Some Thoughts about the Sandy Hook Elementary School Tragedy

While we increase police patrols and lock more doors, let’s invest at least as much energy and resources in protecting and nurturing the minds, hearts and souls of our children.

As a parent and Head of School, I have been unable to stop thinking about the awful events that took place at Sandy Hook Elementary School. As individuals and as a nation we are going through stages of grief. Anger that such a thing could happen and a search for the unanswerable question of why; and if a motive could ever be found, it would remain an unsatisfying discovery, as no motive is justification for that heinous crime. 

And so we move on to blame and responsibility – as if that would bring satisfaction or that even a single cause could ever be connected to the mass murder. Our nation’s conversation is focused on gun control and mental health.  They are important and necessary conversations.  

And while changes in those areas are necessary, no amount of gun control legislation would ever be sufficient to stop such meaningless slaughter. Our approach to mental health is in desperate need of change. As a parent of a child with mental illness, it is closer to my life than most. There is much to be said about how we address these issues, but that is for another time.

There is something glaringly missing from the national conversation. It is safer to point fingers away from ourselves. The government is responsible because of lax gun laws. Or the media is responsible because of all of the violence it promotes.  Or health care insurers are responsible for lack of access to good mental health care.

We do need better gun laws, better mental health care and a more open understanding of mental illness. Our children are exposed to a lot of violence in the media, but we forget that children have always been exposed to violence; just read a fairy tale!

We are avoiding the more uncomfortable conversation – the conversation about the fabric of our culture and society. President Obama is right when he says that a society is judged by how it cares for its children. Our Jewish tradition takes it further – we are judged by how we treat all vulnerable people in our society.  God demands justice and compassion!

The American ethos of self-determination, the individual independent of community, has led to a society that is increasingly filled with self-absorbed individuals in the endless pursuit of self-satisfaction and personal happiness. Our consumer-driven economy plays into that drive. The result is an overarching lack of responsibility to others. We do not want any person or any institution telling us what to do or how to act. We have taken “all about me” to new heights.

It is not that we do not do good things. Americans are charitable, and in crises we see strangers reaching out to those in need. 

Why is it we live in a culture where it is cool to be “bad,” “tough,” and physically powerful, but when someone calls for people to own their actions, be responsible for their choices and do what is right and just, that person is judged self-righteous or arrogant?  In others words, no person, no institution, and no God can tell me what to do.

Is it a coincidence that fewer people are involved in religious pursuits or interested in being guided by organized religion than at any other time in our society?  In America more people claim to be spiritual, looking for personal ways to connect with God and the universe, but again, this spirituality is about the self, not the other.

One of the changes our society needs to diminish senseless killings in schools, malls and movie theatres begins at home. There is a quote that says, “Let everyone sweep in front of his own door, and the whole world will be clean.”  It begins around the dinner table where parents care more about raising good people than about being their children’s good friend. Parents need to teach love, compassion and responsibility for one’s actions and choices.  Parents need to be there for their children, leading by example. It needs to be “cool” to be good, to care about others, to face our choices, and to recognize the world is not “all about me.” And parents need a structured community of shared values to help.

It is not enough for us to rally around our neighbors just in a time of crisis. It is not enough for our politicians to stop being uncivil to each other only after the slaughter of children. Civility, compassion, concern and actions that help others need to be ever-present in the fabric of our culture.

It’s easier to point fingers at Washington. However, if we really want to create a just, compassionate and safe society, it needs to begin with each of us and with each and every school and community. The murders at Sandy Hook Elementary School were horrific, and yet we are still fortunate to live and go to school in a relatively safe environment. The greater risks our children face each and every day are emotional and developmental rather than physical.  

So while we increase police patrols and lock more doors, let’s invest at least as much energy and resources in protecting and nurturing the minds, hearts and souls of our children. Goodness and compassion are not natural. They are learned. Too many people think they are good because they do not break laws.  They are merely not criminals. An absence of goodness can lead to unethical, selfish, and in extreme cases, criminal behavior. We need to be intentional when teaching our children and we need to be clear that we care as much or even more about their actions as we do about their grades!

Better gun laws, a more systemic and compassionate approach to mental illness, fostering responsibility in our young people, and more attention spent to creating a society where compassion, love and concern for helping others is as least as important as individual freedoms, will go a long way to decreasing this type of violence.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Amy German December 22, 2012 at 01:45 PM
Nancy Lanza legally owned five weapons, including a semi-automatic rifle. Didn't help her.
Darren Whittaker December 22, 2012 at 09:14 PM
Sorry, I don't want you, or any self-described amateur "protector" "watching over me" thank you very much. I don't want the guy who drives like an idiot, or woman who cuts in front of me in line, or the grandpa with shaky hands, or even YOU, to volunteer to "protect" me wherever I go. Regardless of whether or not they've taken "classes". Time and time again, your theory of universal arming has been proven woefully wrong, in spite of your bleats to the contrary. You want to live in an armed state? Go start one, or at least move somewhere else. Guns are more proliferate than they've ever been in this country, and they've not prevented much of anything, except maybe the peaceful existence that most of us would like to know. That may be impossible now - but I'll be damned if I'm gonna advocate for everyone and his sister to walk around packing heat. It's an argument ridiculous on it's face, and those who proffer it are speaking absolute nonsense. Those who say we should not even try to ban assault-type weapons and massive capacity clips are the most egregious of the bunch. Their logic is laughable. Following that logic - why are rocket-launched grenades banned? Or working tanks? They're obviously in the same category - under the twisted logic, they could be characterized as weapons of self-defense? Maybe you'd advocate for the repeal of laws banning them as well? If not - why not? It'd be interesting to see you contort yourself silly to explain that...
Frustrated Old Man December 23, 2012 at 05:20 AM
No one needs a car except a taxi driver. No one needs a computer except an engineer. No one needs alcohol except a bar tender. No one needs a golf club, except Tiger Woods. No one needs a hammer except a carpenter. No one needs a knife, except a hunter. No one needs a baseball bat except a professional ball player.
Frustrated Old Man December 23, 2012 at 05:23 AM
Grenade launchers are not banned, nor are working army tanks. You need to get out more, you're missing all the fun. Yes it is a fun sport.
Darren Whittaker December 23, 2012 at 08:22 PM
Yet they are highly regulated, and getting one requires a great deal of government pre-approvals, red tape and lots & lots of money - none of which applies to an assault rifle - especially one bought at a gun show. That's ridiculous.
Col. Duke Lacrosse December 24, 2012 at 05:18 AM
OK then Darren Whittaker, will you please wear a shirt or something that says, "Legal gun owners please don't protect me if SHTF." I'm OK with defending myself and those I care about, and I'm OK with defending innocent people in general, but fools who want my constitutionally protected right to Keep and Bear Arms diminished can get cornholed with a rusty stick of rebar; I'm OK with murderous criminals having their way with you. At least have the intellectual honesty to put a sign on your lawn that says, "This is a gun free home." But you won't. Because you're a coward.
Col. Duke Lacrosse December 24, 2012 at 05:33 AM
That's a weak argument. Most everyone should be on defensive alert when they see a stranger with a firearm in an inappropriate setting. Family member, different story. She was shot in the face by her son. Using that to advance your argument is shameful.
Wiley Coyote December 25, 2012 at 02:04 AM
Hey Col Duke, are you part of a well regulated militia? Actually, I think Darren is the brave one. He's not living in a fear-filled, paranoid world fantasizing that he's going to take down the bad guy with a double-tap to the head just like those cool guys in the movies do, or hold off the armed jack-booted soldier thugs comin' down his suburban street to take away his liberty. I'm with you, Darren.
Col. Duke Lacrosse December 25, 2012 at 05:59 AM
No Wiley I'm just a lowly member of the "The People," that would be the same people referred to in the 1st and other amendments, and who are explicitly granted the right to keep and bear arms. You should read up on it sometime. No fear-filled paranoid world here my friend. I'm reasonably confident that anyone who wants to harm myself, my family, or my friends will simply have a bad day if I have anything to do with it. Can you honestly say the same? Because if you're just going to cower in the corner begging for your life, you're not much help to the people you care about. Being useless doesn't appeal to me... Merry Christmas.
Tim McGee December 25, 2012 at 02:42 PM
Col. Duke: Nobody is denying the rights of the 2nd Amendment; however, I believe it is now time for Congress and the Courts to define "arms". Since you like to hang on the strict wording of the 2nd Amendment, maybe you should only own a flintlock and a musket as our Founding Fathers intent of the amendment to the Constitution!
Col. Duke Lacrosse December 25, 2012 at 06:22 PM
Tim you should do some reading of the Federalist Papers. The founding fathers intended for the 2nd Amendment to protect the right of the people to bear arms equal to what soldiers carry. Not WMD, just what soldiers carry. A LITTLE GUN HISTORY In 1929, the Soviet Union established gun control. From 1929 to 1953, about 20 million dissidents, unable to defend themselves, were rounded up and exterminated. In 1911, Turkey established gun control. From 1915 to 1917, 1.5 million Armenians, unable to defend themselves, were rounded up and exterminated. Germany established gun control in 1938 and from 1939 to 1945, a total of 13 million Jews and others who were unable to defend themselves were rounded up and exterminated. China established gun control in 1935. From 1948 to 1952, 20 million political dissidents, unable to defend themselves, were rounded up and exterminated. Guatemala established gun control in 1964. From 1964 to 1981, 100,000 Mayan Indians, unable to defend themselves, were rounded up and exterminated. Uganda established gun control in 1970. From 1971 to 1979, 300,000 Christians, unable to defend themselves, were rounded up and exterminated. Cambodia established gun control in 1956. From 1975 to 1977, one million educated people, unable to defend themselves, were rounded up and exterminated. Defenseless people rounded up and exterminated in the 20th Century because of gun control: 56 million.
canseeallsides December 26, 2012 at 06:58 AM
The level the 2nd amendment refers is and must be EQUAL to what the governing group is allowed as to specifically balance any misuse of power and deter oppression. It has NOTHING to do with hunting or personal self defense. It has everything to do with balance of power. Sadly with huge "defense" spending equally drones, militarized police and a complete surveillance grid, the balance is gone. The arrogant overuse of power is all too blatantly obvious. The force the 2nd amendment provides to protect seems already unbalanced and removed. Your rights are hurdles in the way of keeping control from getting ugly for the governing groups. Rights are like muscles that stay strong when exercised.
Dale Murrish December 26, 2012 at 03:29 PM
I agree with Ron Paul (more personal responsibility) and disagree with the NRA's response: http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2012/12/24/ron-paul-rips-nra-plan-for-officers-in-every-school/
Carolo December 26, 2012 at 05:20 PM
What happened to the Unions in MI? They were card carrying, dues paying members and the Republicans made sure they destroyed that. But what about the NRA? Are they not card carrying, dues paying members in order to belong? So........break the NRA like they have broken the Unions. Columbine, Red Lake Indian Reservation and Virginia Tech have proven armed guards do not work. There was an armed civilian when Gabby Gifford was shot that almost shot the wrong person. Hundreds of weapons available at Ft Hood also did nothing. No one with a pistol can go up against someone with a semi-automatic that will shot 30 rounds in 10 seconds. Especially with body armor on a shooter. But children need a better escape plan. They would not sit in the corner or crawl in a closet if there was a fire. There should have been a door in the classroom so they could run, not sit there waiting to be shot.
Col. Duke Lacrosse December 26, 2012 at 07:22 PM
By Zoltan's logic, the use of my computer to exercise 1st amendment rights should be highly regulated because such technology did not exist at the time of the Founders. Umm, no. Media Matters is leftist propaganda. And funny is in the eye of the beholder. Genius.
Col. Duke Lacrosse December 26, 2012 at 07:26 PM
According to the National Self Defense Survey conducted by Florida State University criminologists in 1994, the rate of Defensive Gun Uses can be projected nationwide to approximately 2.5 million per year -- one Defensive Gun Use every 13 seconds. Have I used mine? No. And I hope I never have to. But it happens often enough. Only fools think otherwise.
Lianne Mathie December 26, 2012 at 08:05 PM
Fine, post the links to everyone of these so called facts*. Because you and the Jews disagree on the numbers, the rest of your facts* are unreliable at this point. http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Holocaust/killedtable.html
canseeallsides December 26, 2012 at 09:21 PM
Ok now you're on to it... "Equal to what soldiers carry" is equal to what they carry currently, not what they could carry in the late 1700s. "Zolton's logic" is an oxymoron, providing only vague insults and no contribution to the conversation. " How could they grant you a right to possess something they didn't know existed?" If it existed for possible oppression, it must be allowed for defense from said oppression. They were clear with the intent... what ever the people allow their military to have (that could be used against you) is also your right to own and carry. Starting with "hey genius" makes it easy for people to just dismiss your point of view. The big difference here is I hope YOU'RE right and we NEVER need to defend against oppressive tyrants. History knows you're wrong so I would not like to repeat it.
Daniel JK December 27, 2012 at 12:24 AM
Why is it that all gun advocates cite the genocide of thousands who couldn't defend themselves under foreign despots? Do you folks truly believe that our governmental institutions are so untrustworthy that they would round us up and systematically exterminate us? I mean, all of us have a bit of mistrust of big government but why is there this notion in the pro-gun community that the government is out to get you? We have strong legal and constitutional mechanisms in place to keep us from getting to that point. This just further exemplifies why most gun advocates should not own guns- at the very least, heavy arms: you guys are super paranoid.
canseeallsides December 27, 2012 at 02:13 AM
I must ask isn't that a bit naive? Do you have trust in people not even known or elected yet. I prefer trust in a system to check and balance them? "Do you folks truly believe that our governmental institutions are so untrustworthy that they would round us up" The NDAA (2012 and now 2013) authorizes just that. What someone believes will happen quite frankly not relevant and argumentative. What can happen is possible. Do we know what a future executive branch will be capable? Not possibly. Have past executive branches done this (round up)? MOST CERTAINLY! OPINION: I wish no harm ever came to anyone and no projectile device was ever constructed. But unless every possible means to harm can be removed at once, it must remain balanced. Terror is an emotion not an enemy persona. Safety is an illusion for the helpless. Awareness and information should lead us in a better direction. Please stick to facts and your own personal opinions without attacking other points. It's hard enough as it is to gather points of view. There is room for all comments no matter how different.
Col. Duke Lacrosse December 27, 2012 at 03:57 AM
Oh look. The gun control folks want to drag this argument in the weeds, disputing numbers by citing phony sources. "It's not 56 million, it's 54 million, errr, some number that's not 56 million." Read "More Guns Less Crime".
Col. Duke Lacrosse December 27, 2012 at 04:04 AM
"This just further exemplifies why most gun advocates should not own guns- at the very least, heavy arms: you guys are super paranoid." This demonstrates that you are ignorant of history. Tyrants have always denied their subjects the means to defend themselves. This is why we have a RKBA. It has nothing to do with duck hunting.
Lianne Mathie December 27, 2012 at 01:28 PM
Post the links. It's simple. Either you can or can't support your statement. Remember it's your statement. If not , it's overblown rhetoric.
Darren Whittaker December 27, 2012 at 03:20 PM
I don't need to wear a shirt - or anything else to identify me to wackos with guns. Instead, maybe YOU should wear one (and all others who are insecure enough to feel they need to walk around town fully armed) that says "I am a paranoid, irrational over-reactor. Please try not to look me directly in the eyes, as I might interpret that as a threat, and who knows how I'll react..." "Coward"? Check your mirror.
canseeallsides December 27, 2012 at 06:59 PM
Col. Duke Lacrosse December 27, 2012 at 10:08 PM
Here's your link honey: http://www.amazon.com/More-Guns-Less-Crime-Understanding/dp/0226493660/ "On its initial publication in 1998, John R. Lott’s More Guns, Less Crime drew both lavish praise and heated criticism. More than a decade later, it continues to play a key role in ongoing arguments over gun-control laws: despite all the attacks by gun-control advocates, no one has ever been able to refute Lott’s simple, startling conclusion that more guns mean less crime. Relying on the most rigorously comprehensive data analysis ever conducted on crime statistics and right-to-carry laws, the book directly challenges common perceptions about the relationship of guns, crime, and violence. For this third edition, Lott draws on an additional ten years of data—including provocative analysis of the effects of gun bans in Chicago and Washington, D.C—that brings the book fully up to date and further bolsters its central contention." "...no one has ever been able to refute Lott’s simple, startling conclusion that more guns mean less crime..."
Lianne Mathie December 27, 2012 at 10:48 PM
I will speak slowly so you can follow Duke. Post your links to the facts you stated above. I don't want to buy your book on Amazon. Amazon sells products, not facts. I will wait and if you need further direction I will walk you through the process of having a meaningful debate supported with facts.
Col. Duke Lacrosse December 27, 2012 at 10:55 PM
Where are your facts honey? Where are your facts that implementing gun control resulted in milk and honey and peace throughout the land? Myth: Britain has strict gun control and a low crime rate Fact: Since gun banning has escalated in the UK, the rate of crime – especially violent crime – has risen Myth: Concealed carry laws increase crime Fact: Four states require no permit to carry a concealed firearm, 37 are “shall-issue” states where non-felons receive permits on demand, eight states may or may not issue permits, and one state allows no form of concealed carry. Statistics for each CCW state show that crime rate fell (or did not rise) after the right-to-carry law became active. Fact: Crime rates involving gun owners with carry permits have consistently been about 0.02% of all carry permit holders since Florida’s right-to-carry law started in 1988. Fact: Florida's homicide rate fell from 36% above the national average to 4% below after CCW enactment and remains below the national average (as of the 2005 reporting period).
Lianne Mathie December 27, 2012 at 11:24 PM
Wow, Im going to have to take this REALLY SLOW. You said, Pirate Lacrosse, that 13 million jews were killed. Here's a LINK that says different. http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Holocaust/killedtable.html You said Uganda established gun control, actually there was a brutal dictator there. Same as with Cambodia. http://www.factcheck.org/2009/05/gun-control-in-australia/ If you check your "Facts", well, they are wrong. So, that makes YOUR statements incorrect and most of all rhetoric. So sweetheart, let me put it this way, you can read a lot of things on the web, but blogs don't make them true. They are opinions. And that is what you have been doing here, giving your opinion, sans facts to support the rationality of your argument.
Old Goat December 29, 2012 at 04:48 AM
Zoltan, "States with stricter gun control laws have fewer deaths from gun-related violence". Chicago just passed 500 murders, and they have very strict gun control laws. How's that gun control working for them?


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