I’ve been telling myself not to write anything about the shooting because I don’t want to throw my hat in the ring and be just another asshole with an opinion. But, I couldn’t take it anymore. This story is just so bizarre, it’s keeping me awake at night.
I’m angry at it for being a perfect storm of media gold, with it’s victims sitting ducks for years of exploitation. Aside from the principle, obvious, sickening truth of it being a gruesome crime exacted upon society’s most vulnerable demographic (innocent, young children and well-meaning, world-loving elementary school teachers), why did it have to be another gloomy, withdrawn goth kid flipping out and killing a bunch of attractive, happy white people? Why was it set, yet again, in white upper middle class suburban America? Why did his parents have to be divorced? Why did he also end up being smart and into computers and video games? If it wasn’t real, I’d say someone made an Automatic Sensational Stories GeneratorBot that eats stereotypes and spits out news.
The story also follows the typical, irritating pattern of a media sensation. Usually, the first week of any major breaking story is full of mostly worthless information repeated over and over by every outlet trying to get a piece of the traffic pie. The stuff people really want to know takes months to emerge, so most of what you read at the beginning are the thoughts and reflections of people who don’t really know any more than you do, or too-painful-to-watch interviews with families of the people involved who should really be left alone to process and grieve. It’s really quite amazing how many articles can be generated from such a tiny handful of facts.
I am also angry that this happened again. I briefly “Googled” a timeline of school shootings in the world to gauge what percentage of them happened in the United States. My intention was to gain a five second perspective on the issue, to see if all of the America-bashing out there is remotely justified when it comes to school shootings. Looks like it might be. In Canada, there were eleven in the last 100-ish years. On the entire continent of Europe, there were around nineteen. There were twelve among Asia, Australia, and South America combined. In North America, there were a whole lot more.
So, why the penchant for shooting up schools in this country? One Jezebel blogger astutely pointed out that schools are often a person’s first exposure to human cruelty and are therefore attractive targets for revenge fantasies. My own experiences do speak to that. I had a terrible time in school. Because of it, I have a difficult time relating to others and I take medication and see a counselor regular to deal with the aftermath. I was a smart, sensitive kid and the rugged individualistic Alpha Apes I grew up with for some reason found that to be an irresistible target for torment. Not all parts of the US are like this, but the place where I grew up happened to be. It was a wealthy area that attracted a lot of tourists and “new money.” An “entitlement” attitude was common, and people tended not to worry too much about how their actions affected others. Individualistic cultures tend to breed that type of behavior and some regions are hot spots for it.
I’ve often thought about revenge, but I had never imagined such “direct action” as a satisfactory method. The drive to commit such an act is too far from my consciousness to be entertained. I’ve been suicidal all of my life, but have never attempted. Suicide really is a pretty bad idea. Actually, I’ve thought about how grand it would be if I became a public figure of some kind (I am actually a musician and I perform so it’s not a complete delusion) and speak out against bullying. My ideal and most favorite revenge plot on my attackers, who marginalized me and ignored me, would be to succeed regardless of their doubt and negligence.
I’m married now, I have a pretty decent career, and have friends. I worked incredibly hard to get there because I had some pretty harsh barriers to surmount including but not limited to physical and mental illness. Neither is fully surmounted and it will be a lifelong battle. But why did I take it in this direction and why did Adam Lanza become a murderer? We could traverse another five centuries of research without ever knowing the answer to that question.
Now for the gossip that eats me alive at night, what makes my blood boil as I force myself to close my web browser and find more intellectually fulfilling things to do with my mental energy.
Why those kids? Why that school? He was 20 years old? Why did he kill his mother, too? What gives?
The little bits and pieces about the Lanza family that keep trickling out are pretty weird. It has been discussed that Nancy Lanza was no picture of sanity herself, as she was stockpiling guns and food in preparation for the collapse of modern civilization — in a million dollar home in a neighborhood that seems among the least likely to feel the impact of any kind of economic downturn. Hmmm. This conspiracy theorist quality paranoia seems like something that may have come up in the divorce proceedings between Nancy and her husband, and seems like a pretty solid reason NOT to give a potentially mentally unstable mother custody of a mentally ill child, or to at least seriously question it. Perhaps this evidence will appear later? Maybe it’s not even part of the discussion?
And what was Adam Lanza’s mental illness? The symptoms described in various articles include:
- Self harm behaviors
- Inability to feel pain
- Very high intelligence
- Shy, awkward behavior
- suffered from “a personality disorder”
But the shooting incident? That was a high energy behavior pattern more similar to rage or anger. Family members say in some articles that he wasn’t usually like that. A lot of these symptoms seem to contradict each other, or at least don’t add up to anything glaring. Truthfully, what Adam’s diagnosis was doesn’t matter. What’s done is done. Mental illness is tough to treat and is often not successfully treated even when you have a diagnosis. Perhaps Adam had an extensive mental health history that cannot be publicly discussed due to HIPAA regulations. Mental health in America has much to be desired, but there isn’t enough information to diagnose the Lanza family.
Strict gun control laws are important, because they do prevent the crimes that do not occur, but they won’t prevent all of these crimes from happening again. Getting rid of ALL guns, in an absolute sense, would eliminate gun related crime. But is eliminating ALL guns possible without crossing some uncomfortable logistical and philosophical boundaries? The most important thing to remember is that it isn’t any more possible to only have guns for the people who won’t use them to do bad things than it is possible to have words only for people who won’t say mean things. We need to learn to get over that fact. Arguing with each other about what it means to be allowed to own guns or say words or do things is never going to get us to the higher philosophical plane that we, as humans, need to reach in order to start being able to solve our species’ problems.
The conclusion that most of you should have at this point is pretty simple, though it’s not glamorous and it won’t win you any Internet Debates. It won’t get you a New York Times column or a book deal and it won’t make your politically savvy friends stare slack jawed in amazement at your incredible wit. It most definitely will not prevent bad things from happening. But it’s all you can do right now. Keep trying to be a good person and keep thinking of ways you can teach others in your immediate world how to do the same. You can’t guarantee that another person will do the right thing — not through laws, religion, example, education, awareness, bribery, love, or persuasion. Sometimes these things do get results, but they don’t guarantee them. Uncertainty is truly humankind’s greatest adversary.
It sounds like this is one majorly fucked up family and what lead up to the shooting may be so off the wall that even if every scrap of evidence found in the investigation was reported in it’s entirety, it will probably not lead any of us to a meaningful conclusion other than one that is filled to the brim with our own biases and fears.