I, like many, have been struggling to understand the events that led up to what occurred at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. During the first moments on 14 December 2012 the information streaming through the media was confusing. Was the shooter Adam Lanza or his older brother? Did he go in to shoot his mother and her class of students just to kill the very thing she loved? How did he enter the school building, by buzzer or by force?
Over the course of that day and the next we learned who the shooter was, the status of his mother, and how he entered the elementary school. We also heard more conflicting stories which were later corrected or changed. It all really resembled a fuzzy nightmare. The sort of nightmare where the dreamer knows that there’s an answer and you think you could prevent what is happening, but everything is really out of your control so you’re forced to sit back and watch helplessly.
Social media has not helped.
During the past week there has been a bombardment of memes, tweets, and posts proclaiming the evils of guns, shouts to bow to the second amendment, finger pointing at those heartless Republicans or Democrats, and finally stifled fear from caregivers of and people who deal with developmental disabilities or mental illness. We’ve seen abhorrent posts from people who are normally refined in the realm of the real, and we’ve watched the disintegration of friendships online and off.
People across the world have chimed in about what happened in Sandy Hook. Depending upon the site visited Americans are either co-conspirators of child murderers misinterpreting an amendment or victims of a liberal agenda that wants to strip all citizens of their rights. These sites usually lean heavily toward one side or another and any opposing view points are quickly attacked. There seems to be some sort of bubble people of a particular opinion create for themselves and anybody who tries to oppose that bubble is quickly isolated and berated. It has really been an awful week to be a part of the social media experience.
However, despite all the anger there is one underlying message everybody is trying to get across. We want to things to be better. Nobody wants to fear for their children’s lives when they are supposed to get an education. Nobody wants to wonder if they will see their loved ones come home alive from a theater or mall. Nobody wants to wonder if the neighbor next door could be the next mass shooter. Quit simply, everybody wants things to improve. Unfortunately nobody really knows how to make this happen so all we do is bicker about band-aid issues.
Quite frankly I feel sorry for President Obama.
Despite how I may personally feel about the President as a human being or a leader, I simply can not imagine how difficult of a balancing act this must be for him. People understandably want action. Just to name a few, there have been cries for total gun control, high capacity magazine control, arming teachers, monitoring the mentally ill, eliminating violent video games while blaming the media, inciting religious abandon as the cause, and creating laws similar to other countries that appear to be wiser than the US.
Each group provides an argument which seems 100% reasonable only to those who agree with a particular discussion. I couldn’t imagine being the leader of a nation with so many passionate people of differing view points.
The truth is that there appears to be a lot of people with a lot of ideas and when put together they form a type of strange Venn diagram. What we have in the center of that diagram is the need to find a solution so that another tragic shooting does not occur. This is the problem we want to solve; it could be considered our festering sore. The vast amounts of solutions from various groups surrounding the problem are only band-aids. Unfortunately if we only put band-aids over the sore it will not heal.
Now I’m not going to pretend that I have an answer because frankly I don’t. However, what I do have is a realization that I along with everybody else could be part of the problem. You see when I first starting writing my thoughts I did so under the illusion that I was doing everything correctly. At first I was going to talk about responsible gun ownership, banning high capacity magazines, and how we shouldn’t live in our own isolated social bubbles. This is because I’ve encouraged my children to be properly trained and learn how to hunt with rifles under the supervision of conservation guides. I also have social media and real time friends who express varying viewpoints. So obviously I’m a good parent who does not live in a bubble, right?
My original writings were self-centered and based on my own little bubble of understanding. If anything my original writing was down right condescending. Here’s what I really think, the real issue isn’t about gun control, mental illness, autism, religion, video games, or trying to be a nation we were never meant to become. The problem is that we are isolated in our own minds.
For the most part, we get up every morning and interact with the same people every week. We shun differences because they make us uncomfortable and ignore those who need us the most. Our online presence is supposed to expose us to new ideas and people, but how can that happen when we only visit sites geared toward our beliefs and unfriend people when they say something that makes us angry? We are living in our own little bubbles and perhaps this is part of the problem.
How many of us know the names of our neighbors or the issues they are dealing with? Are we willing to open up to others about our own problems and ask for help or are we silently suffering, hoping that nobody will notice how different we really feel? How many of us would step up and socially accept somebody who is a social misfit and let the world know that person was okay in our book? Could it be possible that we are at fault? Do we live in such tightly knit bubbles that those who do not fit in any are perpetually left to develop their own little lonely bubbles until those bubbles become too small causing these individuals to pop? Have we lost something fundamental within our society which has created these lone mass killers?
I am left to wonder if each of us might be part of the problem. Could you or I prevent the next rampage by leaving our little social and Web bubbles by opening our eyes to see those who are quietly suffering and extend a little warmth of friendship. This doesn’t dismiss the need to discuss the band-aid issues, but can we seriously think that the politicians can magically fix everything or that by taking away materials tools, pointing fingers at those who are perceived to be different, and imposing religious beliefs on others should be the solution? I don’t think so.