The killing of twenty 5 and 6 year olds and 7 adults and a killer suicide makes one think about things one might not enjoy thinking about.
Is it the automatic weapons? Is it all guns? Is it mental illness? Is it a deranged and untreated or mistreated individual? Is it poor parenting?
As parents, don't we all wonder if that last one is relevant Did the killer's parents unknowingly raise him to believe killing would get him something he craved and couldn't get? Did he need help with mental issues which went unmet? Did his mother live in denial before her beloved son shot her in the face?
And why babies?
I don't know. I know the sadness filling me is hard to describe. I didn't know anyone connected to this massacre. I do know many children and love more than a handful. I am a mother, grandmother, aunt and friend to a bunch of children and many of them go to schools of some sort. I need to believe they are safe there. I need to, but I don't. I live in small town USA, much like Newtown, CT, I imagine. It was safe here, too. It used to be. It isn't now.
We, Americans, have to change something now. We can't feel this pain or sadness for a couple of weeks and then go back to how we were last week. We have done this so many times and this must be the end. What do we change? Where do we begin? What can I do?
First, I believe I can make a difference. I am a woman with a voice and an opinion. I don't have to win this one. I don't have to be right. I just have to be heard because once I am heard, there is more of a chance someone else will chime in and then another and a dialogue will ensue. There is a possibility that by speaking out and throwing something out into the universe someone might actually find a way to change us. Change how we deal with each other.
I've said a lot this past week-end about guns and God. I have allowed my mind to spit out whatever was angering it or upsetting it and most of what I've said, I do believe, but I know that the US will not go back to where we were 20 years ago. We will not allow God back into our schools because now that we have removed Him, too many people will fight and scream that He has no place there; that parents must be the God teachers. I understand this, it's hard to take away something non-believers won. Like it or not, this country used to have God in all aspects of life and our Presidents still often speak of God's blessings and our Congress begins with a prayer each session and there is the "In God We Trust" on our money and "One Nation Under God" in our Pledge of Allegiance. God Bless America is sung at all baseball games. He was accepted as part of our heritage, but not shoved on people who worship another God, or none at all. Whoever your Divinity is, that is your God. If you don't have one, then why is it so offensive when I speak of mine? I am not offended when you speak of not having one. I am not offended when you respectfully decline from partaking in any prayer offered at a gathering. Why are you offended when I respectfully pray? I don't get it. I'm not asking for anything we haven't always had in this country, I'm just wishing we hadn't given in to the vocal minority, the 20% of Americans who don't want any mention of God in any public building nor any public gathering and certainly not in their schools. They worry about the effect on their vulnerable children. I worry about that, too.
I worry about all the violence our children are seeing and participating in to the exclusion of all other possible activities.
I worry that they are not receiving the adult supervision while playing video games of murder and mayhem and bombings and blood and gore. I worry that they are not getting the adult input to impress upon them that these are make-believe, but real guns and bombs are deadly and the victims don't come back tomorrow to die again. I worry that without an adult who is grounded in reality to teach the difference to a child whose mind might not be formed yet or isn't exactly right, there will become a fascination with death and no consequences. You boot up the next day and everyone comes back to be blown up again. If the child with a bit of anything that isn't mainstream plays nothing but these games, how do they learn the reality of guns and bombs and death. The consequence in video games is that you win when all others die.
Why do parents buy these games? Could there be a better choice? Could you possibly monitor your child's computer time so that even the online versions could not be played? Yes, you could, but do you?
They buy them because the kids want them. They buy them because they like playing them, too. They believe they are just having fun with their kids.
They are not JUST having fun with their kids. They are creating a way of thinking inside their child that may never cause a problem or it may cause a fascination no one saw coming. A break with reality that no one ever thought this child was capable of. It could create a strong, well backed by experience, way to get even with someone or a lot of someones that caused him pain which he never got over. Most likely, statistically him; testosterone seems to be part of this.
Why would any parent want to expose their child to that possibility?
Is it guns? I don't believe it is. It's guns in the wrong hands. I subscribe to the saying that if guns were illegal only criminals would have them.
Is it mental Illness? It could certainly be a factor, but not every person with a mental illness is violent and homicidal.
Is it video game? A lot of kids play them with no problem, or so we think.
What can we remove from this list?
We are a gun strong country. We have no need for automatic weapons in the hands of the citizenry, but they are already out there. So what we can do is stop selling the ammunition for them. Sell only to the military and the police. That would be doable and a large fine associated with mandatory jail time would keep suppliers from selling much.
We can provide better mental health options from early age to death. We can build better facilities where treatment is not extravagantly expensive and where help is there for the asking and trained people can and will work with families to find solutions. We need to do this now. Not in 5 years. It needs to happen now.
Violent video games and violent movies could be banned. They could be removed from our purchasing venues and the internet just by placing a giant price tag on them which would make them unattainable for the average kid's parents. We could make them illegal. We could just stop supporting the makers of them and they would soon disappear.
We could also start talking to our neighbors and making sure we all know each other and know what kind of people live near us. I'm sure you once knew all your neighbors. I know most of mine now, but we don't hang out. We know each other and we call to check on each other from time to time and we take the time to know each other.
Be aware of what your child is doing and think about what possible benefit there is in those games. There is none. Why are you allowing that in your home and more importantly, in your child's mind?
If you have guns in your home, are they safely locked? From a teenager who lives in or visits your home? How safe are they? Remember mental instability doesn't equate to ignorance. Many very highly intellectual children have mental illnesses to varying degrees and watching you unlock and remove and a gun and then seeing you load it and use it, the lesson is easily learned. Any teenager can imitate what you do after seeing it once.
Gun ownership is not an evil thing. Nor do I think we need to remove guns from our homes, if you desire to own one and can pass a screening and training course given by a well-qualified instructor. I do think as a gun owner, you must take the necessary steps to secure them from your children. ALWAYS. No child should be able to hold or remove a gun in your home. No ammunition should be near the gun unless both are in a safe made for the purpose of securing both. Experts have recommended using locks with combinations. Others say a key lock with your key always on your person, like a chain around your neck. Never on your key chain or a key rack located in your home. I have heard of people who keep their keys in another safe along with important papers. Something very difficult to open is the idea. Never count on any gun being unloaded and therefore, not a problem.
I do not have the answers. I am just emptying my head of all the things I am trying so hard to sort and figure out. I just want people to stop thinking that parenting is about feeding, clothing and entertaining their children. I want parents to understand that having a child is a lifetime commitment. Having a child is not giving birth to your new best friend, but rather a responsibility of another human, forming ideas and values, shaping a moral code by your own example, that will most affect your child forever. Others will also add here and there and they will probably not be your clone, but you will be the basis of their morality for life.
How you treat other people and how you handle anger and disappointment will teach your child.
You will have many years when they are grown to be their friend, but it doesn't start until they have left your home and become independent of your support and your rules. They may well move back in as adults. You can be friends then. You can still parent when they want you to, but mostly you will be friends. So raise a child that you would want as a friend. A friend you would invite happily into your home.
Writing this very long piece has made my mind more settled. I know there will always be deranged people who do deranged things, but I hope we learn to curb and maybe even stop some of the future episodes simply by parenting better. By saying no. By making them learn to handle disappointment. By allowing them to lose. No one always wins. Everyone must learn to lose and learn from losing. We all lose sometimes, we don't all go on a shooting spree because life isn't fair. But some do. Parenting does make a difference. Be the parent who says no, who limits everything and is involved in your child's online life and please burn those violent video games, they have no place or purpose in your love filled home.
And teach your children to pray to someone, if not my God, someone else. Teach them to meditate and hear their own thoughts. It's a lifesaving technique. I know it has saved mine.
If you are still reading, thank you. Now please feel free to leave your own thoughts below. No limit on length. I don't plan to reply to any. I am just looking for your thoughts to soak up all the ideas and opinions you might offer. My own thoughts are suffocating me.