Monday, December 17, 2012

What can we do?

Everyone is talking about the massacre at Sandy Hook ElementarySchool last Friday, and rightly so. It boggles the mind that someone would attack defenseless children. But it was not the only tragedy that happened that day. It wasn't even the only attack on schoolchildren.

A man in China attacked schoolchildren with a knife on Friday. Twenty two children were wounded, and many are in critical condition.

The United States gets most of the press, but this kind of violence is more common, and more international than people think. This article may remind you of how widespread the problem is.

Why are we shocked? As President Obama said in his speech last night, we've had an attack of this sort every year of his presidency. It happened under Bush, and it happened under Clinton. This happens all the time, and you think we'd be used to it by now.  But of course we're not. The real horror would be "getting used to it."

What can we do? Many of these attacks are perpetrated by the mentally unbalanced, like the man who shot up the movie theater in Aurora. But there are the religiously motivated, the politically motivated, and combinations of all of the above.

We could start by looking for sanity markers. But then there's another problem. How can you lock someone away who hasn't done anything? The Aurora shooting, Columbine, Sandy Hook, the Norway attacks, the guy who tried to bomb Times Square, all of these were done by people with no prior offenses. Can we take away someone's freedom because there is a chance that they may hurt someone?

We live in a more dangerous world than we like to think. How do we protect ourselves and those we love? The automatic reaction is to clamp down, to tighten restrictions, to build a fortess. I don't want to live with that mentality, living in fear of my neighbors and what tomorrow may bring.  Living in fear actually promotes violence. Fearful animals attack more frequently, because they see anything new or different as dangerous.

Trust promotes trust. True, it leaves you more open to attack, but it also makes it less likely that anyone will see you as a threat. Trust isn't easy. It takes a lot of work. But trust and empathy make more things possible than vigilant defense and a determination not to be taken advantage of ever will.

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