For the Childrens’ Sake

December 17th, 2012

The African Masai tribes greet each other with the phrase “Kasserian ingera”, which means “are the children well?” Even warriors with no children of their own give the traditional answer. “All the children are well.” It means more than just that children are well. When society treats children well, society is well.

With last week’s elementary school shooting, we were reminded that in America the children are NOT well. American society is not well as a consequence. We’ve let our kids down and in the process betrayed our most sacred responsibility.

Many of us are, rightly, doing some soul searching. We’re asking big existential and social questions. Before going into that more deeply, let me acknowledge that our soul searching is tiny compared to what families and the whole Newtown community must be going through. I can’t imagine the trauma, and my heart goes out to all affected.

Their sadness is all of our sadness, because we are all part of one human family. And their tragedy is all of our tragedy because we created a culture where this sort of tragedy is possible. The rest of us were just lucky that it wasn’t our kids and our community in the crossfire.

Big Questions of Meaning

It’s natural for us to ask questions about meaning at a time like this. I’m not talking primarily about why it happened, although that is worth asking. I’m talking about how we move on with hope intact. How do we keep believing there is some good in the world? How do we learn to trust again? How do we deal with the reality that none of us is ever fully safe? How do we make tragic loss meaningful?

I keep going back to the teacher who shielded her children. She didn’t call them her students. They were her children. It was no doubt because she thought of them as her children, that her incredible protective instincts took over in a crisis. This is the meaning I am taking from this disaster. Who are my children? Who would I be willing to shield in a crisis? I want to live a life of hope. I love the words of Mister Rogers;

When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ To this day, especially in times of ‘disaster,’ I remember my mother’s words, and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers – so many caring people in this world.

Big Social Questions

Some will say it’s too soon to talk about issues like guns and mental health. But in reality it’s too late. Too many lives are already lost because we refuse to have serious conversations about the big questions. We need to talk about mental health, bullying in schools, poverty and the education system to name a few. But guns. We need to talk about guns TODAY.

Come back to the central social question- are the children well?

The statistic that shocked me most was that of all the child gun deaths in the 23 wealthiest countries, 87% are American children. That is staggering and outrageous. The gun murder rate in America is 20 times higher than the next 22 wealthiest countries combined.

The idea that carrying a gun makes you safer has no basis in reality. With so many armed Americans, there are still no examples of civilians stopping these mass tragedies. On the contrary, there are more casualties when civilians draw their weapons on maniacs. Unfortunately, Adam Lanza’s mother is a tragic example of this point.

In China last week a crazed person attacked a classroom of kids with a knife. But there were no fatalities in that attack. Knives are not in the same league as guns. Gun control IS the issue.

There are now more guns in America than there are people. And another statistic that shocked me is that the number of households owning guns has decreased from 50% to 40% in the last ten years. This means fewer people are owning more guns, almost stock piling weapons.

The bloated power of the NRA is reaching terrorist proportions. In the past 4 years, the NRA has helped weaken gun laws in 37 states and in the same period, the number of mass shootings has increased. I came across this statement from a grandfather in Phoenix that said it well,

As a lifelong Republican and the grandfather of two children of the age murdered Friday in Connecticut, I believe it is time to reconsider the current position on the Second Amendment.

The NRA has, by default, placed our national policy in an immoral position. I firmly believe that the NRA should be designated as a terrorist organization and the leadership indicted as co-conspirators in an event like Friday’s.

– W. Boyd Rooney

This is the sort of honest, soul searching America needs to be doing.

Guns didn’t cause the tragedy, but they made it more likely and increased the number of fatalities.

Americans need to ask some very tough questions. There are Adam Lanzas in every country; highly intelligent social misfits, people capable of atrocities, people who snap for whatever reason. But these mass shootings don’t happen in other countries to the extent that they do in America.

The kids are not well in America. America is not well. If any good can come of the horrendous sadness, let it be a serious conversation about the existential and social questions. We need to stand up to the NRA. They’ve bullied America for too long.

There are at least three things I’m aware of right now that anyone can do.
1. Gun take backs.

Encourage gun take backs, maybe with cash incentives, in your local area. Consider giving your gun back. Do it so that the kids can be well again. Stop the delusion that your guns make you safer.

2. Support Gun Control

Support the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence. They do amazing work in courts and in Washington.

3. Local Activism

If you live in Michigan, call on Governor Snyder to veto current legislation that would allow concealed guns in public schools, churches, and day care centers. This is madness that is taking place at this very time.

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  1. Alice Waterous says:

    As with the rest, I have been in a state of shock, horror and grief about the killings in Conn.   Suddenly last Sunday, I could no longer stand to see & hear the News, News, News, so threw on my clothes and joined your congregation.  Thank you for addressing the issues that we have too long ignored in our society.  
    The message was what I needed to strengthen my resolve to join others and make positive things happen. 

  2. ian says:

    Thank you Alice- very glad to have you with us. Be well and stay strong.

  3. audie says:

    Blaming the NRA for this is a cheap trick, Lawton, and your “terrorist proportions” rhetoric is irresponsible. Far from bullying anyone, the NRA keeps bullies like you from taking our freedoms from us.

    Firearms do not keep us safe? The things that make us less safe, sir, are people like you, who try to exploit such things for the sake of fearmongering, to make people give up their rights and put their own well-being in the hands of bureaucrats. Yeah, that sounds like a good idea (not).

    And, of course, you dress it up in the language of “for the children”, the sure sign of an emotionally manipulative argument.

    So, let’s talk about guns? Rather, the talk about guns in the US has already happened. It happened 200 or so years ago, and it was decided that “the right to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed upon”. The only thing that needs to be considered is why people like you want good people to be defenseless.

  4. Bill White says:

    Ian, I’m new to your site, but like what I’m seeing. I have no well-thought out opinion about gun control. I do, however, agree that our children are NOT well. And that makes for unhealthy adults. My life is about turning that around ( I wrote about the problem and solutions about the shooting. I will attach it here for you, and for anyone else interested.

    I have a theory about the random mass shootings. In my mind, it is no mystery. How many of the shootings—Connecticut, Columbine and Paducah KY school, Oregon Mall, Virginia Tech, Pennsylvania guy in at a health gym, Tucson and Gabby Giffords, you name it—how many of those shooters were female? I believe there is a clue inside the answer to that question.

    MY THEORY: 1) These people had been emotio…nally and relational severely wounded by people in their everyday lives, most probably starting in childhood. 2) Emotional and relational wounding causes anger, rage, resentment, hate, and the desire for revenge. 3) Males have not been guided to deal with their pain in a healthy way. I, however, believe this is not a male problem. This is a HUMAN PROBLEM. In my work with couples, I find that females are quite handicapped in their ability to deal with their pain in a healthy way. It’s just that men are downright crippled in that department.

    SOLUTION: I’m not for gun control. I’m for control of treating others (especially children) with unkindness and disrespect.

    I believe there are solutions to these shootings. I also believe these shootings may be a wake-up call to us humans. One key solution is to learn a new way of relating so that we live by a commitment to treating one another with kindness and respect at all times, no matter how we feel. Few people don’t live that way. It has taken me a long time to figure out how to live by that commitment.

    [By the way, I also believe that the source of ALL the ills of our planet is our wounding of one another. The homeless, the addicted, the criminals, the bullies, the divorced, the lonely and isolated, the mentally ill, those who kill themselves, and war—these didn’t come about because people felt safe and loved. These came about because people were mistreated. Period. In my opinion.]

    Most people are resigned that humans generally aren’t going to get along. I grew up in a family where no one got along. It was extremely painful. My life has been about discovering how to turn that around. I have found some key solutions. (See the 3 commitments required to have a chance at a healthy love relationship on my Healthy Couples Facebook page.) There is a way to not only get along, but to be happy with others. It may be time we make it a priority. If we don’t, the consequences might get much bigger than they already are.

    The pain in our lives has not been quite big enough to inspire real change. Maybe the increase of mass shooting of innocent people is upping the ante. I don’t want to appear insensitive to the pain people are going through, but I also want to point to what may be on the horizon. If we don’t wake up and make changes, in my opinion, there will likely be even bigger consequences. As if war, family violence and destruction, suicides, and shootings aren’t enough.

    Back to the problem of mass shootings, I grew up with severe mistreatment and neglect of my basic human needs. I understand the rage, hopelessness, and desire for revenge that would have a person kill another. Otherwise, I might not have a real clue as to why people are shooting people. It is no mystery to me. I have expected this and more, as well as an increase in suicide.

    I believe the tension is building because our general way of relating to one another is breeding dysfunction. If children and adults get angry enough and hopeless enough, they will kill themselves, or others, or both. We are seeing a lot of that. I don’t know if suicides are on the increase, but presently in America you will be shocked to know how many people of all ages kill themselves. Basically it is equal to a 9-11 attack every month. About 3000 people a month. Stunning.

    I suspect most of the people who want to die are also enraged at being mistreated. Sometimes they kill others before killing themelves. Maybe more people are getting out of the victim mentality, and instead, have a victimizer mentality.

    Okay, just in case treating one another with kindness and respect at all times no matter how we feel is a key solution, how and where do we start? At the risk of appearing self-serving, I’ve invested the last 30 years developing a new model for relating and for dissolving anger and conflict. I believe the model is one of the best models in the world. Contact me for information, or visit my website, which also links to my blog.

    For similar education on new was of living and relating, I point you especially to Marshall Rosenberg’s Non-Violent Communication and Harville Hendrix’s IMAGO. Plus, John Bradshaw, Trusting You Are Loved (book and workshop), Dr. Phil McGraw’s books, Jordan & Margaret Paul’s books, Landmark Education, Hoffman Process, Option Institute, and Gary Zukov’s relationship views.

    Your thoughts?

  5. ian says:

    hi Bill, I agree with everything you say. We need to get to root causes of unhappiness. In the meantime, we need to control guns to minimize harm.
    Lax gun laws in America are an accident waiting to happen.

  6. Suzanne says:

    Ian like the site a lot! Had a bit of a lightbulb moment whilst reading this article and finally understand why I get emotional when I see tragedies like this on the news when I don’t even know the people and am in a different country.  I am British and lived near London most of my life. When I used to switch on the news of an evening a saw another stabbing, another shooting I kept thinking I do not want to bring my children up in this (at the time I had my first baby, now have two young lively children).  I then had the opportunity with work to move to the countryside where I am much more at peace. To the person who posted about the NRA -I don’t even know who they are or what they stand for. However, anyone who promotes gun ownership is mentally unstable. Take guns away, take the problem away. Simple. Yes we have a problem in Britain but it is in no way as prevalent as it is in the U.S. Mainly because we have strict gun laws, those who carry out these crimes are criminals they break the law. Maybe the U.S could learn a thing it two from our little Island!  May love and light be with you xx

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