Horror, Sorrow, and Anger


Up until a few days ago, I had never heard of Sandy Hook Elementary School.   Now, like just about everyone else in the world who has access to the news, I’ve become intimately familiar with the name.  I don’t know what to say about the massacre; the horror and sorrow I’m feeling – the sadness I can’t seem to shake – isn’t unique.  Anyone with a child – or a heart – is reeling.

flag_half_staffI have not talked to my kids about what happened, with the exception of Kevin, and to him only briefly.  On Friday, I lowered the flag in our front yard to half staff, and when the kids got home from school, they wanted to know why it was lowered.  I told them that we do that to honor people who have died, and they wanted to know who had died.  “Some people far away in a different state,” I told them.  How can I tell my kids that someone went into an elementary school and gunned down teachers and little children?  At almost 16, Kevin wasn’t satisfied with that explanation, so I told him briefly what happened in Connecticut, but I couldn’t even finish without having to swallow back tears.

I have refused to read any articles or watch any news segments about it – what’s the point?  Nevertheless, it’s impossible to sign online without seeing headlines: “NEW CHILLING DETAILS EMERGE” and “VICTIMS’ FAMILIES REACT” and “PROFILE OF A KILLER” and “FUNERALS SET FOR THREE OF THE VICTIMS.”  Words like “pimp” and “ratings” come to mind.

We got the bubble-headed-bleach-blonde who
Comes on at five
She can tell you ’bout the plane crash with a gleam
In her eye
It’s interesting when people die-
Give us dirty laundry

Dirty Laundry, Don Henley

I don’t want to know the details.  I don’t want to see the photos of the sweet, smiling faces of those little boys and girls whose lives were so ruthlessly cut short.  And I’ll tell you: if I were any of their parents, I think having the details and photos splashed relentlessly across every news outlet would be the last thing I would want.  Even reading the headlines makes me feel like a voyeur.  Is the media just filling a demand?  Are we the people just feeding the media machine with our morbid curiosity?  If all the coverage promotes meaningful discussion about the underlying issues and encourages people to lobby for change with regard to gun control and how we approach mental illness, then perhaps it will have been a positive force.

We let those teachers and kids down.  We as a nation value our personal freedoms more than we value other people’s very lives.  We are a nation in shock and mourning now after Friday’s horror, but it wasn’t the first school shooting here in the US – although it perhaps claimed the youngest victims.  Mall shootings and school shootings seem to be gaining popularity – and this kind of thing doesn’t happen in other civilized countries.  How many mall shootings, how many school shootings, how many people have to be senselessly murdered before we take a good hard look at the way we do things here and make meaningful changes?

“Are we really prepared to say that we’re powerless in the face of such carnage, that the politics are too hard?”

– President Obama

The religious rhetoric is everywhere.  I understand that people take comfort where they can, and it’s in the face of tragedy like this that, I suppose, the appeal and attraction of God and religion are at their most powerful, but if we lull ourselves with dreamy images of children running to Jesus and playing in paradise forevermore, we are doing nothing but living with our heads in the clouds, and effectively trivializing what happened.  In effect, these fairy tales justify what happened, and they don’t encourage meaningful dialogue about important issues.

It’s starting to feel dangerous just to be alive.  I don’t want to live in fear, but it’s hard to not walk around without at least a vague sense of apprehension.  I deeply hope that this latest tragedy brings about meaningful change; if it doesn’t, then all those little lives cut short will really have been for nothing at all.

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17 Comments on “Horror, Sorrow, and Anger”

  1. Stacey
    December 17, 2012 at 8:37 pm #

    Like pretty much everyone else, I wrote about this today, too. I share your desire to protect your young children from this sad truth, and we weren’t going to tell Tiven. Unfortunately, an after-school teacher decided to tell his entire Spanish Class what happened. We discovered this on Saturday morning when the kids were playing, “Hide From the Intruder at School.” I’m no longer sad, I’m angry. And I’m hopeful that this might finally be the impetus for some *real* gun control legislation & action. It worked in Australia.

    And I LOVE LOVE LOVE the new banner pic!

  2. Carolyn Gabriel
    December 17, 2012 at 8:40 pm #

    Seems the perpetrators of these massacres have serious mental health problems. Yes, there is medication for these people, that’s why all the mental institutions unlocked their doors, but apparently there are people who need to be inside for treatment that are outside. It’s one of our social situations that badly needs to be solved. I do believe in the force of evil and the influence of the media. Lisa, I thought of you during this and knew you would be devastated. Like you, I cannot get ‘into it’ looking at pictures, reading poems, etc. There is evil in the world and we are vulnerable. My almost 12 year old grandson is driven back and forth to school. There are a lot of cars at that school letting off and picking up children. I suppose the perpetrator knew how to get into the school because his mother worked there. Sending kind thoughts and best wishes your way. We enjoy your bad elf posts.

  3. Grace
    December 17, 2012 at 10:24 pm #

    Actually, Mentally Ill People are More Likely to Be Victims of Violence:

    http://www.care2.com/causes/actually-mentally-ill-people-are-more-likely-to-be-victims-of-violence.html

    Mentally ill people don’t have more of a capacity for violence or evil than anyone else.

    http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/science/2011/01/crazy_talk.html

    The fact that mental illness is so often used to explain violent acts despite the evidence to the contrary almost certainly flows from how such cases are handled in the media. Numerous studies show that crimes by people with psychiatric problems are over-reported, usually with gross inaccuracies that give a false impression of risk. With this constant misrepresentation, it’s not surprising that the public sees mental illness as an easy explanation for heartbreaking events.

    Here are some actual facts, rather than speculation, about mental illness and violence. An estimated one in four people in the United States requires treatment for mental health issues in any given year, and about one in 17 people lives with what is known as a a “serious mental illness,” such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or major depression. 25% of the people in this country living with mental illness can expect to be victims of violent crime, in contrast with 3% of the general population. A study conducted in Britain noted that approximately 10% of murders were committed by “people known to have had mental health problems at the time of the offense.” In other words, mentally ill people have more to fear from society than society does from them.

    Alcohol and drugs are much more significant contributors to violent crime than mental health status; and if you want a more colorful illustration of how low the risk of violence from mentally ill people is, how about this: you are three times more likely to be hit by lightning than killed by a schizophrenic person. Did I mention that half of police shootings involve mentally ill people, many of whom are killed after their families called for help because of lack of mental health services, or as a result of not understanding orders from police?

    The false linkage between violence and mental illness is damaging and stigmatizing for mentally ill people, in addition to being incorrect. And it’s troubling to see it coming up again and again with mass shootings, because it steps around the really serious issue here. Innocent people are dying in the United States not because the country is filled with crazed maniacs armed with automatic weapons, but because of the free and poorly regulated ability of very dangerous weapons. It is this we need to focus on, rather than the distancing tactic of pretending that no one “normal” could do something this awful.

    • Lisa
      December 17, 2012 at 10:59 pm #

      I don’t know, Grace. It’s hard to believe that anyone in their “right mind” would gun down a classroom full of small children, or open fire in a crowded mall. Perhaps they will find that Adam Lanza was under the influence of drugs or alcohol, but from the little I’ve read, witnesses are coming forward and saying that he had a history of mental illness. Depression severe enough leads to suicide; that’s violence directly linked to mental illness. Serial killers are generally sociopaths, lacking empathy and a conscience, and that is also mental illness. Postpartum psychosis leads some mothers to kill their children; that is also mental illness. I have a close friend whose schizophrenic brother stabbed their mother. I don’t think that mental illness should be downplayed; it should be destigmatized with open discussion and meaningful, available treatment. If linking violence to mental illness is doing the mentally ill a disservice, I’m not sure what we’re supposed to do. I do agree, however, that serious gun control reform is paramount. I’m sure, however, that avid gun owners can come up with their own studies that support their views that access to guns is not bad.

      • Grace
        December 19, 2012 at 1:12 am #

        So where’s the line? At what level of violence/evil do you feel comfortable acknowledging individual factors and choice + cultural responsibility rather than pawning it off on the “crazy” people?

        At what level of violence does it suit you to not use mental illness as a dumping ground for evil?

        People with a mental illness diagnosis are *significantly* more likely to be the victims of violent crimes themselves, but STILL the conversation isn’t about protecting them from those scary sane people. It’s about protecting everyone else from them. And you’re musing about mental illness being *downplayed*? Seriously?

        The vast majority of violence involves those who DON’T have mental illness, yet you’re listing the *4% of 0.1%* PPP deaths, a few serial killers, and that one thing a friends family member did?

        If this was about making the correct links, people would be discussing gender and privilege and how we socialize our boys – not telling a population that’s more likely to be raped/assaulted in some way that they’re the dangerous ones.

        Even in the rare cases where people are violent due to paranoia/delusions/etc – the ways in which it manifests are always extremely culturally influenced. But no one wants to talk about that.

        Looking backwards, were those who massacred Native Americans(including children) and whipped/lynched/raped slaves(including children) all mentally ill?

        Who in their “right mind” could make the decision to drop bombs on children just as precious and loved as the ones in that classroom? Is mental illness why gays and women are still being stoned to death? 9/11 terrorists = mentally ill?

        Are the high instances of rape due to mental illness too? What about child abuse? Is Chris Brown mentally ill? Or is that the type of violence you feel ok about assigning to those in their “right mind” ?

        Mental health programs definitely need more funding and attention, but what’s going on right now is about scapegoating at the expense of a population that is already extremely vulnerable.

        That’s bullshit, and those little munchkins and the teachers who lost their lives deserve way better.

      • Lisa
        December 19, 2012 at 1:51 am #

        Why are you so angry at me, Grace? I’m sure what you say is true – that people with mental illness are victimized by people. But you cannot take mental illness out of the equation in incidents like the one in CT either. There is absolutely cultural responsibility for these incidents – I don’t dispute that.

      • Lisa
        December 19, 2012 at 2:06 am #

        I’m not suggesting that we villify the mentally ill and lock them all up like some people are suggesting! I’m suggesting that we take mental illness seriously, destigmatize it, and make treatment more readily available. So how can that do anything buy benefit those with mental illness?

        In any case, mental illness certainly was not the focus of my post.

      • Grace
        December 19, 2012 at 1:16 pm #

        Lisa, have you heard of ‘resting bitch face’? I totally have the online commenter version of that, so please don’t take any harshness personally! I’m not angry with you at all.

        What I was trying to point out is that:

        1) When you say you can’t imagine anyone who isn’t mentally ill doing something like this – you’re embracing (or maybe just perpetuating) stigma.

        2) Yes, there need to be more mental health programs and support options for families. The thing is, that need can really only be seen as a significant catalyst for violence In the context of grossly inaccurate information.

        The type of inaccurate information that makes the mentally ill more prone to being attacked in some way themselves.

        When it’s the norm for comments like Carolyns to be made about ‘these people’ when the mentally ill only account for 4% of violent acts *and* they’re so much more likely to be victims themselves *and* there’s been no confirmation regarding that mans mental health status … something’s seriously seriously wrong with the narrative.

        It’s not that mental illness should be taken out of the equation regarding CT, it’s that poising reform in that area as being anything more than an insignificant part of the solution only perpetuates myths and doesn’t work out in anyone’s favor.

  4. Jen
    December 17, 2012 at 11:28 pm #

    Thank you for this. I have been visiting my regular blogs and been disgusted to find that people I (used to) respect think that the answer to this is to put MORE guns out there, to arm the teachers, and to lock up people with mental illness. These reactions disgust me. I cannot begin to understand how MORE guns could be good. And, since the vast, vast, VAST majority of people with mental illness would never dream of doing something like this, I totally fail to see how we could consider robbing them of their freedoms, in the name of giving other people the freedom to own and collect deadly firearms.

    I am now apprehensive as I visit places like this. I’m happy there’s one blogger out there I still respect.

  5. kris
    December 18, 2012 at 2:44 pm #

    I haven’t watched the news at home since Friday – I don’t want to have to explain this mess to my child – naive, I know. But, you hit on something that bothers me more and more – each time one of these events happens. We take people who have inadequate social skills (whether from mental illness, bullying, bad parenting – whatever) and make them into psuedo-celebrities with the non-stop media presence – often the killer’s photo is out there before the victiims are even identified. Then we search, research, and expose every segment of their miserable lives on TV, the internet and newspapers for days, weeks and months. When the horror dies and we move on, waiting for the next horrific incident, we come up with documentaries that explore the whys and hows of these killers – so when other socially inept/mentally ill/bullied “victims” finally snap, they know how to go out in a blaze of glory. Sorry for the vent –

  6. whitbreadk
    December 18, 2012 at 4:12 pm #

    I am a teacher and I live and work in CT. In fact, I once worked at Sandy Hook school. I now teach at a university and one of the adults who died at Sandy Hook was our grad student–days away from sitting for her certification exam for a degree to work with children with disabilities. I, too, am disgusted by some of the media coverage–and the relentlessness of it. But one thing I have learned is that for many of the families, it is a comfort to know that the world is sharing in their horror and grief. For many, there is a compelling need to speak publicly of their children, so that who they were as people will be burned into our memories, and that the world will see that there is good in their community. The fear is that their children will have died for nothing and no one will remember them–the world will just move on.

    I, too, am hoping that the media coverage will hammer some sense into the minds of people who think it is fine for average citizens to own machine guns. And that the public comments about arming kindergarten teachers (kindergarten teachers!) so they can “prevent this from happening someplace else” will shock reasonable people into action.

    As someone who has worked with children with serious mental health diagnoses, I am reminded yet again of the inadequacy of our support for these children and their families. Yes, this was an act of evil. But behind it was a young man who may have benefitted from help had it been available. Unfortunately, as other posters have pointed out, that help is harder to come by than a machine gun.

    So while I cringe at the headlines, while I want to spit at the reporters who are interviewing 7 and 8 years old on live television, while I am disgusted by the people who seem to use tragedies like this in self-serving ways, there is a part of me that hopes that the onslaught of media attention will jolt us into action and we will finally, finally start to face the tough issues that we keep sweeping aside until the next massacre.

    • paula
      December 19, 2012 at 2:24 pm #

      Information is not always accurate and I don’t believe everything I read. But, what if…..there was help available and the parent responsible for raising this “ill” person refused to persue it? Maybe, just maybe the parent chose to hide her son away and did not get him help. So then one day he flips from whatever is bothering him and kills a bunch of innocent people. What is it pray tell that you suggest for that scenerio? I don’t believe she chose the right path for her son, and she should of seriously found him help. She chose to buy guns and keep him away from the people that just might be able to help him with his problem. So the rest of the law abiding citizens of this great country should not get their right to own a gun? I totally, disagree. Educate the people, provide programs and hope it helps. We all know you can lead a horse to the watering hole, but it doesn’t mean he’s going to drink. And the choices we all make are our own. Sometimes, we all pay for the poor choices of others. And to answer your question? Yes, I believe in gun laws and restrictions. No one needs an assault weapon used during times of war. This country will never agree to a buy back weapon program or ban. Let’s agree to try putting better programs in place to help these people. They’re out there, we know it and acknowledging a problem is the first step in solving it.

      • Lisa
        December 19, 2012 at 3:58 pm #

        So you think the mother should NOT have had guns, but everyone else should? Or all the “law abiding citizens” anyway? What makes you think she wasn’t law abiding? I don’t know how she raised her son, but let’s not forget that she was his fist victim – shot in the head FOUR times by her own son while she slept. Do you really want to villify her?

        MORE guns is not the answer. We need stricter gun control laws, period. Nobody should have access to assault weapons.

      • Grace
        December 20, 2012 at 1:10 am #

        “…Indeed, the greatest individual risk factor for violence is not mental illness but gender — another characteristic over which people have no control. Schizophrenia doubles your odds of becoming violent, but being a man multiplies your risk by a factor of nine. Yet we don’t stigmatize or reject men for this risk factor; similarly, we shouldn’t treat the mentally ill that way. To prevent future catastrophes, we need to understand the range of cultural, social and medical factors that affect us all….”

        But yeah. Definitely keep focusing on programs for ‘these people’.

        *sigh*

        With that said, I do agree with some of the other points made here. Look at Peter Lanza’s income + the fact that Nancy Lanza was getting almost $300,000.00 a year in alimony in addition to home, car, the kids tuition, and insurance also being paid for by her ex husband..

        Assuming their child was in fact mentally ill, they had access to mental health services and programs most parents in their situation can only dream about.

        More programs will definitely help those who are low income, but it wouldn’t have changed much in this situation.

  7. Leslie
    December 18, 2012 at 4:33 pm #

    http://adiaryofamom.wordpress.com/2012/12/17/where-was-god/

    I know what you mean about the religious rhetoric. I read this and thought, honestly, what is this moron talking about when I got to the part where she spouts – “God was with those children. Now they are with Him.” Sorry but I can’t accept that any God would be with those children as they were being gunned downed by a lunatic.

    • paula
      December 20, 2012 at 1:35 am #

      Lisa, it was her choice to have guns and to keep her child away from society. Away from help. Villify? Everyone makes choices, good or bad. Who should be responsible for her choices? Me? You? It is a sad situation. You cannot control people and what they think or do. You can only control your life and your choices. No laws or government bans will stop others from hurting innocent people. And yes, I do believe in gun laws. Stricter gun laws are not going to bring those victims back, or stop it from happening again.

      • Lisa
        December 20, 2012 at 4:47 am #

        First of all, I think a lot of what you and everyone else is saying about how she raised him is speculation at this point. And yes, she was absolutely responsible for her choices, as are all of us. However, that doesn’t mean she deserved to be murdered by her son, nor does it mean she is to blame for her son murdering anyone else.

        What makes you think that stricter gun laws won’t stop it from happening again? What are you basing this on? Because it is a FACT that countries with stricter gun laws than we have here in the US have far fewer mass shootings like this. In 1996, 35 tourists were shot in Australia, and the government severely cracked down on gun laws after that. They have not had a mass shooting in Australia since then.

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