Saturday, December 15, 2012

A Call For Compassion

Sometimes there just aren't words.  There is only compassion and connection.


Yesterday at work, I was unaware of the situation unfolding in Newtown, Ct and was stunned when I got home and watched the news.  It brought back very vivid memories of the Columbine tragedy and for personal reasons.  My daughter, had I not insisted she stay with me in Salt Lake, would have been attending Columbine High as her dad lived in Littleton.  He called me during that afternoon, almost hysterical, to thank me for not letting our daughter move with him to Colorado.  As he said, our daughter the debater, would have been in the library just like she was always in the library during lunch at her Salt Lake high school.  She might be dead had she gone to Columbine--a fact that didn't escape her attention.  It's a phone call I will never forget.  It ended a lot of acrimony between the two of us.  It was about a little healing in the midst of great tragedy.  It was about two parents who saw death for their child closer than they wanted and both reconnected with what's actually important, and it wasn't their egos. 

I have no idea what it must be like for the parents of the twenty children killed yesterday.  I only have a little idea of what it's like for the parents of the children who survived yesterday.  They will feel overwhelming relief and some guilt.  Death did not come for their child for no better reason than death came for the children who were killed.  It just is. It leaves one silent.  There is nothing but prayer and compassion and long hugs and connection with those we love and love us.

As I was watching the coverage I was waiting with some dread for information on the shooter.  In the back of my mind I already knew the answer.  As in so many of these mass killings the shooter would be somewhere on the schizophrenic, autistic, asperger's scale.  He would be socially inept, a loner, unable to connect or make friends and probably quirky smart, into video gaming where social skills are not an asset.  Fellow students would in retrospect say they weren't surprised he was the shooter- and it's always a 'he'- because he was so weird and isolated in high school.  And so I heard what I expected to hear. It wouldn't surprise me if in this killer's mind, he was acting out his anger and frustration around the very first place where he knew on a fundamental level and with out any doubt, that he was not going to fit.  It was an elementary school classroom and mommy kept insisting he had to go. Something in his current life triggered the emotion associated with this period in his life and he used all his adult skills to find a very tragic solution for his very real emotional pain.

Then began the calls for gun control, starting with President Obama.  Personally, I think it's a bit too late to expect gun control legislation to do much about the millions of guns already out on the streets. Maybe if we offered serious money to turn in guns we might get somewhere, but what happened yesterday is not the result of a truly criminal mind. Maybe American culture would be much better off if we began to put a real value on helping our kids learn about compassion and how compassion can positively effect so much with in it's radius.  We certainly spend a lot of time teaching our kids about the benefits of competition, but we teach them very little about the downside of competition.  We more or less leave them to deal with the downside on their own or demand they 'cowboy up' and get over it--especially our boys.  Some of our boys are just not put together to deal with competition or it's downside and they don't choose to get over it, they choose to kill it or themselves.  

Compassion has no downside and it breaks down a lot of barriers, even the barriers associated with cross wired brains.  Imagine our schools if compassion became as important an attribute as competition. If we actually meant, 'no child left behind'.
 
 

16 comments:

  1. When I heard about this shooting, heard it was a young man who did this, I thought he had to be mentally ill to do such a thing. I read today that he was very smart, an honor student. Recent reports are saying that he had a personality disorder. I just don't get it because he was grown up and no longer in grade school.

    Basically, all there is in the American culture is competition that marks businesses and people as either winners or losers.

    I did not watch the news reports too much about this story on television because the talking heads get on there and are not helpful at all. The focus is on "evil" and not on the healing for the families that lost their loved ones.

    It is too sad to think about little children blown away like they were. I'd rather think of them as little angels now.

    Fran

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    1. I do too Fran, like to think of them as little angels. Angels who might just lead to more compassion in a country that is slowly dieing for it's lack.

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  2. This ought to cause Americans to do some serious thinking about our love for violence, guns and ammo, but I fear it won't any more than did the shootings at Virginia Tech, or just this year alone in Clackamas, Madison and Aurora. Rather, I expect the religious right to claim we need to publicly pray, that it's our fault for taking organized prayer out of public schools, and on the secular side, the assorted crazies on the right will continue to falsely believe that the President wants their guns and ammo, and they'll continue to arm themselves to the teeth... It's terrible for this to happen any time of year, but especially sad during Chanukah and so close to Christmas.

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    1. Well, I suppose the religious right figures if we are all publicly praying we can not get serious about taking their guns. Anthea Butler has a wonderful take down of this mentality on Religion Dispatches. http://www.religiondispatches.org/dispatches/antheabutler/6697/guns_and_babies__what_newtown_does_not_teach_us/

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  3. One other thought, if I hear the claim again that "an armed society is a polite society," I will be overwhelmed with a desire to smack the idiot who says that upside the head! Tell that to Trayvon Martin's parents, or to the parents of Jordan Davis, the kid who was shot by the guy who didn't like the fact that he and his friends had their music turned up too loud.

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    1. The other brilliant thought that I've found utterly incomprehensible is the notion of armed teachers. What does that imply, that kids killed in the cross fire are acceptable collateral damage?

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    2. I have the same thoughts about smacking the people that tell me to get the gov't out of healthcare and let private charity handle all of it. Federal, state and local gov't healthcare agencies can compile databases along standardized policies on mentally ill citizens which can help out with more comprehensive background checks for firearms purchases, something I think is long overdue. A privatized healthcare system with mĂșltiple organizations and charities with their own recordkeeping policies would never bring reforms like this. Community mental healthcare clinics already have a difficult time getting enough tax dollars to do their jobs. The smaller private charities relying on donations couldn't even handle the extra workload involved in setting up something like a database for gun purchases. Also , donations to charity plunge faster than tax revenue during economic downturns so expecting private charity to handle all of out healthcare needs is pretty myopic.

      John Fremont

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    3. "Community mental healthcare clinics already have a difficult time getting enough tax dollars to do their jobs."

      Don't tell have to tell me this one. LOL

      The smaller private charities couldn't begin to come up with the money for medication costs, which in my small facility runs upwards of ten thousand a month.

      I don't consider this kind of thinking just myopic, I think it's cruel.

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  4. Thank you for writing this. Your writing is personal holy ground. I also appreciate your analysis on the shooter. I find it difficult to do the usual blogging with our usual foes in the shadow of this latest gun tragedy.

    Yes, it's time. Something needs to be done about the proliferation of guns in the US. Then right up there is how as a country, with a compassionate history, are we ready to advance and come to deal with the mental health of some those in our midst who are prone to violence and have easy access to guns.

    Last night as I tried to sleep, I recalled happily my year in kindergarten. It was probably the most idyllic year of my life so far. It is hard for me to comprehend the tragedy and the loss felt from these latest killings.

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    1. Wild, I don't know how we deal with the mental health issues if the same people that think the answer is to arm teachers keep refusing to fund mental health. It's almost like arming everyone is the answer for everything. That kind of thinking has so got to change.

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    2. The arm the teachers crowd haven't thought out what they're really proposing.The other issue with arming teachers is who is gonna pay for their firearms and security officer training? Concealed carry permits only allow one to carry a firearm for self defense, not to act on behalf of public safety. Carry permits do not legally bind one to carry at all times; a teacher as is any other citizen with a permit is not duty bound to carry like a police officer is. When it comes to self defense, in most states you have a legal duty to retreat to safety before employing deadly force; only peace officers have legal authority to intervene into a situation. First of all, most teachers don't want to be armed. Second , I can only imagine a school board meeting with the teachers union and the union demanding salary hikes and training allowances for additional job duties as armed deputy school security officers. The same people saying arm the teachers are the same ones that have been demanding teachers pay be cut because they're overpayed to begin with.

      John Fremont

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    3. John, for some reason this comment wound up in the SPAM file. Oh well, Blogger occasionally has issues.

      The whole idea of arming teachers is nuts. How many of them would actually shoot anyway? It's one thing to be trained in how to use a weapon, it's another to actually shoot it at another person. That was a major issue for the US Military.

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    4. Oh I know, I was just rehashing a discussion I had with a Tea Party/ NRA coworker who's pretty much a Johnny One Note when these tragedies happen. It's a knee jerk reaction without much thought. Besides, these shooters are already anticipating getting shot at; the shooters that shot up the theater here in my hometown of Aurora was ready for it. I agree that we need to understand mental illness much better in our country. I still remember back in the early 80's how much pushback there was on declaring PTSD a legitimate psychological disorder but many people acknowledge it now. It will be a steep hill to climb to get the public to understand these crazed shooters. Many of my aquaintances just want to see them executed.

      John Fremont

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  5. Colleen,

    You touched upon what I think the dozens of updates on my social news feeds have missed in the (seeming) reduction of this to a problem of gun control: there is potentially a problem here that transcends the liberal/ conservative divide (maybe a problem neither ideology cares to address right now), and that might be the degree of atomization in our society, the increasing dearth of communal outlets for relieving tensions and feelings of alientatio. Technological, economic and social factors tend to isolate while demeaning us, prizing and even idolizing the few who have the skills to successfully pursue the custom-built life.

    Events like this stike me as a kind of "short circuit" incident. These killers are perhaps drawn to the fact that their victims are anonymnous, thus easily becoming living symbols of the social rules that the perpetrator feels he has suffered under.

    For me, the message is not so much "Stupid Americans, change you gun laws!" (which is what is being said here in Canada), but rather more along the lines of "what kind of social world are we creating where acts like this make sense to certain minds. Why do these events seem to be increasing?"

    Perhaps this is not preventable. Perhaps it is the very nature of social reality that there be collateral damage, that the well adjusment of some mean the mal adjustment of others, for which reason certain problematic people spurned by the success and normalcy of others eventually reach out against the masses in blind vengance. I don't know.

    These are just ramblings on my part really...my point is, the gun question is really only one factor here. Even if guns were less available (as they should be!), the "why" of this rage really needs to be probed, I think.

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    1. I agree totally Jordan, we can't let the gun issue cloud the why issue. We are alienating our youth, and the most vulnerable youth at that. We are somehow telling our young men guns have the answers to the problems they can't talk out much less solve. In another corner of my mind is the 25 year old Kansas City football player Jovan Belcher who killed the mother of his child and then himself in front of his coaches. This is another gun related message from another young male in psychological distress. And again the answer seems to be strike out at others before killing oneself. We've got to get to the why's of these acts.

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  6. Thank you for your words here. Many excellent comments also. Too much sadness in our world. My God have mercy on us and may the precious children rest in peace.

    Mark

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