in a cloud-based figment of our collective imaginations that will magically sort out all of our problems. Jesus, Allah, Brahman, and Elohim, are only names for the ways we cede responsibility for our own actions and destinies to something outside our control or comprehension. They are merely methods of self-delusion that have far outlived their relevance and usefulness.
Humanity truly can’t see the forest for the trees. None of these things are the source of the problem. They are symptoms of a society that is sick to it’s rotten core. We’re going to have to do a hell of a lot more then make promises to take “immediate action” to fix it.
This really, really has to stop, and it will require a sea change in our behavior to create any lasting solution.
If I were the teenager I was in the 90’s today, my parents would probably say a lot of the same things about me that will inevitably will be revealed about that 20-year-old in Connecticut: angry, intelligent, depressed, lost, and mentally ill. A ticking time-bomb. I just read this post over the weekend and shuddered to think of how some of it resembled my younger self.
Columbine happened five years after I graduated from high school. For me, the scariest thing was imagining the teen-aged me, with all of that misplaced rage at a seemingly inescapable situation in a fucked up world, finally snapping and doing something like those two boys did in Colorado.
In fact, one of my favorite books in high school was the 1977’s Rage by Stephen King. The plot involves a protagonist who is involved in an altercation with teachers at his school, shoots a few of them, and takes his classmates as hostages. It turned out to be a horrible prognostication of events that wouldn’t happen for more than twenty years after its publication. I probably reread it five times while I was in high school. To say I fantasized about this is a mild understatement. King has since let the book go out of print, for obvious reasons.
What keeps someone from turning those violent adolescent impulses into an ugly reality? It isn’t concerned, attentive parents. Mine both certainly were, but so it seems were those of these mass shooters. It also wasn’t Prozac or psychotherapy. At the time, we were just at the beginning of widespread analysis and medication of kids and teenagers, but I was on and off of that train before it had any lasting effect. Besides, those methods only treat the symptoms, and not very effectively considering that many of the perpetrators of these heinous acts were taking prescribed psychoactive chemicals to regulate their mood and behavior.
I have no idea what kept me from acting out violently as a kid before my conscience and coping skills were fully developed. I wish I did.
That lack of easy answers to this problem is also part of it. We live in the age of convenience and are flummoxed when things are difficult. But the truth is, you don’t even have to leave your house to see the cause and solution. It’s in your mirror.
How are WE the problem, you might ask? More importantly, how do we go about ensuring that things like this never happen again? I have a few ideas.
Whether or not Morgan Freeman said it, turning off your television would be a good start. That 24-hour blathering, marketing machine has done what I hope isn’t irreparable harm to everyone, and it gets worse every day. The term “idiot box” is far too kind. In reality, it is the ubiquitous embodiment of everything horrible about our species. Even the news isn’t informative anymore. It’s biased sensationalist garbage with the same goal as any other TV programming: to get your eyes on it and facilitate your watching of those all-important messages from Our Sponsor [who art in Heaven, hallowed be thy name].
That leads to the next point…NOT EVERYTHING IS A MARKETABLE ASSET WITH SPARKLY FUCKING DOLLAR SIGNS AROUND IT! I’m not saying that we should give up all of our worldly possessions and go live an ascetic life in the woods, but wealth and ownership has become the be-all-end-all of our existences The illusion of scarcity that money provides makes us think that we don’t have the resources to help everyone in need, which is complete bullshit. Technology has progressed to the point where we could feed, house, clothe, educate, and care for every single human being on the planet with plenty left over to live comfortable, happy lives. That is, if the ultimate goal wasn’t a financial bottom line.
The pursuit of personal gain at all costs has to stop. We have to ask ourselves what we really need as opposed to want and live our lives accordingly. The transparent premise that money equals happiness, and our society’s efforts to protect that lie, only serve to make people more hopeless. From the asshole who abuses his kids because of his shitty job and upbringing, to the kids who grow up idolizing the glossy and empty sheen of fame and fortune…all they’re really doing is wishing they were happy.
It doesn’t have to be this way, and there’s something I think we can all do to turn the tide. At the risk of sounding like some dipshit hippie with delusions of unity, and against the stated premise of this blog I’m doing here, I think the answer is love. Love of the superhuman variety, exemplified by Robert Parker, father of Emilie, one of the 6-year-old Newtown victims:
“We would really like to offer our deepest condolences to all the families directly affected by this horrific tragedy, and we want everyone to know you are in our hearts and our prayers go out to them, and this includes the family of the shooter. I can’t imagine how hard this experience must be for you.”
Stop and think about that for a minute. Here’s a guy who is deranged with grief. A guy whose heart has been ripped out in the most awful way imaginable. But he still stops to think of the family of his daughter’s murderer, who didn’t ask for this any more than he did. That’s monumental, unbelievable love. Even in the face of unfathomable tragedy.
So maybe it’s not THE ANSWER, but a good start would be to stop all of the narcissism and self-importance and start caring about the world and people around you. Live your life with all of your fellow human beings in mind. Stop accepting the status quo that, “shit is all fucked up and there’s nothing I can do about it”, and go do something about it. Pressure the leaders and robber barons of the world into investing their resources into the betterment of all humanity. BE NICE, for fuck’s sake.
We can start loving each other as a tribute to those children in Connecticut, and to all of the other people who have met their violent ends, and see to it that their deaths are not in vain.
If we love and start caring about each other, maybe we can all be happy.
And maybe…just maybe…nobody will ever have to endure anything like this again.