There have been an unusual number of shootings in the news, the most tragic taking place at Sandy Hook Elementary School. If you haven’t heard about this, I suggest you reevaluate your priorities.
Everyone has their opinion about this, so I figured I would share mine if for no other reason than to just have a document of what I thought about this when I was 18. And then laugh at my ridiculously over-optimistic naïveté.
So, I don’t think it’s about guns. It’s not about guns. It’s not about guns.
It’s about you and me, and how much we all love seeing other people sink. When other people sink, we all of a sudden float a little closer to the light. Or we think we do, anyway. And we all encourage one another’s perception that we’re floating a little higher.
Guns do not kill people. People kill people. I’m not one of those guys running around trying to protect my precious guns, and I could not give a single shit about my right to bear arms. Maybe I should, but I don’t. I think I have a little too much faith in our government, and I really don’t think they would repeat the same mistakes made over and over again throughout history in terms of civilian access to certain weapons. I just want it to be clear that while I don’t think that guns are the problem, I also don’t actually care about my right to own them. That said, guns are definitely not the problem. That brings us to the infinitely frustrating question of, “What do we do?” I’m not telling everybody that I have all the answers, but I have the answer to this one. Are you ready?
The only way to prevent such tragedies as these from occurring is for all of us to stop being heartless douchebags to one another. That’s it. Stop raising our kids to be little manipulative brats, and stop thinking that we’re innocent. The blood of those 28 victims of Newtown is on all of our hands. That’s right…all 28 of them. Including Adam Lanza himself. A gun is not what killed those children. Adam Lanza is what killed those children. That gun is not the reason that 6 adults in the school, Lanza’s mother, and Lanza himself are dead. Adam Lanza is the reason they are dead.
We all have to stop acting so innocent. We, as people, suck. We suck. We love it when other people fail, because it gives us a chance. We hate to admit it to ourselves, but deep down, when we hear about that guy that spends his days in his basement playing video games and building computers and lacking any substantial form of human interaction, we love it. That means that there is one less person out there against whom we have to compete. To us, he is just another loser. “It’s his decision. He’s the one who chose that life for himself.”
Ok. Now why did he choose that life for himself?
When I was in 10th grade, I took AP European History with the one and only Mr. Kirsch. That guy was awesome. After class one day, Kirsch pulled me aside and told me to stop asking “why.” He told me that it was really actually a good thing that I was always asking “why,” because it showed that I actually cared about understanding rather than simply memorizing information. It showed that I understood the importance of the “why,” and it’s applicability to the future. But that in terms of my exams, I had to stop with the “why” and focus on the “who, what, where, and when.” The “why” was irrelevant as far as the AP was concerned, although it was critically relevant to our understanding of human nature, and how to prevent the recurrence of any mistake that has made history.
That made sense to me, but I still kept asking why. The why always matters, and I knew that. In terms of AP scores it doesn’t matter, but the AP itself is a terrible system that doesn’t matter either. In reality, the “why” is actually all that matters.
The why is all that matters.
If you can put the brakes on the why, then you can stop the ball before it starts rolling because there won’t even be a ball. Guns have nothing to do with it. Guns are the how. Lanza could have walked into that school with a machete and done just as much damage. With the amount of emotion and rage required to murder 20 children, he could have probably done just as much damage with a paring knife. The why comes before the how. The why is the ball, the how is the direction it will keep rolling.
In the days following the shooting, all forms of social media were exploding with people asking questions like “What kind of psycho could do that?” and referring to Lanza as a “sick bastard” who they distance themselves from so much. In our minds, we are absolutely nothing like Adam Lanza. We would never, ever kill anyone. Especially a child. Especially 20 of them.
Lots of people aren’t going to like this, but that’s too bad: Adam Lanza was just like us. Adam Lanza was us. He had red blood pumping through his veins. He was a human. He was a person, and people don’t actually just wake up and decide to kill 28 people. There is a why. There is always a why, and it’s all that matters.
The why is all that matters.
Now…defining said why is obviously quite a challenge when we know close to nothing about Lanza himself. Everything I can find, at least, is pretty much speculation that he could have had Asperger’s syndrome, and that he really didn’t know anyone. He was that guy who spends his time playing video games and reading books in his room, and his recent human interaction consisted of online communities and the woman who cut his hair. Obviously there is always more to the story than anyone can really ever know, especially someone whose only access to Lanza’s life is whatever articles I can find online, but the fact that there’s nothing out there kind of speaks for itself.
The why behind that kind of an existence is probably not too far from the why behind his drive to kill 28 people. There can only be so many whys in someone’s life. At least that’s how I see it.
I don’t know how the rest of the world thinks about these things, but for me, why can almost always be answered by who. I am driven by people. Not just the individuals in my life, but by people in general. I feel anger, sadness, happiness, love, frustration, a sense of responsibility, hope, and despair, all because of people. Adam Lanza may have had a who. A who may have been his why. Unfortunately, though, I think that maybe in his case, the why was the lack of a who. There was no who for him…and that was his why.
Of course, one can blame everything on him having some form of mental illness. Many do, because we will never know for sure, and that gives us an out. “He was crazy. It isn’t anyone’s fault.” Sure. Ok. But if that was the case, someone should have been close enough to him, and cared enough about him to notice, and to help him. To love him enough to realize that something was wrong, and to find some way to help him. Someone should have been a who to him.
I think the reason that so few people want to accept this is not because it’s invalid, but because it means that we would be accepting blame. We would be taking some responsibility, and we cannot accept that there is any blood on our hands. Adam Lanza could have been any number of unstable human beings who we do not acknowledge as being in need of our love and acceptance. If we want to get selfish about this, then think about it this way: We’ll be protecting ourselves by expressing love for everyone. I’m not saying to plaster on a fake smile and tell everyone to have a nice day, but I’m saying to pay more attention. To actively love people. To teach our children to actively love everyone. To accept everyone. To be that person that someone can come to, and to stop pushing other people down to make ourselves feel better.
I am done with high school. I am done with middle school. That part of my life is over, and I have my final collection of the stories which constitute “my childhood” and “my high school experience.” They’re quite different from most people’s, but I still have the horror stories. I know exactly what it feels like to be that person that they are pushing down, to be the extremely self-conscious twelve-year-old girl, sitting in the middle of the classroom at lunch time, alone. Everyone else who I had at one time considered my friends, sitting together at the edges of the room, and to be sitting alone at my desk in the very center of the classroom. To feel their eyes on me, to hear a burst of laughter and turn my head, only to see them all looking at me as they laugh. I know what that feels like. To be alone. To not want to finish my applesauce because a tear fell into it. I wanted to be home schooled, I wanted my parents to take me out of school so I wouldn’t have to deal with it. My teachers didn’t do anything about it. Those girls were laughing, and the teacher who was our lunch monitor came up to me while I was sitting in the center of the classroom, eating my lunch with Harry Potter, and asked me if I was ok. Did I look ok? Really? Would she describe what she saw happening as “ok?” Tears welled in my eyes, I choked up and pressure built in the back of my throat, and I told her I was fine and I just kept reading.
We can’t let those things happen. I had a who to blame for getting choked up during lunch time in my classroom, but I was one of the lucky few that had another who at home to get me through it. To call my school and get things worked out. To tell me that it wasn’t my fault, it was them. They were wrong and stupid, and I was right, and I would be ok in the end.
What if I didn’t have a who at home? What if my parents just told me to suck it up, or if they told me nothing at all. What if I had parents who wouldn’t invest as much time as mine in learning the details of my life, and playing an active role in my development?
I would have crumbled. I may have ended up in my parents’ basement, seeking a sense of community among my gaming friends, because I would be too terrified of real human relationships. I may not have been able to deal with the reality of the cruelty of people anymore because I was so hurt, humiliated, and afraid of going through it again. And I’m really a normal person. I look like everyone else, I’m pretty smart, I am pretty good with your day-to-day social interactions, but what if I wasn’t? What if those girls had a legitimate reason to push me under the water and watch me drown? What if they had actual ammunition to use against me, and they knew to hit where it hurt the most? What if I was also missing the love at home that got me through?
I would have drowned. I could have felt enough rejection, and like enough of an outcast at such a vulnerable time in a young girl’s life that I would have just thrown in the towel and given up on any form of a successful relationship. I could have lost hope in my fellow human beings…the concept of feeling loved and accepted could have seemed just foreign enough that I started to doubt its existence. I would stop making an effort to connect. I would have turned out much differently, and I’m not saying I would have killed 28 people, and I’m certainly not saying that Adam Lanza is completely excused from doing what he did, but I am saying that I don’t think it can ever be 100% his responsibility.
So, what do we do? We look at our kids. We look at ourselves. We don’t worry about tightening up gun control, because it’s a waste of time and effort. Guns are the how. There can always be another how. When there is a will, there is a way. It’s not the how that we need to be worrying about, it’s the why. We stop the why. We stop pushing other people down. We stop letting our kids “just be kids” and we start being the adults, the example of how to live a life of loving others. We start teaching our kids that for their own good, they must be good.
Please be good to everyone. Teach everyone how to love by loving. Please.