Those without mental health issues equate their feelings of sadness to those of someone with depression, when in reality this is like comparing a small paper cut to a broken arm. This characterization is entirely misguided however, as mental health issues are not a "First World Problem" but instead a problem which has the potential to affect all humans regardless of class, race, gender, or ethnicity.
What will come of the events at Sandy Hook Elementary School in the coming weeks and months remains to be seen. But in the wake of this and other tragedies, young people have proven that strength, resilience and compassion can prevail. We can bring meaning to these atrocities that seem to negate all that is right in the world.
I planned to write about Christmas today. Specifically, what I want for Christmas. But it doesn't seem right when that's not at all what caught my attention this week. What's in my head and my heart, on my Facebook feed and Twitter stream, in my inbox and in so many conversations I have had is the horrors and devastation from the Newtown, Connecticut shootings of last Friday.
Nancy Lanza -- mother of Connecticut shooter Adam Lanza -- is dead. And it's not the time and place to criticize her as an anomaly, some sort of freakish survivalist, when in fact she was a participant in a broader gun culture that should be getting our serious attention. When such shootings happen, however, it is far easier to blame one individual woman for being a "bad mother" who created a "monster" than to acknowledge that some aspects of society in general might be bad and in need of changing. Where does the real instability lie?
Being a US citizen, I can't help feeling smug about choosing to live in Canada where the gun culture is not so alive and well, along with a sense of despair about how deeply entrenched it is in the US. But then, being an observer of brands and myths and icons, I wonder why this event had such a powerful impact on me, and on the rest of the world. Of course, it's a lot of people, and mainly children. But why is the killing of "innocent" children so much worse than the killing of thousands of people caught in the violence in Syria? Or young urban males shooting each other every day all over the US? It can only be that we feel those other victims are somehow partly to blame for getting killed.
Parents need to decide how much their children should know about this event. But what are parents to tell them? That is the questions on everyone's mind. Parents know best what their own child can handle. There is a range of sensitivities in children and only a parent knows their child well enough to know what they can handle. The rules you need to apply are as follows...
We live in a world much like the world that Christopher Nolan built. Only without Batman. There are Bruce Waynes all around us. And anyone can be that symbol. While we don't have a silent guardian watching over us, we do have heroes like Victoria Soto. While nothing can right this horrible wrong that has been done to our collective humanity, we should be comforted by the fact that a 27-year-old teacher was willing to lay down her life to save the lives of her students.
We cannot anticipate such senseless slaughter. But we can make the next one more difficult. America does not have any more mentally handicapped, disturbed, or mad people than any other country. What it does have is more guns. We cannot make sense of what happened in Newtown. We can only try to give this senseless massacre some purpose other than a cathartic outpouring of grief.
I have two boys. They like to turn their fingers into guns, their toast into bayonets and the household firewood into rifles. For a while I was worried that banning guns in the home made them more desirable, like our North American drinking restrictions. But now I think it's simply part of that Y chromosome. So it's up to me as a parent to teach responsibility and empathy.
Just now we are getting to know the people behind the numbers. Twenty-six dead, but who are they? The stories of immense courage are coming out, teachers running toward the sound of gunshots, some shielding children with their bodies. I don't know if anything can make this worse, but that this happened at a time of year that fills that age of innocence with such excitement and wonder just adds another level of heartbreak.
The events in Newtown sparked a lot of discussion on gun control and the media's representation of children following violent events. However, as is the case with most well-covered human tragedies, mental health discourse was decidedly missing from the reporting. "Evil visited this community today," the Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy said following the shooting. Such words are not uncommon following acts of violence, but their prominence still made me cringe. I have to ask, whose "evil" are we talking about when we classify this tragedy as such?
The politician in me understands that in crafting policy, factors such as social conditions, supports available for mental illness, and the protection in place at children's schools, must all be considered. I am well aware of how important comprehensive consideration, investment, and ultimately prevention can be in avoiding incidents like Friday's shooting. The cop in me, however, is an unyielding proponent of strict gun control after witnessing firsthand the devastation gun violence causes society. It also makes me intolerant of playing the politics of re-election and courting public support on issues of this magnitude.
It's been one of those days when the words are many, yet not enough. Because what can you possibly say about such horror? Nothing really. I've wept for the parents, siblings, children, spouses, friends and families of those who were so violently taken from this earth at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
Shock, disbelief and tears have flooded us, after the Newtown, Connecticut slaying of 20 primary school children aged 5-10 years old. Although it's easy to be blindsided by the heinous crime that took place, let's ask ourselves if the same could happen at our child's school -- and what steps can be taken to prevent a similar tragedy?