December 17th, 2012
Quite Possibly The Best Response To The Sandy Hook Shooting
Dear Friends…we have all been aware of the shooting at Sandy Hook. So far, the responses I’ve seen have been expected; sadness, outrage, wanting to send love to the families, strong opinions about guns, gun laws, and gun owners, opinions about this person, those children, that situation. I’m always conflicted in these times because while, of course, I can’t help but feel absolutely awful for what everyone involved is going through, I also am also very uncomfortable with most people’s responses to it. I’ve never quite been able to put words around how I feel. Until today. Today I received a letter from my good friend and colleague, Zoe Wild who speaks absolutely beautifully about this terrible situation. Please read her words and tell me what you think. Where do you stand?
“I’ve been watching the response online, yesterday and today, since the news of the Sandy Hook School shooting broke.
This is a horrific tragedy, and my heart breaks beyond conception for the families of these children and teachers. It is a horror I can only imagine, and I pray with tears for grace to hold and uplift the spirits of the survivors in whatever way is possible over the many years of healing to come. One thing I know from my experience working & volunteering as a Chaplain with the bereaved and dying is that grief never ends—it just changes over time.
That said, for those of us not immediately connected to those personally impacted by this tragedy (for whom rage, and anything else, must flow), we must be vigilant in our response if we truly wish to prevent this sort of event from happening again.
Many are sharing that they “cannot imagine” how anyone could do this, they are “horrified”. One person wrote: “I am completely disgusted by what an evil and twisted individual is capable of.” Another wrote: “we [must use] our collective voice against the inhumanity of the few and …extinguish the fires of hatred others have spawned.”
While I can understand where these responses come from, the fact is that this is more hate, separation, denial and righteousness. These speakers celebrate their own outrage and abdicate social responsibility; their words are not about the victims at all. Acts like this are not acts of hatred—they are acts of pain, suffering, confusion and illness.
The shooter’s actions are awful. I am not saying he is not responsible. What I am saying is that this did not come out of nowhere, he is not an alien and this is not a sci-fi movie. He is a human being, and if we truly seek to prevent other humans from acting in this way, we must understand how this happened. We cannot do that unless we first admit to our shared humanity.
It is by acknowledging our connection and the fallibility of our species – by recognizing that even killers were children once, and questioning what could have happened to make them lose connection with compassion in such a profound way, that we will find a solution. We must commit to discovering, to trusting that we CAN in fact understand why, to finding that perhaps we are culpable in some part, rather than shrug and rage and turn our backs…until it happens again.
We must be courageous. We must look into our own hearts and truly see with all humility, “there, but for grace, go I.” We cannot know how we would have fared in his circumstances. We can’t know that we would have done any better. This is humbling, even horrifying, and yet it evokes the unity that can create true social transformation and healing. I believe we are capable of this.
Dr. King, Ghandi, Mother Theresa, Jesus—would they have railed at this person? Would they have raised themselves above him? I don’t believe so. And it is not because they were so Awake that they would not, it is because they would not, that they became so Awake.
This is the only way we will find a solution to these acts. Commit to understand, to know, and then respond from that knowledge. It may require changing the media, healthcare, social & family structures. It may seem to require much more from each of us than denial or shaming or separating ourselves from the other. It is worth it.
So I beg of you, when you are ready, to open your eyes wider, despite the pain – both to yourself and the other – rather than close them. We can understand; we can at least try. From that place, we can respond with wisdom and compassion for ALL. From that place, ending these tragedies forever is possible. Do not turn away when our human society needs your clear, wise and compassionate seeing the most.
Thank you, from the bottom of my heart.
With deep sorrow, love and hope,
“There is a saying in Tibetan, ‘Tragedy should be utilized as a source of strength.’ No matter what sort of difficulties, how painful experience is, if we lose our hope, that’s our real disaster.” ~ Dalai Lama XIV”
Zoe is a fellow life coach and teacher of spirituality in a way that is completely understandable and brought down to earth (my words…not hers). She teaches complex spiritual ideas in very simple ways. I’ve learned a lot from her and she does this really cool videos series that teaches you tips on how to live better. Check out her website and get on her mailing list if any of this resonates with you. And please leave a comment below with your opinions on this. Do you agree? Do you have a different point of view? Please share below.
As a parent the thought of losing my child is unimaginable. These children were gunned down and some were shot more then ten times. It is absolutely horrific and I can’t imagine what the grieving families are going through. Ana Greene was one of the victims of the recent school shooting. :( One of my childhood friends was very close with her and her family. Unfortunately unless something changes this will happen again. Mental illness needs to be addressed as well as the culture of violence in society. Gun laws also need to be looked at. There is a strange belief that is some gun laws are strengthened people will be losing rights. I think that this “loss of freedom” is being broadcast by people who make a LOT of money of selling guns and ammo. What about a child’s right to go to elementary school without being violently murdered? Someone made money off the bullets that ripped apart those kids. Someone made money off the guns that killed them. There is absolutely no need for military assault weapons to be sold legally. The ironic thing is the mother of the killer had six guns for protection. She had a mentally ill son that she taught to shoot guns. She bought those guns to protect her and they were used against her. There will be more and more shootings unless something changes. What scares me is if these tragic things keep happening people will start to become desensitized to them. My heart breaks for the community of Newtown.
The worst thing that we can do is to do nothing.
I love this response so much. More love and connection, not hatred and separation, is the path to healing. I am on board. Thank you for sharing, Sally (and Zoe)!
Hey lady….thank you so much for commenting. I think the conversation is such an interesting and complex one. And is so much more than any of these arguments all on their own. I loved Zoe’s take on it. I loved her beautiful words and message. Thank you so much for reading and being part of the conversation.
It’s not a matter of changing gun laws, or banning weaponry, or classifying the Westboro Baptist Church (that has threatened to picket the funerals of these children) as a hate group, or encouraging the group Anonymous to post personal information online or tear down a website or talk how “only speech I like deserves to be heard”. Free speech is free BECAUSE it HAS to include things you or I don’t necessarily want to hear.
Zoe asks if important historical figures would have railed against the shooter, and that is exactly the point. While people take to message boards and other social media talking about how we should burn Fred Phelps’ house down or how we should “do something” to or about the gunman, and talking about how “evil” he is and cursing them out, we should be attempting to figure out what motivated this in the first place. Was the gunman’s voice silenced by another whom did not want to listen until he felt this was the only form of speech he could do that people would listen?
The movie Falling Down and the DC Comics graphic novel “Batman: The Killing Joke” (where the Joker’s origin is explained) both reference the effects of “one bad day”.
In Falling Down, the “one bad day” is when his car’s air conditioning breaks down while caught in a traffic jam on a hot day in the city after being laid off his job, while in The Killing Joke, the man who would become the Joker was failing as a stand-up comedian after quitting his job at a chemical plant.
His wife was pregnant at the time, and with no income to support them, he reluctantly agreed to help criminals steal payroll at the plant he used to work at, wearing a special hood to conceal his face. After learning his wife and unborn child had died in a household accident, he was even more reluctant to commit this crime. During the robbery, when Batman confronted the thieves, the panicked man jumped off a ledge into a chemical basin that emptied into the sewers. Later, the man discovered the chemicals permanently changed his face and hair, and with everything else that happened to him, it was that “one bad day” that made him decide nothing made sense.
In real life, there is no such thing as “one bad day”. Everything builds up. There were almost certainly indicators prior to this event unfolding. How long were they ignored?
For a great article on free speech and what it truly means, check out This Is True. Randy Cassingham, the author, writes a great post of what freedom of speech must truly mean for it to be free.
There’s an old cliche about two ears and one mouth. This isn’t about “speaking out” or any of that nonsense. There’s been enough speaking about these things. Perhaps if someone had listened and tried to see the warning signs that most certainly were there, then we could prevent these kinds of attacks.
Creating new laws and new ways of banning things won’t succeed in doing anything. If someone is determined to get his hands on assault weapons, they will. If someone wants to shoot someone, they’re not going to stop and say, “Oh, gee..but guns aren’t legal”. If someone is determined to take their own life, they won’t worry about the legalities of their final acts.
New laws and new bans have been shown not to succeed. Hunters do not use assault weapons to shoot food in the woods. Law-abiding citizens will always support laws, but will a law banning something stop the desperate? Will the desperate stop to consider the legality of what they plan? Will the desperate stop to consider the ramifications of their actions? Stop to consider for a moment WHY these people become desperate in the first place, and you will have an excellent starting point to preventing further loss of life.
I mean no disrespect to you Gregory. But this was clearly not anything like Michael Dougless’ character in fallen. Or anything that could be found in a comic book. Dougless’ character was endearing to so many of us because we’ve all had that kind of day. Maybe not on that scale but,…we’ve all felt rage in one form or another. The difference is 99.999% of us don’t ever act on it and go to see movies such as that one and say “Wow, I can relate”
But, this is all moot at this point anyway. This was not a young man having a bad day. This was a family having a bad 20 years apparently. I don’t know if this link is going to work and I realize that this has been circulated so much by now. Still, if you haven’t read it, please do. If it doesn’t come through I left it on Sally’s mom’s timeline.
(The link is too long to post) It is called “I am Adam Lanza’s mother”
The one other thing if I can hijack Sally’s blog for one more second. We can all agree on, I think is that part of the answer- EDUCATION. This disturbed young man had much bigger plans last Friday. Had it not been for the quick-thinking of the teachers using the loud speaker and the training they have had which they passed on to the children, things would’ve been much much worse. Children are strong. They know what to do in a fire drill. They are prepared for terrorist attacks even if they don’t quiet know what it is all about. (And that is fine) They hear a certain siren and they go under there desks, or line up to evacuate. These are life-saving teachings and it saved everyone else in that school. I hope nothing like this ever happens again. But, if it does…If some nut makes his way into a school again. Let’s prepare the shit out of everyone inside and have the end result completely different. Maybe instead of 26 bodies we could have 206 heroes…
peace to all of you,
In focusing on the movie and the comic reference, you COMPLETELY glossed over and/or outright ignored the ENTIRE post. and the message contained therein.
READING is a part of LISTENING. You were so focused on your own thoughts, on your own points that you completely and totally IGNORED my entire post, choosing to take one thing, latch onto it and make it all about that one thing, as opposed to LOOKING inside and seeing the comparison for what it is…an example.
You are a superb example of WHY things happen, Susan. Things happen because no one bothers to take the time to LISTEN to people, to UNDERSTAND them. Everyone is so narrowly focused on themselves and what they have to say that people are left scratching their heads when a tragedy strikes, referring to someone as a “nut” (clearly the kind of person I want to have coaching me, the kind of person who won’t bother to attempt to understand me, but will just slap on a label).
Hiding under a desk will not save you when someone comes in to your place of education or employment or worship with automatic weapons and the intent to kill. I have no idea what you mean when you talk about “206 heroes”, and would certainly hope that since you left it vague that you are not vaguely encouraging everyone to be armed and shoot other people. That’s hardly a solution. Again, your intent is unclear, as you left it vague.
Education IS key, as you mention, but not hiding under desks, or performing evacuation drills. Those are reactionary measures. We shouldn’t be trying to REACT to something that is already happening. We should be trying to LOOK, LISTEN, and LEARN so that instead of reacting to something, we can PREVENT.
I hesitate to use another example, Susan, because it will likely go over your head, as well, but most people tend to find simple examples easier to understand, thus making the overall concept easier to grasp.
Life is about PREVENTION. You stretch before you go on a run to PREVENT muscle pulls and tears, and other leg injuries. You warm up before you lift a heavy weight so you do not cause a strain on your arm and chest muscles. You eat healthy and take vitamins to PREVENT yourself from getting sick. You brush your teeth and use floss and mouthwash to PREVENT cavities and having to go to a dentist. You turn on lights to read or watch TV or look at your computer to PREVENT eyestrain and having to get eyeglasses.
You LISTEN, you OBSERVE, and you attempt to LEARN the reasons WHY people take up arms and decide to shoot a school full of kids. The fact that this kind of thing continues to happen (Columbine, Virginia Tech, and now this) clearly demonstrates that people have learned NOTHING at ALL from these tragedies.
You talk about “bad 20 years, apparently”, but did anyone bother to attempt to learn this PRIOR to someone deciding that the only way for someone to LISTEN to their message was to go to a classroom armed with an automatic weapon and shoot people? From what little I have seen thus far about this shooting that is actual NEWS (as in facts, not just people rambling about how we need more gun laws and ban this and shoot these other people and silence those other people), the warning signs were there, just that people did not want to be bothered with someone else, they were too busy with themselves.
Susan, if the very first exposure I had to the profession of “life coach” was through your comment, I would have a very negative perspective on the profession. For someone whose career it is to “coach” or help people out, and the best you can do is label someone a “nut”, encourage more reactionary measures (rather than encourage learning), and make a vague statement about heroes that is so open-ended that it could be interpreted in a lot of ways, many of them not positive.
While I recognise that a life coach is hardly a social worker, therapist, or psychiatrist, I wouldn’t want to be visiting any of the above if I felt they wouldn’t listen to me. That is the whole point of a coach, life or otherwise. Your Little League coach, track coach, swim coach, basketball coach, or even your school mentor/tutor all have to be able to LISTEN to discover what the situation is, and how to be able to assist in overcoming whatever those hurdles might be. Coach may be a less fancy word than “teacher”, “educator”, “doctor”, etc., but you all perform a similar function.
It is a shame that the people in the shooter’s life could not perform those functions, leaving a disturbed young man to his own devices in an attempt to get people to listen to whatever it was that was troubling him.
Gregory, I started my post with “I mean no disrespect”. Obviously, it offended you. But, from everything we know about this young man, I stand by what I said. His mother dedicated her life (from what I’ve heard on the media and people I have spoken to who know someone who knows someone) to trying to help her son. I think there were several people in his life that wanted nothing more than to know what he was thinking and what could be done to make his life easier/better.
Perhaps calling him a nut was offensive. But when someone goes into a school and kills 20 6 year old children execution style and 6 adults. My bad manners will have to be excused for referring to him as a nut. If that makes me a bad life coach or a bad person then so be it. I don’t think Mother Theresa would would be have as offended as you seem to be.
I don’t know how you know that these warning signs were there. But, if they were and nobody paid attention then shame on them. I suppose. He had as-burgers syndrome. But, millions of people have that who are very successful and are not violent at all. So, what set this man off may remain a mystery. I am totally behind the idea of people being able to get help. Whether it is for someone to talk. Or to get needed meds or even hospitalization.
But, apparently he wasn’t asking for help and he was 20 years old. Everyone that I’ve seen interviewed said he was nice but “odd” or “the definition of a nerd” or “socially awkward”.
When I spoke of education. I meant that as a way of leading to prevention. I didn’t realize that I was being so vague. I am 100% pro gun control. AND, I was using hiding under the desks as an example. I am saying nothing should be taken of the table when it comes to keeping people safe. Education and preparation. Hopefully that will lead to prevention. Was that clear enough for you?
As I stated in the email I replied to from you, I am not offended. Once again, you leap to judgement calls with nothing to go on. I stand by what was posted. I posted this, verbatim, somewhere else, and no one else seemed to lock on to the pop culture reference and frame their entire post around it as you seem to have done. The reason why is because maybe other people chose to READ and LISTEN, which you have now failed to do TWICE. First was the original post from you, and your follow up is second.
This has nothing to do with disrespect, respect, or anything else. What it has to do with is READING and UNDERSTANDING, which, as an alleged “life coach”, you should already have skills in. I guess that’s my lack of understanding to think you would have those skills in the profession of helping people. Again, if I didn’t know Sally previously, and you were my only example of a “life coach”, I’d be pretty damn scared and running for the hills from you and those who share your “profession”.
If you sincerely want to be a life coach as a profession, you should go back and study a LOT more about how to LISTEN to people, because you clearly have no skills in such. Your ability to understand is also lacking. Were I a paying client, would I be dismissed by you so easily as you dismiss Adam Lanza? You are the kind of person that ENCOURAGES people like him with your easy dismissals and inability to READ or UNDERSTAND. You especially need help understanding anything where an example is made, since any time any example is made, you completely lose all ability to understand and immediately go into dismissal mode. How do I make this judgement call? Your posts give me plenty of information. Say what you will about my own dismissal of you, but I don’t profess to be a “life coach”, I’m just a guy in sales.
You ask how I know of the warning signs. That was covered in my first post, which you really need to read and understand, which from your post here, I’m guessing you didn’t bother to read it at all, and are now trying to backtrack on your statements. You realise your error in making judgment calls about people, but you still don’t believe in doing anything about it, since I’m confident in saying I believe you still have not read or understood anything I posted.
However, I’ll do this again, for your benefit. Perhaps you can understand and read this.
There is no such thing in real life as “one bad day”. There is no one in real life that just wakes up one day and decides to shoot 20 people. I don’t pay attention to killers, I don’t believe in giving them the publicity they do crave. I don’t know of he had Asperger’s Syndrome or not, but I still firmly believe that there is no such thing as one bad day, and there were previous indications. There have been in the two other shootings of which I mentioned. If he was “odd”, or “socially awkward” or a “nerd” isn’t terribly relevant, but however, I will concede that it is those personality types that need to have someone LISTEN to them, and see if they need help. Whether this person asked for help or not isn’t relevant. The only time that’s relevant is to doctors, shrinks, and everyone else who makes health a career, meaning “I don’t care until you pay me to care”.
I don’t think it’s me you need to be impressing, I think it is the people that pay you to listen to them that you should be trying to impress. What I post won’t hurt my sales, but it could certainly hurt your “career” if people think you don’t care or will dismiss them or not listen to them.
It’s those same people you to whom should clarify your thoughts, or you will have to choose a new job, since no one will consider you for your current one. I say again, if I was a paying customer, or considering paying you, and saw how easily you can ignore people in order to make sure what YOU want is put out front, I’d be running in the other direction.
Perhaps, “coach”, you should train some more in your listening and comprehension skills if you want to continue in your present job.
If this wasn’t such a painful subject I’d be laughing. I read and understood everything that you wrote. I get that it!!!! Yes, if we understood these people, we could prevent the tragic events. I GET IT (see I can emphasize with caps too) But, I am telling you what they are saying. Adam Lanza did NOT want to talk. Did not show any signs except the social awkwardness he had always shown. Which, is not a crime. So what does that leave us with? 27 dead people including his mother.
“Were I a paying client, would I be dismissed by you so easily as you dismiss Adam Lanza? ” Your words. When did I dismiss anyone? Adam Lanza didn’t ask for help. Certainly not from me. If he had and any of it had been even the slightest bit violent, I would’ve referred him to a doctor. And money has nothing to do with it. You seem to have so much compassion for this man. Yet, where is that great big understanding soul when it comes to his victims???
I think you are an ass. In fact, I’m sure of it. I think you are so in love with your own words and your own voice that you are missing the biggest points of all. I won’t be continuing this conversation anymore. My cousin Sally, is all about finding solutions and clearly, with you, there is not even an “agreement to disagree”
Don’t be so confident that you caused me SO much turmoil and yourself none. (Being that you’re just a salesman-Again you’re words) You have proven yourself to be quite the S.O.B. and you can call it karma or if you are religious you can say “You reap what you sow” I just like to say what goes around goes around and if there’s any truth to that… BELIEVE ME you’ve got it coming!
Wow…you guys…I’m so sorry that I just saw this conversation happening. Christmas time with my family and traveling, has kept me busy and unfortunately I had missed this all until now. And I have to say, I’m sad. Honestly. I absolutely believe in everyone’s right to their own opinions, whether or not I agree with them. I’m just sad that it seems that there have been personal attacks on each of you from each of you from simply stating your opinions. I get it, this is a touchy subject, but I was hoping that the post might bring some of us together instead of separate us further apart.
I care about you both and respect both your opinions. You both are good people. Smart, interesting, talented. And I’d like to request that the conversation about this publicly on the blog stops here.
Much love to you both,
Thank you for sharing this, Sally. It is a thoughtful take on a very heated and tragic situation. I sympathize/agree/understand with your statement: “…I also am also very uncomfortable with most people’s responses to it. I’ve never quite been able to put words around how I feel.” I think so much of what is said reactionary, which is understandable, certainly initially, – it IS awful, it IS tragic, it IS hard to imagine – but there are harder questions to be answered and if that emotion behind the reaction can be channeled into deeper discussion and action, change might really begin to happen.