Who Is Responsible?

Sickening. Sickening, heart twisting news! But what is more sickening is that every channel keeps sucking ratings out of it, all the while playing commercials in between. What a culture, what an attitude, what a nation… Nobody is calling the news channel to demand recalling the ads to let the tragedy sink in, pay respect to the victims, and maybe even spend time pondering the causes of the horrendous act we just witnessed together…

The event seems grossly surreal: two weeks before Christmas, in a prosperous Connecticut town, an upscale, quiet residential neighborhood, on a street carrying a yogi’s name, the first crime unfolds, followed by even a greater one that takes lives of 28 people, 20 of whom are children attending an elementary school. A 20-year old man, after murdering his mother with the guns she kept to do sports, drives to the school where she used to work and opens fire on innocent young students, teachers and the principal, ending the massacre with a predictable act of suicide. Reporters say neighbors were “visibly upset” for they never expected such crimes happen in their town. They knew the gunman, as a “quiet kid,” who turns out to have suffered from a personality disorder. His mother though had a reputation of a “good-hearted person who was always doing something for some cause.”Authorities claim that “Americans are sick and tired of these attacks. Once again we are reminded that there is no safe harbor for our children.” (President Obama) and “Evil visited this community today.” (Gov. D. Malloy) Meanwhile, the media carry the message that schools are safe – a notion backed up by the data, they say, adding that “if the public’s confidence in schools’ safety erodes and is distorted, it can have broad, negative consequences for schools and society.”

It seems everybody is looking for rapid and comprehensive measures to prevent this kind of violence in the future. Some say there is a law about to be passed to forcefully confiscate privately owned weapons from the citizens. Others – that district leaders are advised to review their school safety plans and emergency procedures, with the goal to “remind parents and students that the school is a place to be connected, and that schools have their best interests at heart.” (R. Sprick, director of Safe and Civil Schools)

This incident is among the worst school shootings in U.S. history. Collectively, the deaths make the killings the deadliest K-12 school shooting in American history. While surfing the Net reading about and watching accounts of the tragic event, trying to find what people are saying about what really caused it, I have felt almost physical disdain for how practically every site on the web and every TV channel reports on the catastrophe between the lines of redundant merry commercials. Another one was that the nation seems to be mainly preoccupied with the confiscation of their guns. And finally, the shooter is not on the victim list. But the most crucial answer I wanted to find was to the question: Who is going to take responsibility now that the killer is dead? Not everyone will agree, but the answer is… we are. We, as society, are responsible for this entire tragedy and for all who have perished in it, including the gunman and his mother. Why? – Because:

  1. We are all products of the environment that formed us, with all our wants, attitudes, behavior patterns, ailments, and choices. And there is plenty of scientific evidence to that today. Killers are not born; they are made, cultivated, regardless of whether we are aware of it or not. And it’s not just the parents who form their kids; it is everybody who has ever appeared on their path. We can be molded into selfish psychopaths by our family, school, and society and have a broken psyche, mentality and spirit just as we can be shaped into altruists who live to care and give.
  2. We are the environment for others and hence influence their wants, attitudes, behavior, ailments, and choices. Depending how we choose to raise our children – either as individuals who have to “fight” with invisible rivals for future success, recognition, and happiness or as team players who will be gaining strength from helping each other do the same – we will receive adults who will either live in continuous agony of draining competition or joyous, fulfilling self-realization.
  3. We are living in a completely interconnected world, and everything that happens to one, immediately reflects on all others and vice versa. We are members of our society and are intrinsically involved in each other’s life. If somewhere life is stable and good and somewhere else it is hard and insecure, the inescapable law of balance will force us to seek how to ensure everybody’s happiness.
  4. There is education which delivers knowledge, but there isn’t one teaching how to be a wholesome, harmonious human being, able to connect and relate to others for mutual benefit. Today, education is aimed toward professional development whereas it should be nurturing the gift every child is carrying within, designated to give to society and the world. Education is supposed to train not only the intellect but the whole mind, building in it an awareness of interconnection between us. Moreover, we also need to educate the heart: teach it to love others and learn to get along – with parents, teachers, and the society.
  5. Our values have long since been switched from helping others, cooperation, and mutual caring to competing, winning, and taking advantage of one another for a personal benefit. We are living on the premise of “I”, “me”, and “mine”. The example of that is the whole industry serving “I” – ipod, iphone, ipad, etc. But this eventually destroys the connection between us and turns us against each other. Envy, greed, the need to be first and best gradually ruin a person’s integrity and tear him away from society.
  6. There is too little attention, compassion, and love in our society. We work to give our children “everything they need” but while doing so, we start forgetting what “need” is and switch to giving them everything they “want”, which deprives them of sense of self-worth, dignity, and desire to grow consciously.

Hence, school shootings cannot be prevented by gun control, placing security guards or, worse yet, hiring armed police to patrol the facilities where our children go to learn. We need to gather a national forum to sit down together and start to address the issue from the point of view of caring, mature, and wise caretakers, guides, parents and mentors. We must start viewing all our children and young adults as our collective, national responsibility if you will. Only then will we be able to create a safe, peaceful, and harmonious environment where violence, hate, and emotional pain will cease to exist.

If we agree to do it together, Obama’s and Malloy’s initiatives – “We’re going to have to come together and take meaningful action to prevent more tragedies like this.” (Obama) and “each parent, each sibling, each member of the family has to understand that… we’re all in this together. We’ll do whatever we can to overcome this event.” (Malloy) – can bear fruit.

by Irene Rudnev

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