Friday, December 21, 2012

Talking about Sandy Hook


I'm finally ready to talk about the Sandy Hook thing but it's not really a thing I'd normally discuss on this blog. You see, I like to stay on topic and keep all of my posts about Autism and Asperger's Syndrome - and Sandy Hook is about neither. Still, I guess there are some things which need to be said.

In case you don't know, Sandy Hook is the latest in a number of school shootings in the US. In many ways, it's being considered the "worst" because of the number of victims involved and their young ages.  In truth, whichever shooting affects your own family is always the "worst". There no ranking. All of these "crazy gunmen" incidents are bad.

Over here in Australia, where among other things, we have some of the most restrictive gun laws in the world, we're constantly shaking our heads at our US cousins who are ruled by powerful gun lobbies under a constitution which was written more or less to close to a period of war. Getting rid of the guns won't solve the problem. We still have gun violence but it's much reduced. Of course, since all of our borders are ocean, it's also much easier to patrol Australia.

When incidents like this occur, all eyes turn towards the perpetrators rather than to the victims. We spend time scratching our heads and trying to "profile" the killer as if this is just another episode of CSI. We look for patterns even when there are none and we try to pin these tragedies on minority groups because then we can say, "that person wasn't normal". We can convince ourselves that we're not all cold blooded killers waiting to snap.

I'm here to tell you that there will always be people like this in the world and that they won't necessarily fit a given profile. Even worse, although sometimes it's an illness, the truth is that we as a society are often responsible for them snapping.  Merciless bullying can often cause people to snap as can media exposure which makes these killer famous.  History has shown that there are plenty of killers and regardless of the availability of weaponry or the manner in which society locks up those deemed to be mad, the killers will often remain undetected and will strike when the time suits them.

There is no profile. These killers are normal people in abnormal situations.

This brings me to the reason I've posted this here. A number of people have seized upon the idea that the gunman had Asperger's syndrome. They've suggested that several other gunmen may also have had it.  They've decided that this is a common thread even though it's simply not true. Many of the other shooters and possibly this one do not have Asperger's syndrome. From here, it's a small step from panicking parents who ruin their children's lives with fear to calls for genocide. I've seen posts on Facebook recently suggesting that people with autism should be locked up or even randomly set on fire.

It underscores my point nicely. We're all killers. There is no profile and as evidenced many times in our history, the human race as a whole is always only one small step away from madness.

It's time for us to stop profiling and to stop looking for minority groups to pin the blame on. It's time to tell the media to stop contributing to the problem by sensationalizing the news and by publicly profiling killers. It's time for better gun laws, better services and better support for people who may be depressed or otherwise excluded from society. There is no one solution to the problem but many small steps which will help us make the journey.

In the meantime, we need to remember that tragedies are about victims, not perpetrators - and there are many victims. The victims of this latest madness are the students and teachers at the Sandy Hook Elementary School. They are the families and friends of these people. They are the children who are unfairly labelled as a result of mad profiling and they are the communities which are ostracized because we want to pin the blame on a minority.

Let us not make any more victims. Let's remember the victims we already have and then pick up our lives and move on from this tragedy. Let's show some human spirit and do the best we can to reduce he likelihood of further incidents while ensuring that we don't infringe upon each other's freedoms.

Together we can make a difference.

13 comments:

Sherry said...

Bless you for saying this. I caught the brief mentions of "odd" and "loner" when the news story broke, then they mentioned Asperger's. My heart sank. I was sickened that they would jump to that conclusion before it had even become clear what had happened. Now they're even interviewing his barber. It's sickening.

karen said...

well said, thank you

Amy Boyden said...

Thank you for posting this. It is very disturbing to me the way the media spews blatant mistruths, all the way through this event. When they start saying, "He was really smart", "kind of odd", argh. . . how many of us or our children fit that description even without the aspy diagnosis? It is frightening that they seem to want people afraid of smart boys. . .
Makes me sad.
Amy

mikisdad said...

Gavin, I strongly support the sentiments you express in your post. I believe that a major mistake in the way we deal with things in society is that we focus on symptoms rather than causes and thus never really solve the real issues.

Although I know that my view on this may not be popular and many will not actually think about what I'm actually saying - There is no evidence that Howard's gun buy back has made a difference to the incidence of violent crime and, in fact, crimes involving guns have increased in incidence in Australia since the buy back, not decresed.

Neither do I believe that the current knee-jerk reaction calling for tougher gun laws in the US will make any difference. The reality there,too, is that despite the increase of gun ownership,crime involving shootings has actually decreased as numbers of guns per capita has increased.

The cause of tragic incidents such as this is not the possession of guns (though personally I see no need for people to own assault weapons and such) but the conditions in society which cause people to feel hurt, neglected, demeaned, frustrated, abused, confused or whatever. It is those issues that we need to tackle.

In no way do I think that we should blame any minority, either those with Asperger's syndrome or any other. The person with whom I have the closest empathy and "soul" connection in all the world is an Aspie.

However, something in the order of 4% of the population in western society, have psychopathy. This does not mean that any or all of them will go out and kill people or commit horrible acts. However, it does mean that they are unable to feel shame or conscience in the way that most of us do and therefore, if they are put into stressfull situations *and* have a personality that has a propensity to violence, they are more susceptible than most others to commit an extreme act.

I think it is important that we recognise that and ensure that the programs and people are available that can support people with that condition to live the 'normal', productive, and responsible lives that most people, with or without any sort of mental health issue, do.

So, whilst I fully agree that "blaming' a particular group in society is entirely inappropriate, I also feel that, in some way, we have to be careful not to create a situation that denies those who need it, the *appropriate* recognition and help.

I sincerely hope that I have made my point clearly enough not to be misconstrued.

If anyone reading this feels that I am trying to blame those who have AS or blame those with Psychopathy or anyone else - I assure you that I'm not, quite the opposite, I believe that we are all "normal" whatever that is, but that we are all different. Some of us, just as do those with physical illness, need help with mental illness - I just want to see that recognised rather than those people being ridiculed, reviled or put down. :)

Gavin, if you feel that I have a valid point and you can put it better, please do so. If you don't feel I have a valid point then please just don't post and no hard feelings...

Suse said...

Well said - I hope lots of people read this.

TheVisionGhost said...

This was an exceptionally astute text and I enjoyed reading it. Your views are very profound and in all other words, very correct.
Thanks for posting this, there's nothing more I feel can be added, only to be learned from.

Tiggerr said...

Well said, Thanks. This poor boy had a lot more going on than Aspergers. His rage at something, whether it was his mom and her plans for him or some other perceived slight we may never know. And as much as I hate guns, I agree that locking up every gun in the country won't stop the killing. I have no easy answer either. I don't think there is one, but it is good to see some dialog out there.

But it is amazing that no one offering easy fixes mentions who is going to pay for it. That all this is happening at the same time as the so called Fiscal Cliff here in the US seems to add more to the discussion. Thanks for saying what a lot of us are feeling. You do it very well.

Reggie said...

Those of us "sane" Americans would love to see automatic weapons and handguns gone from public hands. However, the gun lobby and the wingnuts out there that say they need an AK-47 to hunt Bambi and Thumper disagree.

Yeah, this is rather disturbing isn't it?~?

Anonymous said...

If you are a parent of a child who had seriously impaired human empathy, I would strongly suggest that they NEVER be allowed to play violent video games and to NEVER teach then how to use firearms.

Gavin Bollard said...

If you're the parent of ANY child, I'd suggest that weaponry remain under lock and key. If you must use it then it must be used responsibly.

Anonymous said...

"and we try to pin these tragedies on minority groups because then we can say, "that person wasn't normal"."

Indeed.

It's likely that some of the people blaming autism do so because Lanza was a white man. If he had been black or Latino instead, then they'd just blame his racial minority instead of looking for another minority like autistics to blame.

It's *also* likely that some of the people claiming that Lanza was innocent (claiming it's because he couldn't help it because he had autism) also do so because he was a white man. If he had been black or Latino instead of a man in their majority group, then they'd call him the murderer he actually was instead of looking for excuses like autism for him.

ButterflyLady said...

I agree with everything you said except for stricter gun laws. Look at the parts of the country that have the strictest gun laws. Their crime rates went up instead of down. If you go back in history. Think of the second World War, Hitler was able to concur Europe for the most part because he disarmed his citizens as well as the other countries that he invaded and then killed 5,709,329 Jews alone. That doesn't include Poles and other innocent people that he sent to the gas chambers or stood in front of a firing squad.

ButterflyLady said...

I agree with everything you said except for stricter gun laws. Look at the parts of the country that have the strictest gun laws. Their crime rates went up instead of down. If you go back in history. Think of the second World War, Hitler was able to concur Europe for the most part because he disarmed his citizens as well as the other countries that he invaded and then killed 5,709,329 Jews alone. That doesn't include Poles and other innocent people that he sent to the gas chambers or stood in front of a firing squad.