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Mass murder in Connecticut; the fault of apathy or obliviousness?

December 14, 2012

This latest school shooting, in Newtown, Connecticut, has once again rattled parents and concerned citizens across the country.

We’ve already begun to hear hollow words about sympathy, hugging our kids, praying for the families, controlling guns and how to deal with mental health issues.

Except I’m not sure any of those things make a difference.

I think we’ve all become too isolated, too xenophobic, too cowardly. We all shy away from each other’s business. We criticize, wash our hands and then turn away from potential dangers around us and our communities.

We’re all taught now to not get involved, it’s not your problem, if there’s an issue – call the cops, but whatever you do, don’t take care of it yourself. Don’t take the responsibility. Don’t take the risk.

Here’s what that kind of thinking breeds: shocking deaths, because people were left unaware or unprotected from the dangers nearby.

I have a 4-year-old son that spends 10 hours a day in a lovely, rural daycare. It’s run by truly salt-of-the-Earth people who I know will care for my son like I would. I hate that he’s there. I hate that I need to rely on others to care for him, but ultimately, that’s my reality.

Because of that and because I know nothing about the parents and families of the other students, or for that matter the personal relationships of the teachers, I need to rely on all of these people that they know there’s no psycho in their midst – someone who might also open fire in that beautiful and loving daycare.

I can only be certain of my son’s protection if I know that everyone who surrounds him is in everyone else’s business. That they all know where the crazy exists. Where the possible/potential dangers lie. Who’s getting divorced, who has an ax to grind, who’s off their meds.

We need to care about these issues. We need to be scared of the possibilities. We need to be aware.

Does this mean we’ll become a police state? No, just the opposite, protecting our own communities mean we control our own destinies, not that we’ll be beholden to our protective Big Brother overloards. It’s when you give up that responsibility that you become a police state.

But lets face it, gossip, the human intel, is just half the battle.

It’s the inaction that ultimately results in death.

How often do you see families or communities take real action when confronted by potential dangers. Those days are gone. We’ve become institutionalized to only allow legal authority to protect us. I’m not talking about vigilante justice, I’m referring to REAL community policing. Ferreting out and dealing with the monsters in our midst.

There was a time, truly not that long ago, when a community was expected to protect itself. When danger was in its midst, the community dealt with it. Doesn’t that sound like a foreign idea now? Like if we actually did that, WE’D be the ones in trouble?

I have a friend who has two members of her family that are quite mentally ill, more than functional, but always making the wrong decisions in the heat of the moment. It is not unreasonable to think they might snap and kill the entire family – young children, siblings, parent. The tales I’ve heard to this point are nothing short of a horror story.

I truly believe, that if this was 60 years ago, those two people would have mysteriously vanished. Nothing would have ever been said. But the problem would have been handled, for the benefit of the family.

And now, we’re 180 degrees in the other direction, where quite literally the inmates run the asylum. Where people of good conscience feel handcuffed about what they can do. Where others simply say, “there’s nothing I can do about it.”

We’ve lost our conviction.

I’m not saying we declare war on the mentally ill. I’m saying we stay aware and vigilant. I’m not calling for the murder of those who MAY be dangerous. We don’t need the pendulum to swing back the other way completely, but we do need to embrace our protective nature. That we put the protection of our loved ones above the disquiet we feel about getting in other people’s business.

These monsters exist. The police and mental health specialists cannot predict where they’ll appear or who they’ll attack, but we know who they are. Unless we’re completely oblivious, we know where the danger resides. It’s not a mystery.

I know who exists in my life that is a potential threat. I have to hope and pray that if I saw the signs of danger become apparent I would do everything to protect others from potential harm, family and strangers alike.

We must take back responsibility for our communities. We must protect ourselves against the dangers that exist. We must be aware and watchful. And when the time comes, we must have the nerve to act swiftly.

I promise you, if a member of my family or my circle of friends ever commits an atrocity, it will happen because he or she killed me first.  Or because I let you down.


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