Amid the pain, suffering, loss and senselessness of the recent school shooting, there has been overwhelming and beautiful expressions of care and support toward Newtown, the victims and their families. The Newtown community and nation are coming together in prayer, love and compassion (with + suffering). The emotions range from shock, disbelief, sadness, fear and anger. Although it may not be a popular recognition, there are also others victims in this tragedy. They are collateral damage who are also suffering pain, loss, shame and fear. They are a mother, a son, a brother, a father; the Lanza family.
A quick perusal of any of the media sites, Twitter or Facebook, will yield in the comment sections significant hate and demonization for the family of and for Adam Lanza. “Rot in Hell,” “Sicko,” and “Monster” are some of the more calm names he has been called. Some of the horrible things that “good” people would like to do to him are very disturbing.
It has been widely reported that Adam Lanza was suffering with mental turmoil and that he had Aspergers and Personality Disorder. Many other mass killers have been reported to have mental abnormalities, too. Where do people with and such destructive behavior come from? Is it genetic? A chemical imbalance? Is it brought on by environment? Their social upbringing? How they were parented?
Some readers are demanding a registry for people with Aspergers much like the sex offender registry. That way, people think, they can keep an eye on them and know where they live and what they are doing but registries don’t work. If someone is going to do something, they’re going to do it. A registry for people with mental disorders will only make it difficult for them to find employment, housing and further augment their social death making them feel even more helpless and hopeless. Society can’t register away its fears. We already have a gun registry, background checks were completed, the school was locked and yet the tragedy occurred anyway.
I do know though, that what is done to us creates and shapes us. For every action there is an opposite and equal reaction. Adam was reportedly a quiet, socially awkward, largely ignored and avoided youth. We will never know if things would be different today if his peers and friends went out of their way to include, welcome and help him to integrate into their circles and cliques, resolutely attempting to ameliorate him of his social fears and embarrassments.
Social isolation is dangerous. When someone commits a crime and we arrest them and punish them, do you think that makes them love society more? We send them to prison where they seethe and fester about the loss of their freedom, then when they get out no one will give them a job, they are abandoned by friends and family, ostracized in the papers, put on registries or have permanent records they can never escape from. Is it any wonder that some of these people have to resort to more crime in order to survive or worse—snap when pushed too far? Oscar Wilde said that every saint had a past and every sinner had a future. Did anyone take the time to help Adam envision a future?
That’s why I struggle with the whole notion of calling someone the “good guy” or the “bad guy” because I think we all have potential to do good things and all have the potential to do bad things. What happened to Adam to make him do what he did and what could society have added to his lonely life to make those actions completely unthinkable to him? I’m not blaming society, but, we don’t have to live like this. There is so much darkness in this world and we can’t escape that dark because it will always be there. It is up to us to be the light for one another. We can’t do that if we step into the abyss and remain there. We need to choose whether to be part of the problem or the solution.
A friend of mine is a commercial airline pilot. He said that if a pilot has a record or mental health issues, their license will be revoked. I’d much rather be flying with a pilot getting treatment for his issues than one who is not because he is afraid of losing his job if he seeks help.
The hate speech on the social media sites such as Facebook is shocking and quite frankly terrifying. Sadly, these people don’t realize that their art of the invective makes them, too, monsters. Stalkers of a different sort. Their venom is not part of the solution but is only seeding the problem. Hate begets hate and just as the criminal hates society for punishing him, as an animal backed into a corner will attack, or someone who thinks society has abandoned them, they can snap, any of those people can react equally and opposite. If someone says “I can forgive, but I cannot forget,” that is only another way of saying, I will not forgive. Forgiveness ought to be like a cancelled note – torn in two, and burned up, so that it never can be shown against one ever again. It is easy to say we forgive Adam but will we do anything to ensure that people with psychological disorders can receive the proper medical treatment? Are we doing anything in our schools to cultivate loving kindness instead of allowing playground ostrasization?
Were you ever driving down the highway and accidentally cut someone off, then they get mad, flip you the bird, pass you, then slam on their brakes? This action only gets you mad, then you speed up, flash your lights, lay on the horn or flip them the bird and the cycle of road rage continues. Have you ever stopped to take notice of what anger felt like? It is awful. You can’t think straight, you are consumed, it burns you up, your palms sweat and clench, your heart races and there is nothing productive that comes out of it. Why would someone allow themselves to feel that way?
When you forgive, you set someone free: Yourself. As the great Buddha said, “Holding onto anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; but you are the one who gets burned.” Jesus, a convicted felon himself, hung out with criminals and prostitutes. While on the cross, it wasn’t an honest man he took to paradise with him that day. It was another criminal. What can we learn from that? What are we doing to ourselves, society and our children’s future when we allow hate and punishment rather than forgiveness and restorative justice?
I was watching a movie about Merlin where King Arthur sentenced an enemy of Camelot to death. It was the lover of one of his round table knights who in turn pleaded with the king to spare his lover’s life. Arthur refused because it was the law. This powerful and angry knight then left Camelot and joined forces against King Arthur. Arthur’s actions had reactions; hate begets hate, what is done to us creates us. It all could have been prevented with mercy and compassion and now Arthur’s greatest ally has become his enemy.
In Sandy Hook there are no winners but the ratings hungry media who descend on any person and any angle to get any story and any photo op; the social media websites win as they encourage people to like and tag and share and spew; the politicians who will use this tragedy to look good, compassionate and caring will win as they let you know they are forging new legislation so that this never happens again—and BTW, vote for them next November. This is also the opportunity for people with ulterior motives to hijack the event for their personal and lucrative cause such as the anti-gun or pro-gun movements, background check companies, security companies, registries and law enforcement grants.
Astrologically, as the age of Pieces draws to an end, we are entering the new age of Aquarius. Aquarius is the age of enlightenment, the age of the “water bearer.” Water is life. I can think of a better way to enter the age of enlightenment than from the wellspring of forgiveness, love, compassion, patience and wisdom. Those qualities are what many people in our society thirst for. Why can’t we give it to them before they snap?
In “The Art of Forgiveness, Loving Kindness, and Peace,” Jack Kornfield describes an African forgiveness ritual: “In the Babemba tribe of South Africa, when a person acts irresponsibly or unjustly, he is placed in the center of the village, alone and unfettered. All work ceases, and every man, woman, and child in the village gathers in a large circle around the accused individual. Then each person in the tribe speaks to the accused, one at a time, each recalling the good things the person in the center of the circle has done in his lifetime. Every incident, every experience that can be recalled with any detail and accuracy, is recounted. All his positive attributes, good deeds, strengths, and kindnesses are recited carefully and at length. This tribal ceremony often lasts for several days. At the end, the tribal circle is broken, a joyous celebration takes place, and the person is symbolically and literally welcomed back into the tribe.”
Maybe if the positive attributes, good deeds, strengths, and kindnesses are also recited carefully and at length to the lonely, lost, forsaken, abandoned and confused, tragedies such as Sandy Hook will never happen again, in the age of enlightenment.