In the wake of the recent Connecticut school shootings, the nation has been struggling to answer questions about how such a thing could happen and how we can prevent a tragedy like this from ever happening again. Others have found themselves asking why this occurred.
Much of this speculation grew out of shock, or anger, or fear in response to a horrific event.
We struggle to explain events like this using our normal framework of understanding, but events like these may simply not fit within “normal” parameters. It is also likely there is not one simple answer, but a complex web of things that led to this tragedy and others like it.
Sometimes, there is a tendency to blame society. Some people make it a political issue.
It seems we lose sight of the fact that when a person makes the choice to commit an act of unspeakable violence, he is responsible. The person who pulled the trigger, or detonated the bomb, or released the poison is the one who bears responsibility.
With that said, society and the media may play a role in making these tragedies attractive to certain predisposed individuals.
Often, it seems the perpetrators are ill or disturbed people who feel isolated or different from those around them. They may feel they don’t fit in, and may go through life feeling invisible.
In some extreme cases, people like this may see violence as a way to get back at society, or as the only way to get the recognition they so desperately crave.
By committing such an act, people who were once invisible instantly gain recognition beyond their wildest dreams. Their faces are plastered on every newspaper, TV, and website in the country.
Once unknown, they become household names overnight, and their entire life story is published for the world to see.
Even if they die while committing a despicable act, they die knowing that they will finally get the recognition they wanted.
The worse the crime, the greater the recognition.
It may be a chicken-and-egg debate over whether it is the news coverage that creates the demand, or the public demand for information that provokes it, but the result is we are feeding the perpetrator’s need for attention.
Perhaps if we never published their photos and refused to elevate the killers to celebrity status, it might make senseless violence less attractive to certain individuals.
If we stop treating people who commit massacres like celebrities, it might also eliminate some of the copycat crimes, and reduce the escalation of violence that comes from people trying to grab bigger headlines by committing acts that are more shocking than the one before.
Another reaction to events like the recent school shootings is to ask how they happened and what we can do to prevent such things in the future.
Figuring out how to keep guns out of the hands of those suffering from mental illness might be a start.
Identifying and treating those who need psychiatric care may also help.
Even something as simple as reaching out to those on the fringes of society may be part of the solution.
It seems possible being emotionally and physically isolated may be a factor in warping their minds and driving these people to commit horrendous acts to gain recognition.
If we could find ways to break down barriers, connect with these people, and help them find a more positive path, it would certainly be better than some of the results we have seen.
We can and must take reasonable steps to keep people especially those who are most vulnerable, such as children safe.
However, as painful as it is, we must realize that there is no way we can guarantee everyone’s safety at all times. It simply isn’t possible.
No matter how much money we throw at the problem, or how many precautions we take, someone who is determined to commit violence against innocent victims will find a way to do so.
Even if we turned schools into something resembling high-security prisons, posted armed guards around playgrounds, and drove children to school in armored vehicles, we still couldn’t guarantee they would always be safe, and what kind of life would that be?
Life is, and has always been uncertain. There is always a chance that our loved ones may be snatched from us without a moment’s notice, whether it be through an extremely rare event like a school shooting, or something much more common like an automobile crash.
The world is full of potential danger, yet we cannot allow ourselves to live in fear.
We must take reasonable precautions to keep ourselves and our loved ones safe, and look after our friends and neighbors as best we can.
Perhaps more importantly, we must cherish the time we have with those we love. We must hold them close, and remember to tell and show them every day how much we love them. Life is uncertain and none of us can know how much time we will have.
A school shooting or public massacre is an unspeakable tragedy, but taking things for granted and failing to make the most of what we have can also be tragic.