Note: All of us have been affected by the Newtown tragedy and the more recent Boston marathon bombing. This article, reprinted from the June edition of Local Color, a monthly Brighton magazine, is just one of many articles written about the challenges we as a nation face in dealing with violence; violence so unbelievable, so sudden and unexpected that it’s hard to understand. Not only does it take the lives of the innocent, but it brings unimaginable sorrow to families, to friends and undermines our own security and freedoms.
A Cry of Innocence
Newtown – What have we learned?
By Daryl L. Meyers
What do you say to six-year-olds in shock … terrified, who just ran from their school to your house, from something so unthinkable, so unbelievable, the mind can’t take it in?
“We can’t go back to school. We can’t. We have no teacher. Our teacher is dead!”
How do you explain to children just beginning to live that something unimaginable has just taken their friends, their playmates, and their teachers away never to return? How do you comfort a parent who just lost a child or heal a community that just lost twenty of their children and six of their finest teachers? And what do you say to a nation that feels the pain of this once peaceful community?
How could something so unexpected, so tragic happen in a place of innocence and learning, a place surrounded by woods and beautiful homes? Could the taking of innocent lives have been prevented? The answers, if there are any, won’t come easy.
In light of the Newtown tragedy, many have called for tighter restrictions on gun control, the arming of private citizens, a greater police presence and safer protocols for our schools. Others have suggested more funding in support of treatment programs for those with mental health issues. Few would disagree these concerns need to be addressed, but is this enough?
As a society our way of dealing with violence is to put in place measures that either control or modify human behavior. Although methods may differ, over the centuries indigenous peoples and advanced cultures around the world have used this approach, but the results have been less than encouraging. To expect radical change through external means of control, without addressing deeper issues, will, as history has proven, be temporary or limited at best. Although worn by overuse, the definition of insanity – doing the same old things in the same old way, expecting different results – might not be too far from the truth after all.
Though unintentional, could it be our lifestyles have created an environment where deviant behavior is not only allowed but encouraged, where loss of life caused by those with mental or emotional disorders or overwhelming stress has become too common?
Perhaps we need to look more closely at the reasons behind destructive behaviors that weaken our society; reexamine messages given our young people that undermine principles of honesty and integrity.
We are extremely concerned about our children and their future, and so we should be, yet we allow them to listen to songs, play video games, watch movies and provide other forms of entertainment that expose them to influences and behaviors opposite our values, then wring our hands and shake our heads in disbelief when violence erupts in our schools and communities and the more vulnerable act out what they have learned.
To teach our children that character and integrity are more important than outward appearance, that true worth from within is of more value than fame or fortune, and then expose them to images and messages on DVDs, in theaters, and at checkout counters that teach them the opposite, does not work.
To educate our young in technology, and the arts and sciences but fail to guide them in the basics of human relationships, does not work.
To use the same energy that caused a problem to prevent it by arming a nation so the good can protect themselves against the not so good, does not work.
As a human family somehow we must find a way to go deeper in dealing with patterns of thinking and living that continue to undermine the life we say we want for ourselves and our children. To continue to give double messages to our young people and expect them, especially those at higher risk, to somehow become balanced, compassionate human beings stretches the imagination beyond reasonable limits.
Whether individuals, communities or as a nation, unless and until human behavior is addressed at deeper levels, progress will be an illusion and terror will once again rise to haunt us (the Boston Marathan bombing … New Orleans Mother’s Day shooting).
It’s time to face the truth. The old ways of transforming a society, through external restrictions and force, are not working. They are temporary at best. If we want to see a better world for ourselves and our children, we must choose again. We cannot continue along the course we’re on now.
Transformation … methods that address change from within, that encourage respect for the rights of all and see everyone, regardless of color, gender, culture or religion, as legitimate, deserving members of the human family – our family – is what is needed if we ever hope to quell the violence that has taken over our nation and our world. A new approach may not bring about immediate results, but in time it could make … all the difference in the world.