What’s wrong with the world is what’s wrong with us.

I’m not one to jump on a media bandwagon or blog much about the “news”. Particularly because there’s enough banal trivia floating through Twitter, Facebook and traditional media outlets to more than cover our desire for bright shiny objects and breaking news.

For some reason, today is different. Today 27 people were gunned down at an elementary school in Connecticut. This post isn’t about making sense of a senseless act, it’s about us. It’s about why blaming the “sick world we live in” will never be enough to solve our darkest problems.  Jon Stewart said the following after the Arizona shooting.

Someone or something will shatter our world again and wouldn’t it be a shame if we didn’t take this opportunity and the loss of these incredible people…to make sure that the world we are creating now…wasn’t better than the one we previously lost.

This afternoon, my twitter feed erupted. From “sicko” to “lunatic”, there were no shortages of adjectives to describe the young man who pulled the trigger. There were the predictable conversations about gun control, and even a few tweets about mental health. What there wasn’t was a conversation about how we help create an environment for someone, an environment where this kind of act is their only option.

I’m writing this post as I listen to my 14 month old son sing himself to sleep for his afternoon nap. We forget that Adam Lanza was once someone’s 14 month old son. We forget that he too went to kindergarten. That he too was once a child, likely full of life, laughter and hope. I’m not ever going to condone something like this… but I am going to ask what happened to Adam in his life that led him here? Or what didn’t happen? What peer bullied him on the playground? What close family friend or relative abused him? What school counselor (or teacher, coach, aunt) missed the signs of depression or mental health? Or worse, ignored those signs? Or didn’t have the capacity to do anything about it? Didn’t have the support of the administration or family or community to help him?

The people of Newton, Connecticut are in shock (as we all are), and rightfully we need to do everything we can to ease their pain and suffering. But we can’t let it stop there. It’s not about gun control. It’s not even always about mental health.

It’s about making sure that EVERY child is kept safe, secure and loved. It’s about creating the kind of world that’s better than the one we just lost. It’s about knowing that in order to create that better world, we need to acknowledge that we might need to change too. We might need to be more empathetic. More aware. More loving. Friendlier to our neighbors. More involved in our community.

And above all, we can no longer just “tweet” or “post” about our outrage, our suffering, our pain, our “messed up world”. We need to do something about it.

18 comments

  1. My conversation today with my class revolved around empathy. We talked about being kind, loving neighbours. We talked about feelings of sadness, and what to do with those feelings. Hard to explain to them why such terrible things can happen. Equally hard to imagine what happened to that child along the way to make him walk into that school with a gun. Breaks my heart.

  2. I have seen this posted on many friends FB walls today and I love your sentiment. I would ask though that you please edit this post to reflect the shooters name as Adam. Ryan is Adam’s brother and was not involved in this tragedy.

  3. My heart go to the family the be love childrens it fell like a heart has been tear out off all us in Canada my god best the family there are hurry right that there love ones are got before them my they rest Pease

    1. Thanks Mandy. I’m torn about narrowing the causes of this down too much…lest we miss other critical factors (and of course, the connections between them). And the reality is that the VAST majority of people with mental health issues DON’T end up doing something like this. Although certainly a factor, so to is gun control, and a culture of violence and fear, and a bunch of other things.

  4. Well said Jeff. The compassionate thing to do in this circumstance is to truly seek deep understanding of the systems at play – what failures caused this? What’s the root cause? Humans make mistakes in predictable ways which means we can detect, correct, anticipate and prevent suffering. It’s hard work, but we can do it and we can’t keep putting it off.

    1. Thanks Anita. I had someone tweet at me that “being nice” doesn’t work, as there are “bad people” that fall through the cracks. I’m not sure he fundamentally understands that having empathy and compassion doesn’t mean you’re always nice to everyone. Sometimes a little tough love goes a long way…but the key there is “love”. In fact, it’s looking more and more to me that love might be that key ingredient, which I think is just a deeper form of empathy.

      Regardless, thanks for taking the time to comment and I’m sure you’ve given me food for thought for further blogging.

  5. Thank you so much for posting this, this is the way I have been feeling about this since it happened but I have lacked the adequate words to express it with empathy.

  6. This is such a compassionate essay..I wish more people would consider,..an enlightened attitude as is expressed in your essay..I totally agree,..that Adam Lanza at one time too was a young boy,..who went to kindergarten,..who sadly somewhere along the way became lost,..or let down by those who should have guided him,from his darkness.I do not say this out of disrespect toward the victims at all.I feel sad for those babies.,& mourn their passage…But ,maybe by using the term,”it takes a village to raise a child”,& keeping our eyes open,& catching those children who fall through the cracks,by reaching out to the lost one’s.Tragedies like this can be averted.Asking a child how he/she is doing? A kind word,a caring gesture can take a child out of their isolation.And ,then,the bridge to a better world can be built.I believe that bridge is Love.It may have taken only one person,who reached out in genuine love,that may have saved Adam Lanza from doing what he did,taking his own life,&tragically the lives of such beautiful little souls.We may never know what our words can prevent ..Praise for your enlightened & compassionate views shared in your essay.I wish more people felt this way .This is what creates a better world.Thank you for sharing. 🙂

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