Here’s what we know: As of November 17, about 400 people have been killed in nearly 300 mass shootings in the United States. Thus far this year, about 10,000 people have been killed by firearms in the United States.
What’s clear by now is that the will of this nation is to keep calm and carry on despite the bloodshed.
Of course, whenever a mass murder takes place — especially in a school — half of us freak out and call for stricter gun control legislation. But that accomplishes nothing when the nation as a whole cannot agree that something should be done to curb the violence. As a nation, we’re a Jack-in-the-Box that pops up all wide-eyed and fearful and demanding change when mass shootings happen, but a week later we’re back quietly in our box where we stay until the next time.
I understand that random mass murders in America don’t relate at all to murders by extremist factions abroad, but in the aftermath of the recent Paris attacks that left 129 people dead and more than 200 people wounded, Americans are screaming at the president to bomb Isis off of the face of the Earth, and to hell with innocents who may be caught in the crossfire.
That’s the rub. We’re quick to act as judge, jury and executioner and pronounce death to “others” who commit mass murder when they don’t speak our language, practice our religion and don’t look like us. We’re even too afraid of these people to help the refugees. Funny, this coming from a nation of immigrants.
Mass murderers in America don’t share an extremist religious ideology. There’s virtually no way to predict who will be the next person to snap. But here’s what we can safely assume: These random mass murderers in America probably share a common hatred because other people, especially their peers, don’t see them for who they are. They also are not able to identify a viable alternative to violence when they are spinning out of control, internally.
Another common link among mass murderers in America may be the use of psychiatric medications that leave them prisoners in their own minds. We’re quick in America to prescribe a pill that may or may not help, and that underlies our systemic failure in providing even adequate mental health care.
Arm our children
Everything I’ve written up to this point is nothing new. What is important now is that we begin to arm our children with something more powerful than the weapon they may pick up later in an act of revenge: effective tools to resolve conflicts.
Probably every state and most schools of higher education have studied and identified peaceful ways to resolve conflict. They’ve created such programs as peer mediation and improved parental involvement. What I wonder is why every child in America isn’t learning this from pre-kindergarten through high school?
Why do we only teach these tools in schools where local educators and parents see such value? Shouldn’t every child in America learn healthy ways to respond when they have problems with others? And shouldn’t young boys especially (94 percent of mass murderers are male) be taught alternative ways to deal with their anger?
“We have a juvenile justice system that in many states is bankrupt and is starting too late. You cannot start with a 16- or 17-year-old who has dropped out of school and who was the drug dealer’s gofer when he was 13. You’ve got to start earlier…. We can do tremendous amounts of good through conflict resolution programs in our public schools.” — Attorney General Janet Reno, speaking 20 years ago
To the boys
This column is about the boys of America who don’t fit in. The square pegs. The outcasts. The malcontents who may not even have parents who care. Perhaps the most anonymous students in school. Perhaps the kids on pills to control their anxiety or anti-social tendencies. After years of abuse by others, and years of self-conflict and thoughts of self-harm and no sense of self-worth, they grow up and some of them kill others and then themselves.
Isn’t it time for America, as a whole, to care more about its children? To spend more on them than it does on weapons of mass destruction? Our inattention to them is resulting in too much collateral damage.