My deepest and sincerest condolences to the families and friends of those lost in the Sandy Hook Shooting.
When a 20-year-old man steps into an elementary school, murdering 26 people (including 20 young children just 6 or 7 years old), only to then take his own life, those of us outside his nervous system are left bewildered as to why such a thing happened. The brain is a complex and isolated thing, and that isolation is only amplified by the apparent psychopathy necessary to commit such acts. In spite of the current speculations of motive, we can conclude from our understanding of neurology that, upon that island of grey matter in the skull, the shooter was receiving a rewarding and validating surge of neurochemicals with every shell discharged. Such an abominable realization as this only disturbs our comprehension further, inflaming our emotions, and appropriately so. My own insides churn and my eyes well when I visualize the appalling events of Friday the 14th.
That said, my wish, as this situation crystallizes, is that we can all avoid hyperbole, cynicism, hasty generalizations, false dichotomies, and media fatigue, and genuinely study what happened in Connecticut with reason, patience, and humility. The media organizations who are inundating you with unverified suppositions will not do this for you. The internet commenters who are either trolling or legitimizing your own white-hot emotions & opinions will not do this for you. Your loved ones and your worst enemies will not do this for you. This is your responsibility, and yours alone.
We are averaging one or two mass shootings per year in the United States. Our nation is very large, of course, by both geography and population. In light of these facts, it is reasonable to conclude that there are those in our population, however few, who are currently preparing and planning (or at the very least, seriously humoring the notion of initiating) the next massacre in our country. The statistics tell us that we will most likely see the results of this dark contemplation within the next eight months. This is an alarming problem with shockingly grisly consequences, and action needs to be taken.
Regardless of the motives behind the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary, or the motives behind those previous or yet to come, we can conclude this:
Yes, this is a social issue.
Yes, this is a mental health issue.
Yes, this is a national security issue.
This overlapping knot of causality and pertinent variables requires that those of us left alive must communicate about uncomfortable things. We will need to rethink many pacifying details in our society which we are clutching dearly to our chests. We will need to question some of our familiar comforts and privileges for the good of this continent-wide cooperative that we call the United States of America.
We can clearly see just how much a single (and often unassuming) individual can impact our communities for the worse; it is disturbing, without question. 1 percent of the general population (and up to 25 percent of the prison population) lives with psychopathic neurology. Even with our contemporary understanding of the brain, we are unable to cure everyone who is as psychologically anomalistic as to commit such atrocities as these. Likewise, no single one of us can purge our own physiology of the raging, reactionary primate programmed within us, and it may seem hopeless to many to even consider the possibility of making society better when each and every one of our minds is locked up by our genes, constructed to be both enlightened and irrational; both lovehungered and bloodthirsty. By and large, we as a species are learning better ways to quiet that beast within, but what of the others? What about that small percentage of people whose psychopathy, when offered the necessary catalysts, unravels into disastrous, hideous expression? This clear connection between the protection of the normative population and the improved metal health and well being of high-risk individuals must be clearly admitted and understood. Rarely is the maxim “help others to help yourself” made so tangible.
Something obviously lies amiss between us and our ideals in the scope of human well being; something that has plagued us for at least as long as we have been recording the social successes and failures of our species. As humanity, we find ourselves in a position where we can step outside this animal skin and contemplate our own limitations as a mortal creature, seeking intricate solutions beyond our own biological functions. We found our legs to be inefficient for traveling long distances in short periods, so we rode horses, and then we built automobiles. We needed to calculate time-consuming and complicated problems, so we created the abacus, and then computers. We could not read each others’ minds, so we developed language. We could not pass along our memories or experiences to the generations to come, so we have written to them. We are toolmakers. We have a long history of acknowledging our shortcomings, and devising the means to overcome these limited abilities. The advance of society is no different.
Civilization never evolves as quickly as we would like, but it is crises like these which should propel us forward. If we are to see, in our lifetime, even a single year pass without a mass shooting within our United States, we must assess our current privileges and question our current dispensation of financial resources and social services. I feel that we owe it to those who have paid for our hesitations in blood, and more importantly, to those still alive whom we can still save.
This is not a polarized manifesto, nor a call for a police state, nor a desire for anything even remotely Orwellian. This is not an appeal to the sensationalistic low-hanging fruit that infests so much of our discourse. However, the status quo should indeed be rationally audited, critically challenged, and most certainly revised, and it will take those of us who are reasonable and patient to do it. We will lose many capable people over the next week to the excuse of media burnout, so we must remain steadfast in the face of that familiar exhaustion of bad news. The duty remains with those who accept the responsibility to improve the health of our cooperative. We must remember that we are facing yet another limitation of our humanity, and that we, the toolmakers, can overcome it. What we cannot replace in our own minds, our own bodies, and our own physiology, we can augment and improve with a tempered evolution in our methods of pedagogy & andragogy; in healthcare and the availability of it; and in matured communal rules and social services which can obstruct the heinous intentions of those who are psychologically volatile, and further protect those of us not willing to murder simply to achieve a fleeting neurochemical solace within our skulls.
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