This weekend I found myself crying every time I thought about what the families of the murdered children and their teachers were experiencing. I had to force myself to think about something else. Then I felt cowardly for not lingering on these thoughts. It was as if I was abandoning them when I should have been “standing with them.”
My children finally asked me to stop watching the TV because I had such intense feelings of empathy and compassion that it was actually painful. I cried for hours. I’m sure I was not alone.
Then I got angry.
Yes, we obviously have a gun control problem but the real issue is that we have a people control problem. We have a population of young people with serious mental health issues and we have few effective ways to control their worst inclination. For decades our solution has been to drug them into a zombie state but have not provided them the real help they have needed.
Very early on, usually in elementary school, they are stigmatized as odd and strange. And if that wasn’t bad enough they are often isolated, bullied, mocked and ridiculed because they are different. Then when they have a psychotic episode in their late teens or early twenties and shoot up a school, movie theater or a Meet Your Congressmen event, we call them evil incarnate.
Both sides exploit the so called evil to either justify arming public spaces or taking gun rights away. Meanwhile, all the name calling and political posturing isn’t helping these kids or making us any safer. It is time for our nation to get serious.
Problem is this group doesn’t have a powerful lobby in Washington. Treating them is expensive and no one wants to pay the bill. You can’t make political points or win partisan victories helping this group. They are not a group you can count on for votes or campaign contributions. Meanwhile we will continue to pay a very high price when these troubled individuals get their hands on any of over 300 million guns in this country.
Arming teachers won’t solve it. Taking guns away from law abiding citizens won’t either. But comprehensive mental health reform could. We must approach the problem from an ecological (systems) perspective, recognizing that there may not be one simple solution. It will undoubtedly span the conservative – liberal spectrum that will require both sides to rethink their positions. There is always a third way. Maybe Sandy Hook will finally give us the cooperate will to find it.
What should guide the debate is what would bring the best possible outcomes for our children, their families, and the communities in which they live while working to prevent such violent acts. Those beautiful first graders and their heroic teachers deserve at least that.