Thoughts on the Newtown School Shootings pt1 The Culture of Violence is All Around Us

Davey-D-purple-frameOn Friday December 14th 2012, Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Ct was the site of what many are describing as the second deadliest school shooting in US history. The dust is still settling and people are trying to come to terms with why 27 people were slaughtered. 20 of them kids between the ages of 6-7. We are now discovering that some were shot as much 11 times as they hid in corners of their classrooms covered up. This was gruesome. All told, 12 little girls and 8 little boys were murdered.. The other 6 killed, were all women. They were teachers and school administrators who tried to save these children from unthinkable horror.

Newtown Massacre Families prayUnderstandably many of us are looking for answers… We’re all looking for a nicely packaged, sound explanation as to why this happened. Many are quick to point out that the killer Adam Lanza had mental illness. The popular narrative is a sick man got a hold of some guns and shot up a school..End of story, good night.. And to be honest its true Adam Lanza was sick, but in order to really get to the root of what took place and why, and more importantly how to prevent this from happening again, we are deluding ourselves and doing a disservice to simply place Lanza’s sickness in isolation.

Please read that again and reflect on it…. Lanza is not alone in that sickness…

A Year and a Weekend Filled With Violence Beyond Sandy Hook

Many of us are sick in our denial about the pervasive, far-reaching impact of America’s culture of violence. There are some who just read what I wrote who will get defensive and dismissive and emphatically claim that what I wrote is not true.. But it is.. It really is. We are addicted to violence and turmoil and we’re sick in our collective dishonesty. The sickness is all around us.. The culture of violence is all around us..Here’s a small sampling of what has gone on around the country, since the horrors of Sandy Brook Elementary:

Von I Meyer

Von I Meyer

On Friday, same day as the Newton massacres, in Cedar Lake Indiana, an elderly man with 47 guns named Von I. Meyer was arrested after threatening to set his wife on fire and “kill as many people as he could” at a nearby Jane Ball Elementary School. You can read about that HERE.

In Tulsa, Oklahoma an 18-year-old student named Sammie Eaglebear Chavez was arrested on Friday as he attempted recruit fellow students at Bartlesville High School to lure them into a school auditorium where he planned to shoot them.. You can read about that HERE.

On Friday the same day as the Newton, Ct massacre in the SF Bay Area the second bomb scare in two days occurred. The one on Friday, went down at the region’s largest shopping center, the Great Mall in Milpitas. Hundreds of shoppers were evacuated. You can read about that HERE.

Monta Vista High school signThe day before at Monta Vista High School in nearby Cupertino, which is home to Apple Computers, the was a bomb scare accompanied with graffiti on the school wall threatening to kill a teacher. The school was shut down and evacuated. Students returned to school on Friday morning only to be confronted with news of the carnage going on Newtown. A 16-year-old student was arrested last night. You can read about that HERE.

On Friday night,  hours after the Newton, Ct massacre in Las Vegas, a man ran into the Excalibur Hotel and shot a woman and then himself. This tragedy immediately took our thoughts to the situation involving Kansas City Chief  football star Jovan Belcher & Kasandra Perkins  from 2 weeks ago where the star NFL star killed his girlfriend and then himself leaving their 3 month old without parents..The Vegas murder suicide is something that seems to be happening far too often.. You can read about it HERE.

Marcos Gurrola

Marcos Gurrola

On Saturday in Newport Beach, California 42-year-old Marcos Gurrola was arrested for shooting 50 bullets outside of Fashion Island Mall. He was arrested and the mall never shut down, which I think many found disturbing, especially in light of the mall shooting in Portland, Oregon that left two dead, that occurred earlier this week. There the gun man had intended to kill more folks but his gun jammed.  In the case of this Newport Beach shooting, police say the mall was reopened because the suspect shot the guns in the air and on the ground.. You can read about that HERE.

In Birmingham, Alabama on Saturday morning 38-year-old Jason Letts, rushed in St Vincent’s hospital and shot a police officer and two other people. The victims survived, Letts was killed by another officer.. This shooting was coming on the heels of a massacre the night before-same day as Newton, shooting where a woman and her two kids ages 4 and 5 were shot and killed. You can read about that HERE.

chicago violenceEarly, Saturday morning in Oakland, California, just two hours before a gun buy back program a 37-year-old man shot into a car with 3 people including a woman. Someone from the car shot back.. all four were injured. You can read about that HERE.

On Friday, in Chicago, same day as the Newton massacre, 10 people were shot including 4 teens. By the weekend’s end over 15 were shot. Sadly many upon hearing about this along with the shootings in Oakland and in Birmingham, shrugged their shoulders and thought to themselves; ‘What else is new? This is business as usual‘.

Kids in Pakistan express sympathy to Newtown, Ct victims

Kids in Pakistan express sympathy to Newtown, Ct victims

Fueled by class and racial bigotry, coupled with an overall climate of where many are mean-spirited, our collective societal sickness hasn’t allowed  many of us to see 10 people shot in inner city Chicago connected to those shot in mass shootings in suburban schools, malls and mosques…Our collective sickness doesn’t allow many us to see the humanity in others outside ourselves and our circles of comfort..Seems like many in the hood scoff at the mass murders they hear about going down in the suburbs while man in the burbs are dismissive of the daily killings they hear about in the hood.. And all of us in our collective sickness could give a rats ass about the children killed and carnage caused by drone strikes in foreign lands done in our name.. Our sickness has moved us all in the direction where life is devalued.

Even as I’m penning this article on Sunday afternoon, word is coming out about death threats coming to one of the churches in Newton, Rose of Lima Roman Catholic Church was evacuated during its noon mass on Sunday due to a someone calling up and threatening to “kill everyone.”

“My friend didn’t finish the job,” the caller said, according to a church official. You can read about that HERE.

Aurora Theater shooting

Aurora Theater shooting

This year alone over 15 mass shootings taking place this country.  That’s a wickedly high number. From Portland, Or to Aurora,Co to Oakland, Ca to Oakcreek, Wi, to Minneapolis, Mn to the Empire State building in New York City to name a few, no community has been spared. On top of the 15, we have an additional 12 more over the past 4-5 years. there’s been over 60 since the Columbine massacres of April 1999.

Same ole Song Same Ole Script Mass Shootings Are Big Business

One would think our conversations around these tragedies would’ve had advanced over the past 10-12 years. Sadly with each mass shooting incident, we have not moved to heal from the trauma and to take solid steps to make sure such incidents never occur again.. Instead, we’ve seen these mass shootings morph into grandiose  television events.

They’ve become the ultimate, bizarre, morose reality TV show similar to the countless car chases we see in LA, where regular programming is interrupted so much so, that we now watch and don’t give a second thought about the crime committed or the victims of those crimes. We’re all caught up in the chase. In the case of Newtown, Ct as sad as it was, far too many of us were caught up in the drama and politics around it vs the very real need for healing. Very few of us recognize that even though this killing may have taken place far away from many of us, we were impacted. Something inside of us needs to heal. many of us are not as compassionate. Not as caring.. Not as concerned.

The way this story has been covered by our esteemed 4th estate, corporate media  hasn’t helped in the healing. The day of the massacre, the usual script was followed and things became all too predictable. High priced, news anchors were dispatched to the scene of the tragedy where they stood in front of churches, trying their best to look solemn as they grilled first responders and friends of a friend of a friend who may have known a victim about…

Why did this happen? What do we tell the kids? How long will people grieve? Was the victim mentally ill? We’ve heard these questions asked before

Newton MassacreThe whole time they are doing these interviews you can literally see these anchors scoping out the terrain with one eye open, angling to one up the competition. Friday reached new lows as we saw reporter after reporter shoving microphones in the faces of 5 and 6 year old kids who were clearly traumatized, asking them how they feel and what they saw etc..In spite of massive complaints on Facebook and twitter, by late last night you still saw little kids trying to explain what its like to hear or see someone shot or walk by dead bodies.. It’s not about healing it’s about being first and getting ratings at all costs. After all as some in the media like to say.. All this coverage doesn’t come free.

Interspersed between these interviews are heartbreaking pictures from Newtown. It’s scenes from candlelight vigils, people praying and faces of people crying in sheer agony with the words Getty images splattered across them, reminding us that as tragic as things may be, some company owns the rights to it. The sights and sounds are all licensed, copy written and trademarked, underscoring the fact that these mass shootings are big business..

End of pt 1 continue by clicking https://hiphopandpolitics.wordpress.com/2012/12/17/thoughts-on-the-newtown-school-shootings-pt2-hard-questions-we-all-must-answer/

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Thoughts on the Newtown School Shootings pt2 Hard Questions We All Must Answer

Sandy Hook Massacre is not Isolated It’s Part of Something that’s Systemic

Newtown godbless Part of the challenge before us is to move this of this national conversation away from seeing these acts of violence as isolated, out of the ordinary occurrences and see them as systemic. This is not comfortable for many to do. The reason being is that when you look at mass shootings from a systemic level it calls into question our actions or lack of actions. It calls into account our own complicity in furthering this culture of violence. It brings forth our own contradictions. This includes the types of conversations and steps we take to ensure peace vs cheering on and fantasizing about violent responses to complex problems. Far too many of us say we want peace  and we want our children to live in peace , but our actions say otherwise. We applaud violence. We accept violence.. We enable violence in many aspects of our lives and on many levels. From the music we listen to, to what we watch on TV to what sort of laws we allow to pass on or not pass on our watch…

Its gotten to a point where talking about love is something seen a perverse, out of pocket and even unnatural.  That in itself is crazy, because so many of us profess we are God fearing and church loving, but you wouldn’t know that in the ways we embrace this culture of violence.

We have to take stock in what are we modeling for the kids we say we care about? What seeds are we planting? How are we helping them as well as ourselves to heal? We tell them they have to be ruthless in business. We tell them negativity sells and that by taking the high road you are weak sauce. We scoff at compassion? As we bury 20 kids this week, in what ways will we change our thinking?

Let our prayers go beyond Newtown and touche very place ravaged by senseless violence

Let our prayers go beyond Newtown and touch every place ravaged by senseless violence

Our contradictions include politicians who deliberately avoid important conversations about gun safety, assault weapon bans and mental health checks for those who wish to own guns, for fear of angering the NRA gun lobby. Frankly put there’s been lack of leadership. Right now many elected officials are talking a good game. They’re gonna show up at the funerals. they’re gonna hold press conferences and express extreme sorrow. They’re gonna do  like they’ve always done after a tragedy like this.. but once the dust settles and the cameras are gone and lobbying money rolls in, gun control and gun safety discussions are buried. It’s the height of hypocrisy. When will that change? When and how will we make them change?

Our contradictions include mainstream media oversimplifying complex issues, manufacturing outrage and pushing fear buttons by scapegoating and pitting groups of people against one another.  Following such paths may be politically comfortable and expedient and make for good TV, but its counterproductive to the steps we need to take to turn things around. When will we recognize the type of damage they are waging on folks? When will we say enough is enough to fear mongering?

Mental health beyond Adam Lanza

Ideally we should all be talking about mental health. We need to know what was a Adam Lanza suffering from? Was it depression, bi-polar disorder, panic attacks, extreme anxiety, post traumatic stress disorder (PSDT)? Was it psychological or physical? Did he have a chemical imbalance? Was help available? Affordable? Accessible? How widespread is his condition? Do the people involved in the incidents listed earlier also suffer from similar health challenges? What sort of investments have we made to help people get well?  If we’re willing help Adam Lanza in the suburbs of Newtown and understand he was a troubled man are we willing help Ray Ray in the inner city of Chicago who may also be suffering?

Adding to these difficult questions around mental health is the issue of suicide. Long time educator, poet and scholar Mark Gonzales spoke to this issue the other night at a Pecha Kucha gathering in Oakland. He reminded us that we can not see the frequencies of mass shootings separate from the high rates of suicide that are taking place in this country every year, especially when you take into account that in many of these incidents the perpetrators killed themselves or acted in such a way that they would be killed. Gonzales noted that every year in the US 1.2 million people attempt suicide. In our military, more people have committed suicide than died in combat. What is that about? How does that relate to those who act with reckless abandon and are quick to pull the trigger at the slightest provocation? Whats the mental challenges afflicting those who can’t imagine themselves living a long life?

Bold thinking and compassion will heal broken hearts..

Bold and compassion thinking will help heal broken hearts..

These are hard questions. When we look at what took place at Sandy Hook elementary, our grief, anger and collective disbelief makes it easy for us to sum everything up and conclude Lanza and others who do these mass murders are just ‘evil’ and simply need to be locked away and removed from society. To a degree that may be true, but the frequencies of killings both on en mass like in Sandy Hook or what occurs daily in our inner city streets, suggests that sooner or later we are gonna have to cross that bridge and honestly deal with mental health. There’s no getting around it. We can only hide from reality for so long.

In having this conversation about mental health we have to be honest and note that our discussion has to move beyond Adam Lanza and why he snapped. It’s also gotta also be about his mother Nancy Lanza and the millions of people who live in this country like her who felt a need to buy all those weapons in the first place. Was she really a ‘gun enthusiast’ as described in the news by her friends? Why did she have so many guns in her house where her son lived knowing he was troubled? Was she someone who was fearful or angry who felt the only way to feel safe was to stockpile weapons? If so, what was driving those emotions? Was she fearful of the government? If so what brought about that distrust?

Did she like so many others believe the government is going to collapse like in all those end-of-days, doomsday prepper reality shows. Did she think martial law and total government take over is imminent?

Was she fearful of crime? What was she afraid of in Newtown a place that was depicted as one where crime hardly occurred? Did something bad happened to her to stoke her fears? Was she ever healed from it? Was she fearful of a certain type of person rooted in media stereotypes? The angry crack dealing ‘Willie Horton type Black guy? The ‘illegal’ border jumping Brown guy? The ‘American hating’ Middle Eastern Muslim terrorist?

And while such scenarios and characteristics may not have applied specifically to Adam Lanza’s mom, they sure as hell do to many who went out and increased gun sales by a whooping 20% since the re-election of President Barack Obama. That’s on top of the massive increase that occurred when he was first elected. Eventually we’re gonna not only have to have a conversation about race, class, economic inequality and uncertainty, distrust and all those messy, uneasy topics that have been avoided, but we’re also going to have to take some hard decisive steps to resolve these long-standing issues. Like I said earlier, up til now, playing to people’s fears and anxieties has been profitable for a whole lot of folks.. That’s gotta stop or we’re gonna see more of the same. The Massacre at Sandy Brook is not in isolation.

Conclusion

In honoring the 27 people killed last Friday in Newtown, Ct, we’re gonna have to take some bold steps and move away from our comfort zones. We talk about how courageous the teachers were who protected the kids and gave their lives. We’re heaping praise on Dawn Hocksprung, Rachel Davino, Anne Marie Murphy, Lauren Russeau, Mary Sherlach and Victoria Soto for making the ultimate sacrifice, but how many of us are willing to make sacrifices in our social, political and economic outlook to bring about better tomorrows? We can’t have more of the same. We reached a fork in the road..Love or Violence..Ignorance or Consciousness.. Fear or Enlightenment… The choice is ours..RIP to all the children killed this weekend at Sandy Brook..Charlotte, Daniel, Olivia, Josephine, Ana, Madline, Dylan, Catherine, Chase, Jesse, James, Grace, Emilie, Jack, Noah, Caroline, Jessica, Avielle, Benjamin, Allison..RIP to all the children killed around this country to senseless violence ..RIP to all the children killed to senseless drone strikes and other acts of  war and exploitation