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"We can’t tolerate this anymore.  These tragedies must end.  And to end them, we must change."
- President Barack Obama, Sunday night, addressing participants at a prayer vigil for the 26 teachers and students, murdered at Sandy Hook Elementary School, Friday
There is no snow on the mid-December ground in Newtown, Connecticut, to hide the furry ears of teddy bears, the bundles of flowers, the mounting piles of notes and photos, mourning the dead children and teachers of Sandy Hook Elementary, beneath a quiet pile of white. Instead, the cold ground, in the small New England town, under tears and rain, lays its sadness bare. The national empathy is loud and palpable, through sad news reports, police press conferences, brave family statements, and the president's words of comfort to a community devastated over its loss of innocence, and innocents.

"Are we really prepared," President Obama asked, at Sunday's vigil, "to say that we’re powerless in the face of such carnage, that the politics are too hard?  Are we prepared to say that such violence visited on our children year after year after year is somehow the price of our freedom?"

"I will use whatever power this office holds to engage my fellow citizens," he promised, "in an effort aimed at preventing more tragedies like this."

He said he would gather those who can help with the issue of mass killings at the hands of deranged minds, including parents, teachers and mental health professionals. But in this inexplicable tragedy, we are all stakeholders. We are all engaged. We are all responsible. We cannot only rely on whatever politically expedient solution the leaders of our country come up with, and call it done.

But what else do we do?

Some want to focus on certain movies and video games, saying they desensitize us to the consequences of violent action. That may be partly true, but Americans have an even more sour taste for censorship than they do for gun control, and will balk when denied the freedom to feel that visceral thrill of the kill, whether it's annihilating a CGI bogeyman, shooting up soup cans and paper silhouettes at the range, or watching a Jerry Bruckheimer explosion on the big screen.

Sociologists and psychologists can argue whether that serotonin rush comes from truly legitimate, human instincts that are part of our species' evolution, but we can almost certainly make a choice when it comes to managing our American need to be the winner, and our dysfunctional, Yankee compulsion that victory is the validation of the righteous, that might makes it right.

It's like being a citizen of this country includes your own, holy endowment of Manifest Destiny. This is what the entertainment industry exploits - the man in the white hat, the sinner with a heart, the guardian of freedom and justice, with license to kill to protect a sacred cause.

For sick minds, the unstable and the socially challenged, the thin membrane that separates the real world from fantasy is pierced by this arrow of righteous salvation through violent action. Even stable individuals, when part of a mob, their reality swallowed up by mass hysteria, will find the justification to cause a riot as punishment to a community. When that happens, in a mob, we react, searching for the cause of the dysfunction - poverty, joblessness, bigotry - and then rush to find solutions that are responsive to the adrenalin fueled anger that caused the disturbance in the first place.

This is where we are, searching for the cause of the dangerous societal dysfunction that threatens our communities. We can either isolate ourselves, or the individuals who threaten our peace.

In Old Europe, during the Italian Renaissance, the Jews of Venice were kept in a walled community, called the ghetto, for their own protection, because of the Christian throngs who would be whipped into an anti-Semitic frenzy after watching a passion play on Easter. The gated walls protected the Jews from the pogrom, but then, as now, a ghetto is no way to bring together a diverse community. Likewise, putting a cordon of security around schools and other public buildings, and arming principals and teachers, is no way to impart the lesson of community. That only teaches fear and resentment.

A new poll released, Monday, conducted by ABC News and the Washington Post, in the wake of the Newtown tragedy, shows a growing belief that "the atrocity in Connecticut [indicates] 'broader problems in American society' rather than just the isolated act of a troubled individual." The 52/43 opinion is about twice the affirmative response of those asked a similar question after this summer's Aurora, Colorado, theater shooting, and the 2011, Tuscon, Arizona, attacks, the poll reports.

Violence is as old as humanity, but so is maintaining a viable society. We already know how to do this. The dilemma comes in how we protect our lives without sacrificing our liberties. But here's a hint: just because a sick mind finds solace in the discipline of firearms, doesn't mean we put a gun in his hand and teach him to shoot. A healthy obsession in an unhealthy mind will always be unhealthy, just as a negative number times a positive remains a negative number. Maybe the Newtown gunman (I refuse to say his name) would have been fine if it was just the violence of the video games with which he was allegedly obsessed. Who can say?

The point is, we must negate the validation of violence as an everyday tool in the social response toolkit of anyone, by any means necessary. If the idea is to save lives, even when we can justify deadly force, we have to find a way to do that first. Killing should always be the last resort. We must find a way to foster empathy and compassion, not only in ourselves, but in all individuals for whom we are responsible. That is what "we must change."

-PBG

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Comment Preferences

  •  We make access (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Gooserock, lyvwyr101, Farugia

    to guns extremely difficult - like in civilized countries.

    Next question.

  •  Full Public Funding for Mental Health Care (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    gerrilea, ProseAndThorn

    Is it the entire solution? Of course, not. Many peoStple who have extremely dangerous behavior do not fit into any recognized form of mental illness.

    But many people DO need professional mental health care and can't afford it because of no or limited insurance.

    We need full, public funding for mental health care and intensive education for the general public so that we can help families or neighborhoods who suspect that one of their own may have a problem.

    •  We can't legislate empathy or morality. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      ProseAndThorn

      We can't legislate understanding.

      We can legislate the things that make a lack of empathy deadly, but we can't legislate empathy.

      Video games, meh. I know a lot of gamers. I don't think that's the right target. Healthy people know the difference between fantasy and reality.

      We can't legislate a person's ability to know the difference. But we CAN legislate that person's access to health care, and legislate that person's ability to access weapons that can kill a dozen people in one setting.

      None of this violates anyone's liberties.

      P.S. I am not a crackpot.

      by BoiseBlue on Mon Dec 17, 2012 at 06:18:34 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Never suspected it! (0+ / 0-)

        I'm just listening to the "pundits" who seem to think the solution is simple. And arguing with my husband, who confuses "arming school security guards" and "banning automatic weapons and 100 round clips."

        We simply have to start somewhere. Having a free professional public mental health options for families or neighbors who suspect problems is one little step. Banning automatic weapons and 100 round clips are two unavoidable steps. There is much more we can do, but start here and don't make any of these things political.

        I'm not against guns...or against video games...just against stupidity!

      •  A very good poster here pointed out yesterday (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        ProseAndThorn, oldpunk

        that the difference is that the video games train our children on how to kill quickly and effectively, as our Military Industrial Complex demands.

        Think for a moment on this please.

        We will never get all the guns out of this nation, not without another civil war but we can stop teaching our children how to kill.

        -7.62; -5.95 The scientists of today think deeply instead of clearly. One must be sane to think clearly, but one can think deeply and be quite insane.~Tesla

        by gerrilea on Mon Dec 17, 2012 at 06:56:52 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Um, I play video games that could be described (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          oldpunk

          as violent. I can assure that playing a video game doesn't teach people HOW to kill people quickly and effectively. The video games are nothing like an actual gun.

          I'm actually a better aim with a real gun than I am with video games. But I don't own nor do I want a gun. I do enjoy playing the games.

          Again, the vast majority of our society can tell the difference between fantasy and reality.

          P.S. I am not a crackpot.

          by BoiseBlue on Mon Dec 17, 2012 at 07:48:23 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Just because you may know the difference doesn't (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            ProseAndThorn

            correlate to what we are witnessing today.  I know the difference as well.

            The point you are unwilling to admit to, they are teaching our children how to kill and make it fun to do so.

            Would you recommend a drinking game to an alcoholic or a video card game to a gamblers anonymous member?

            We do see an increase in gambling problems with the expansion of casinos.  Why is it so hard for you to accept that with an increase in movie and video game violence, we are witnessing such in our society?

            Anyone claiming these things don't have an effect is being naive in their position.

            Where do these methodical psychopaths come from?  They plan their attacks for years, where the hell are they getting these ideas from? I do not believe any child wakes up and says, I'm going to kill everyone and then goes about planning it.  

            The expression of violence is taught and learned. We all have the capacity to be violent, so how about teaching our children peace, instead?

            -7.62; -5.95 The scientists of today think deeply instead of clearly. One must be sane to think clearly, but one can think deeply and be quite insane.~Tesla

            by gerrilea on Tue Dec 18, 2012 at 04:33:00 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

    •  The issue of mental illness is the now the (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      AnnieWest

      "fashionable alternative to gun control."

      Over and over again the diversion to mental health issues.

      It's the GUNS.

      ❧To thine ownself be true

      by Agathena on Mon Dec 17, 2012 at 06:22:59 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  It's both! (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        AnnieWest

        Don't be simplistic. I totally agree with the gun control laws. But the mental health issues are important as well. One does not ameliorate the other.

      •  How many of your fellow Canadians are mentally (0+ / 0-)

        ill? How many actually get help for their conditions?

        We have other issues to deal with first and before we re-write our constitution so that your smug moral superiority can be satiated.

        -7.62; -5.95 The scientists of today think deeply instead of clearly. One must be sane to think clearly, but one can think deeply and be quite insane.~Tesla

        by gerrilea on Mon Dec 17, 2012 at 07:00:13 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Rachel Maddow Just Mentioned 3D Printers..... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    AnnieWest

    It is a new technology that allows the downloading or creating of a 3D physical object.  Gunowners have already started using these printers to reproduce lower receivers.  

    These receivers are the guts of a weapon.  The printers cost around $2 GRAND.  So far the guns produced in homes aren't that efficient.....approximately 6 rounds.

    The application or file can simply be downloaded from the internet.

    Dianne Feinstein needs to include these printers in her bill.

    A pundit on MSNBC also suggested that we retire the term "gun control".  Instead call it "common sense gun safety".

    •  Friday night (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      snapples

      On Friday night, Rachel had a great guest who had statistics showing that most mass shootings are caused by young men who are suffering from depression. He said that we could reduce such killings through better screening and diagnosis of clinical depression in high school. It sounds like a solid, non-controversial idea.

    •  Really? (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      VClib

      This is just a further advance on the subject. Affordable computer-controlled machine tools have been around for at least a decade and can mill the parts required out of metal rather than creating them out of plastic. Has there been a flood of home-made weapons because of this? Have criminals flocked to bootleg basement machineshops for untraceable weapons? No.

      What you are suggesting is akin to regulating photocopiers to keep people from copying books.

      Now, if guns were to be completely banned and confiscated, then I suspect you would start to see computer-tooled homemade guns. And I think stopping them would be just as impractical as Prohibition was at stopping alcohol consumption. The main reason is that a high-quality makerbot or computer controlled machine tool can make a copy of itself and be run from any computer. Kind of hard to regulate that in a useful way. You just generate an illegal, untraceable gun industry run by criminals.

      The genie of guns is going to be impossible to cram back into the bottle. The only reason it has worked in places the like the UK is they did not have much of a "gun culture" to begin with. You need to change the attitudes so that people do not want or feel a need to own guns, and if you do that, the problem controls itself.

    •  snapples - Sen Feinstein's bill is not going to (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      ProseAndThorn

      remove any existing guns owned prior to the ban. Trying to stop CAD systems seems unproductive at this time. If the bill passes we will still have nearly 300 million guns in circulation.

      "let's talk about that"

      by VClib on Mon Dec 17, 2012 at 08:13:11 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  It's not just the guns, it's the threats. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ProseAndThorn

    The right puts out an endless stream of thinly-veiled death threats and calls for violence, "second amendment remedies". It's a constant stream of hate and threats, people act on it.

    After the Gabrielle Giffords shooting, all that was talked about was Sarah Palin's picture with the crosshairs on it. That was only one small part of the hate and threats put out by the right. At first I thought it was just that Sarah Palin has such a big ego that everything had to be about her. But I have rethought this. It seems she very effectively took the focus off the whole issue of right-wing death threats, and put the focus on one picture. The media, never eager to look at this issue, took the bait.

    The wolfpack eats venison. The lone wolf eats mice.

    by A Citizen on Mon Dec 17, 2012 at 06:44:35 PM PST

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