Just in time for Christmas: Mall shootings, church shootings

I apologize in advance for the simplistic argument presented in this post. I realize I sound like an emotional flake. It happens sometimes.

What have we become as a society when, struggling with some internal psychological conflict, we take up arms and start shooting innocent people? I’m not trying to make light of this situation (despite the title of this entry). I can’t imagine what is going on in the minds of these people (though, the latest “church” shooter seems to have had some serious mental problems… duh…). But I’m worried about this trend in our society of people — sometimes children — taking out their frustration and madness by violently picking off the lives of innocent people.

This last round of shooting really got to me because it left me to ask, “Is there any place that’s safe?” The latest assissin was a crazed, angry ex-missionary-wanna-be who shot people who were attending church services on a Sunday morning! He got taken down and is no longer a problem, but who else is out there? Who is so mad and upset and hurting that the only solution he/she can see is violence against people who have nothing to do with the source of anguish? Where did this “solution” to our problems come from? When did guns go from a means of protection to an equalizer for one’s emotional issues? Could it really be violent video games?

I’m just at a loss to understand it. I wish these people, if they are feeling so miserable, would take out their own lives instead of bringing everyone else down with them. I don’t condone suicide. I just wish that when these people reached the conclusion that death is the only way out, they would just quietly chose it for themselves. Of course, I’d rather someone seek professional help and find a way out of their own internal mess. But if they’ve reached a point of no return with themselves, why can’t they just keep the death and destruction confined to themselves?

Being a tree-hugging pacificist liberal, I have my qualms with the Second Amendment. I personally think the law is antiquated in modern society when your life is not constantly threatened by “savages,” rogue cowboys, and wandering wild animals on the prairie. However, since there are other rights on the the Bill of Rights that I’m bound to protect for fear of them becoming altered in horrible ways (mainly, the First Amendment) so I will always argue against amending or rescinding any of the original ten rights. Therefore, I have to allow that citizens — only those without felony records — can bear arms and I just have to grin and bear it. I personally don’t want to bear any arms (can’t take them into most buildings anyway), but I won’t take those rights away from my fellow citizens and Charlton Heston (he’ll need the guns to defeat “those damn apes” someday anyway).

Still, part of me questions whether or not the easy access to guns also contributes to our violence. I’m told — but admittedly do not have facts to verify — that other countries, who do not allow citizens the free and easy right to bear arms, do not have the violence problem we do in the United States. Also, no other film industry in the world provides images of violence in such gory, graphic detail as the U.S. And aren’t all these video games generated in the U.S.? These Grand Theft Autos and the such, these games that teach kids that killing is easy and free and without consequence and in such glorious, mind-blowing detail. Does the blood desensitize us? (Or those of you who don’t faint in the middle of gory movies or at the sight of real blood, as I do?)

Whatever happen to Space Invaders? Tetris? Solitaire? Centipede, Pac-Man? Pong?

I wonder how my mom would have raised us with today’s technology seducing our senses at every turn. My mom was not one to sensor much what we read, viewed, or played. But she did have a stopping point. I remember she wouldn’t let me watch The Day After because of the graphic detail in which the T.V. movie depicted citizens of a small town battling for life in a post-nuclear war. (I snuck into the hall and watched anyway… I have always had a sick fascination with nuclear war fiction.)

She didn’t permit us to watch any of the Porky’s movies (they were always on HBO, it seems). When accidentally exposed to violent or sexually explicit content in a movie, my mom always pulled us aside to discuss why these particular behaviors were unacceptable in everyday life or for kids. I may not have understood death as I do now, but I did understand that when someone was shot, they could die, which meant to my childlike consciousness as “no longer here.”

Given her conscientious parenting, however, would she have been able to combat so easily the vivid images thrown at kids daily in the world today? My dad always says that he would not want to raise kids in today’s society, and I always poo-pooed his statement as being old and cranky, but now I consider his point may be valid. We’ve reached a level in our society where school shootings are commonplace. Maybe I need to rescind my comment of a few days ago that claimed things have not changed. Maybe they have. Or maybe parenting has become lazy…

I think what’s really unnerving to me about this particular shooting is the fact that it happened in what has always been defined to me as a “safe place.” I’ve always offhandedly joked when locking my car in a church parking lot, “Oh, who would steal something at a church?” I guess I overestimate my fellow human beings — I’m sure people steal things from church grounds more frequently than I’ve ever bothered to investigate. Why would the grounds of a church stop people with an inclination to steal, anyway? Silly assumption on my part. If God is everywhere, he can see you steal whether you’re in church or at the grocery store. So being at a church is not any more threatening. Still… you’d expect people to innately have respect for church grounds (in much the same way that I always dress nicely at church, whether or not other people do). You’re expected to behave better than yourself on church grounds.

Schools used to be safe, too. When I was a kid, I never had to worry about being shot by a classmate. Maybe beat up in the bathroom if I ran into the wrong group of bullies smoking between classes in the stalls, or on the bus, or at the bus stop. Perhaps I never really did feel safe at school, for at any given moment, a girl might threaten to punch out my teeth or a guy would try to grab my bra strap. However, I was fearing a black eye or a bloody nose or the humiliation of being overcome physically by bullying girls seeking a reputation and a-hole hormone-raging boys. I won’t understate my fear of these sort of encounters. I was scared to even walk around anywhere in my hometown after school hours because of a chance encounter with a bully (and believe me, they did threaten you outside of school… it happened all the time).

However, I never had to fear my death at school. (Even if being beat up were as bad as death to a young girl who never experienced death.)

Of course, I probably fit the profile of most school shooters: outcast, unpopular, different. I wished horrible fates on my classmates (I don’t think I ever said “death”) and cursed them out in my diary, one by one. I had a lot of anger and rage towards them that carried me into my first year of college, before I fell into my own. It never occurred to me to shoot anyone. But then, I wasn’t raised in a world of violent video games and my mom stayed at home to raise me.

I don’t know. I don’t have the answers. These recent shootings have just got me a little rattled. People are getting shot by crazed assassins when going about their normal, daily routines — schools, malls, churches.

I pray for the two teenage girls who died at the hands of the gun man. They were 16 and 18 years old… and coming from church… when their short lives were extinguished by a 24 year-old, possibly mentally ill, young man with a lot of anger and sadness in his heart. Maybe I should pray for his soul too… he may be the one who really needs the healing the most…

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6 thoughts on “Just in time for Christmas: Mall shootings, church shootings

  1. Hey Heidi,A friend of mine knew the shooter at Success Tech in Cleveland. It really rattled her, because she never knew how hurting he was. They are in the process of putting metal detectors in ALL CMSD schools and we will have to enter daily. This is a band-aid and not the cure. The real problem is that the person is suffering inside…and I think that the shooter gets negative attention by getting all the publicity. Their 15 minutes of fame so to speak. There have always been poor parenting skills across the board..a lot of the abuse for years has gone unrecognized. And let me tell you, I am quite the parent to many of the students I have at school..as simple as making sure their child doesn’t run in the street even though he protests as I grab his hand. So the system is overtaxed…and even if you do receive services..who is to say that the individual will follow the lead of the provider?? I think really, lack of personal responsibility is more of a problem now a days… Remember to never give up hope. As a soon to be parent, my fears for my daughter have really grown, but I am reasured by many good things that happen daily that the world has many good people and many good things.

  2. Thanks, Gwenn, for your thoughtful comment. I think my problem is that I identify with the school shooters a little too much. I have to admit that I still feel a little bit of glee when, in the movie <>Carrie<>, Carrie kills all her classmates at the prom… the kid in me always thinks, “They deserved it!”But, of course, they didn’t. Thoughts are one thing. I know that who I am now could never kill a living being (I’ve always said that if I had to hunt my own food, I’d be a vegetarian). The problem is, I can understand the pain of some of the shooters.Though, that 24-year old gunman at the church in Colorado Springs… rrr… I dont know what to think about him. What a terrifying day at church!

  3. I think people are really isolated. Its so easy to live completely without any contact with another human being in our society. Everyone’s got their windows up and their headphones on and no one knows their neighbors. When someone gets off-kilter, there are no stabilizing influences to address it. People live in an emotional pressure cooker, and its a nameless, faceless rage against all of society.In my opinion, this isn’t just the work of a few people with mental illness, as much as the media would have you believe that. Its the effect of a society where its considered gross to have contact with another human being. In such an environment, it is not a surprise when some poeple reach the breaking point and their problems have been left unaddressed for too long.

  4. I think you hit on it, Frank. I was trying to say that, I guess, in my babbling way. It’s like that Police song, “Synchronicity”: “…packed like lemmings into tiny metal boxes.”

  5. Whoo! Just finished my grading and am free until tomorrow morning & spring course planning.I was pretty unpopular in school, but I wasn’t angry about it: I figured I had a mark on my head and this showed people that I was someone who was used to this kind of thing. Plus, my schoolmates both “teased” me and revered aspects of my personality. They couldn’t really “get” to me because I was pretty oblivious most of the time, but Junior High was very different.In grade school, they both hated and envied my ability to totally space out and take a break from any situation. In Junior High, I was lucky enough to be in a large school and to remain relatively unknown by both the popular kids and by all other groups. In High School, it was the early 90s and the Gang thing had hit in my neck of the woods, plus we had a huge school with tons of very VERY disaffected people, some of whom were not sane any longer (almost invariably the result of abuse at the hands of peers and/or parents).I felt a constant, low-grade sense of menace and wondered if there would be a mass shooting at school. I developed a (pretty ineffectual) survival plan for if/when it did happen: play dead, be sure to apply available blood, look injured/dead, lie still, try not to breathe. Then, when the shooters move into another area, run in the opposite direction.It didn’t end up happening at my school, but when Columbine broke years later, my first uncensored thought was “why does this surprise people – don’t they know what goes on with their kids?!”Many parents don’t have a clue, the kids certainly arent’ in a position to tell them, and no one at school is legally obligated (as yet) to follow up.Each of these shootings signals something over and over again to me: we need a more comprehensive National Mental Health Care screening process for all people, AND we need to make good mental health practices a focus in schools and workplaces. If we continue to ignore the fact that these killings are being carried out by the mentally ill (there are so many people out there who just don’t have that last straw of a barrier between thought and plan/action), the shootings will continue to happen. Also, there’s been the issue several times in news details that the gun was issued to a family member of someone with a significant mental illness. We need to think about guns and ammo in households with someone who is unstable and would be likely to want to use them – I’m thinking regulation that requires this sort of thing to be registered and evaluated at the gun-purchaser’s expense before a license to purchase firearms is granted would be a great first step.PS This is also Jane, and again I forgot my password, haha!

  6. Jane, I think I tend to agree with Frank on this one. I dont think that all these people are necessarily mentally ill. I think a lot of them are troubled people (ie, depressed, which really isnt a mental illness per se, but a state of being from which one can recover) who don’t know how to deal with their anguish. I think that the media likes to label everything into a box and put a pretty bow on it because it’s so much easier to just blame it on something. “Oh, he was mentally ill.”“He was just strange.”“They were into Marilyn Manson, a Satanist.” “They wore trench coats — you know that’s trouble.” (in the case of Columbine)We discussed this a little last night in small group on the nature of “good” and “evil.” People have an easier time dealing with things if they can just call it one thing or another without a deeper examination. I think the media loves to just chalk things up to one thing with a nice, clean ending.I agree with you that at some point someone should have cared enough to talk to these troubled kids, taken a moment out of their busy lives to show compassion for someone who was obviously at a tipping point. All these kids exhibited worrisome behaviors prior to the shootings that should not have just been ignored — sounds like laziness to me. Or maybe these people were afraid to reach out because they didn’t understand the signs they were seeing.I am a little leary of government mandated mental health agencies, patrolling for mentally ill people. It smacks of _1984_ and Big Brother to me. If you give the government a method for monitoring the populous, trouble can only follow… Who is to define mental illness? Maybe my liberalism becomes deemed a mental illness by a conservative faction in power? Maybe the fact that I want to vote for Barrack Obama is a mental illness…? I mean, okay, that’s taking this thought ot the extreme… But, really, I fear any entity standing over me, evaluating my level of mental illness.

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