Thoughts on the Sandy Hook shooting.

Who remembers the shooting of the Sandy Hook elementary school on December 14th 2012? Strange question I know. I asked it because I think it would be impossible to *not* remember the shooting at this point.

On the day of there was nearly 24-hour coverage of the tragedy. In the following days I don’t think there was one news broadcast that didn’t involve some mention of the tragedy. Be that a mention of a “new development,” or a politician saying something to the press about it, or a discussion of the lax gun control in this country, or a mention of some heroic act amidst the tragedy, or an interview with a teacher who was present in the school at the time, or a mention of the Westboro Baptist Church going to demonstrate the massacre happened because “God hates fags,” or the question of whether or not Asperger’s Syndrome can drive someone to go into a school with an assault rifle and unload a clip or two, or…

Have I’ve proven my point yet? Do you think we’ve been saturated with enough information on this to fill our daily gossip requirements?

I sure hope we have because at this point I haven’t heard one new thing that’s really changed my perspective on what caused it and or my reactions to it.

When the shooting first happened I don’t think anyone knew how to react to it aside from becoming overwhelmed with shock, disgust, and sadness. This is an appropriate response. I felt the same thing. Then people started to get excited, became obsessed with it, and now the there are so many irrational responses out there it’s the classic sideshow that this country turns every tragedy into.

The first big reaction was to blame the NRA. There is a Facebook group on this too. It’s called “Occupy the NRA.” This just pissed me off. No, I’m not terribly attached to my gun. In fact I don’t even own a gun. I don’t really want one either. Blaming the NRA is ineffective and stupid though. They are a group, just like any other group, and they have a right to exist. Does the group itself advocate killing? I have my doubts. They just seem to have a religious interest in the right to bear arms… No comment.

Personally, I think the right to bear arms is important. I just think there should be more restrictions on how easy it is to get a gun. You know, do background checks on people? Make sure a device, which essentially exists for no other reason than to kill things, does not end up in an unstable person’s hands. Just an idea.

The NRA is not the problem. The problem is the NRA’s LOBBYING influence. The pro-gun lobby pumps a great deal more money into congress than the anti-gun lobby. The question of why this is so isn’t even the appropriate concern. The appropriate concern is why we allow for any policy initiatives to be influenced by money at all. The problem therefore is MONEY IN POLITICS!!!

If all you do is blame the NRA you are scapegoating. The NRA is not defined by their lobbying influence. The NRA is defined by their ideals. Even if you don’t agree with their ideals they are entitled to have them. Furthermore, even if you don’t agree with their ideals you still can’t blame the group as a whole when it’s their financial influence in government that is the problem. For that matter it is EVERY group’s financial influence in government that is the problem. Both left and right. Take the money out, make the government accountable to the people and not indebted to lobbyists and then we’ll see progress.

Now about showing respects and mourning. If you don’t know anyone who died in the shooting you’re really not in a position to mourn. We feel bad because we heard about the massacre on the news but that doesn’t mean we knew the people there. If you want to support in certain ways, fine. Don’t exaggerate your role and pretend to mourn for lost lives. Do things to remember the 20 children and 6 teachers, yes. Make calls to your congressman to promote gun regulation, yes. Promote mental health research, yes. Try not to glorify the shooter through excessive conversation about his past or his personality though. The focus of this should be the lives lost and let that be incentive to fix what led to this. The focus should *not* be the killer.

There was a meme going around social networks that was supposedly a Morgan Freeman quote. It ended up not being from him but the quote is just as accurate nevertheless:

“It’s because of the way the media reports it. Flip on the news and watch how we treat the Batman theater shooter and the Oregon mall shooter like celebrities. Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris are household names, but do you know the name of a single *victim* of Columbine? Disturbed people who would otherwise just off themselves in their basements see the news and want to top it by doing something worse, and going out in a memorable way. Why a grade school? Why children? Because he’ll be remembered as a horrible monster, instead of a sad nobody.

CNN’s article says that if the body count “holds up”, this will rank as the second deadliest shooting behind Virginia Tech, as if statistics somehow make one shooting worse than another. Then they post a video interview of third-graders for all the details of what they saw and heard while the shootings were happening. Fox News has plastered the killer’s face on all their reports for hours. Any articles or news stories yet that focus on the victims and ignore the killer’s identity? None that I’ve seen yet. Because they don’t sell. So congratulations, sensationalist media, you’ve just lit the fire for someone to top this and knock off a day care center or a maternity ward next.

You can help by forgetting you ever read this man’s name, and remembering the name of at least one victim. You can help by donating to mental health research instead of pointing to gun control as the problem. You can help by turning off the news.”

Whoever wrote this made a great point and there’s no need for further comment on it.

Let’s not jump to the conclusion all we hear about is the killer though. Oh we hear plenty of that, but the victims are talked about too… In the most gut-wrenching way imaginable. Oh yes, we hear about the story of a teacher who “heard gunfire in the hallway and knew something *terrible* was about to happen.” Wow, I could never imagine why a teacher would become worried of something happening when she hears gunfire in a school. I mean she goes to her class every day ready to teach children and spends 5 or 6 hours in a calm environment. In this calm environment what sounds would she normally hear? Children screaming sometimes? I suppose she might hear a chair fall over if one toddler decides to explore surroundings. Laughter is another common sound. She might hear silence too.

What does she see normally see though?! Other teachers, children running around; artwork on the wall; books?

Does it seem like it would be common to hear loud gunshots? Does it seem like the kind of environment where the teacher would likely see… I don’t know, someone holding an assault rifle?

No I have my doubts about that. In fact that seems like the kind of thing that would normally scare… well, anyone. I don’t know about you but I know I’d probably get nervous if I randomly heard and then saw someone in a crowd firing a weapon at people, much less children. This being the case, why did the news bother doing an interview with a woman who’d gotten out of the tragedy only to ask her to most obvious questions imaginable? I think ratings is a good enough answer.

Then there’s the overly specific news piece surrounding the children’s funeral. I actually heard them specify the length and width measurements for the coffin of a child named Noah. The interviews that followed were heartfelt (but generic) sadness really just there to fill air time. All is better though as they finished the report talking about people who brought puppies to the funeral to cheer everyone up. I’m all warm and fuzzy inside now. There’s puppies!

Couldn’t there be any more respect shown for the lives lost that day than to do such sensationalist reporting?

Now for the public reaction. The conversation to come out of something like this is good. The ultimate question everyone is trying to answer is “How do we prevent a repeat of this?” Which is a very good question. However, in answering that one can’t rush to a conclusion; like to immediately blame the NRA. Blame a lack of gun control, or the lack of oversight on just how easy it is to get a gun. Blame that. Maybe we could also research mental health issues too like the fake Morgan Freeman quote suggested. What is the ease with which one could get a gun as opposed to the ease with which one could get a mental health evaluation?

Then the radicals come out and start panicking about needing guns to be able to survive the revolution against the coming “tyrannical fascist government crackdown!” Quick lets start comparing the loss of guns to pre-Nazi Germany; or the policies of Joseph Stalin. We need those guns to maintain our freedom! Um, yeah okay, over the past 30 years we’ve lost a lot of our strength and representation in government *with* lax gun control. How much do corporations finance elections these days to buy the politicians from us? Also, how much does the pro-gun lobby influence elections, and legislation, buying politicians from us? Where was the push-back during that transgression?

If that argument doesn’t impress you, how about we compare this country to other progressive democracies where they *have* stricter gun regulations. Where is the fascist government crackdown there? We seem to love their policies on education, treatment of teachers and their other populist agendas. Forget it though, the death of democracy is just around the corner in those countries because they don’t have the most convenient access to guns imaginable. It’s an absurd notion that fewer people might die when you don’t hand out guns at a convenience store…

You need to take a test in America to get a driver’s license, but the only real criticism I ever hear about the DMV is how slow it is. Have we lost our rights there because service sucks?

Now for another angle. Suppose you did have a severe government crackdown. I have to say if your push-back is *reliant* on guns as opposed to your own intelligence, instincts, organization, planning, and ability to work together; well I think the push-back would be doomed from the start. Public support makes any successful revolution possible. Not your weaponry. Oh and another thing: Do we really think our household weapons would be strong enough to fight off the US Army if we needed to? They have tanks, and drones, and sound cannons, and tear gas, and bombs, training, and much more. Our government spends 2 times as much on its military than the next 26 countries *combined* (gun control there?). What does our household arsenal look like? How much money do we spend on our gun racks? Get organized before you start thinking about firing shots.

Now lets get back to the Sandy Hook shooting after that digression. Allow me to also offer a reason for the need for gun control. Behold, a timeline of mass shootings in the U.S. since Columbine. “In the last 30 years since 1982, America has mourned at least 61 mass murders.” Mind you that quote reads “at least.” There have been at least 2 mass murders in this country every year over the past 30 years. They’re like bookends for our calendar year!

Now let’s think about a much less obvious reason for why these mass murders happen. The police say a motive has been determined for Adam Lanza’s actions but they aren’t releasing it. Okay, this isn’t such a big deal.

Instead we can examine Columbine and its reaction for an idea of why other shootings might happen.

After that tragedy there was a lot of blame placed on Marilyn Manson for the music he wrote. Well we don’t have a Marilyn Manson to blame right now but other circumstances surrounding Columbine were similar to the circumstances today. Here is an interview with Marilyn Manson from the movie Bowling for Columbine.

Back then the two byproducts of the tragedy were violence in entertainment and gun control. Now the main byproduct is gun control, or a conspiracy that this entire shooting was a government plot to strip us of our 2nd Amendment right. I’m glad for the first byproduct, I’m not commenting on the other, and I’m waiting for blame on video game violence. With video games all I can ask is if the ratings sometimes seem lenient.

In the video, Marilyn Manson talks about how the media spectacle was used as a distraction from other things such as the war in Kosovo. It also played very nicely for talking points in the upcoming election. Then he discusses how we are constantly bombarded with media messaging to scare and coax us into consuming more and more things. In the last 15 seconds of the interview Michael Moore asks the artist what he would say to the kids who did the shooting if he had one chance in a room with them. His response is “I wouldn’t say a single word to them. I would listen to what they have to say and that’s what no one did.” No one listens. We jump to conclusions, and no one stops for pause to look at ourselves.

The cause of Columbine turned out to be bullying and there has been an anti-bullying movement as of late (which struck me as lip service but that’s another issue). This doesn’t change the how similar the media messaging of today is to back then; and how it’s enough saturation to depress anyone under normal circumstances. The economy is hard, jobs are tough, but you still need to go out and buy as much as you can whenever you can. Do I need to comment on Black Friday?

In this country we’ve really reached a point of pure decadence. Whereas we used to work to accomplish things and contribute to society the motive is very different now. Jobs are overseas, there are systematic problems and in some ways the only reason many people have a job is because they need one to survive. We get jobs to buy more things. We get jobs to buy health insurance!

How many people are unhappy with the jobs they have or the overall state of the country? True, you’ll always find some people who have negativity about this, but the feeling shouldn’t be as widespread as it is. That’s a sign we’re doing things wrong. At this point we don’t even live in a country which is based on Capitalism anymore. What we have is a society based on Consumerism with a system of Corporate Welfare. This maintains the Status-Quo and is all a result of the influences of Money in Politics. Those at the top are very content with their situation and will lobby to keep it. Everyone else with smaller wallets is out of luck. When you feel like you have no say in anything and it’s hopeless you become very unhappy. You’ll start reaching for whatever stimulus you can find. If it’s not drugs, it’s TV and other entertainment media.

When people are this unhappy they can often become apathetic to escape it; especially if they are coaxed to do so by media programming. This lethargy is toxic and the overall society suffers as a result. One result of this deterioration is sometimes mass shootings and other violence.

To elaborate more on this state of our society have a look at this video from Physicist Michio Kaku from 2005. It’s titled “Top Secret Military Military War Plans.” This title however is extremely inaccurate when considering what Dr. Kaku actually talks about. Please watch. It’s very interesting.

I’m glad people are talking about gun control now. I’m glad this tragedy has influenced the national conversation. However, I’m afraid of something as well. Will this energy blow over? There has been a strong push for gun control. It has been called the strongest in American history. Will this be a lasting effort? If the support isn’t sustained after a while the pro-gun lobby will be able to buy back policy. Once again its about money in politics.

Now one greater cultural issue arises from this tragedy. We’ve given this massacre so much attention, and the resulting focus on gun control as well. However, if the conversation is not sustained we’ll just end up forgetting about it in a month or two. If this happens our discussion of this elementary school massacre will amount to nothing more than a popular trend. Yes, a massacre might amount to a trend. Personally, I think it’s already been glorified in its own way but to stop the conversation about factors which contributed to this tragedy would be a disgrace to the memory of its victims.

Get the money out of politics, address gun control responsibly, look into improving mental health research and don’t ever stop the conversation. I’m not even getting into the pharmaceutical industry’s powerful lobby…

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