Not having TV I'm not sure how much this is on the news... yesterday, Littleton, Colorado, U.S. had another school shooting (only 3 miles away from the Columbine school, which had the most lethal school shooting in the U.S.). This time it occurred at Deer Creek Middle School.
So on facebook my status reflected the sadness of the news, my assumptions when I here of a school shooting are of a lot of people being shot (thankfully, this was not the case yesterday), and said something like my thoughts are with the two that were shot.
Someone (*cough*my mother-in-law *cough*) decided they needed to reply to it. Since she chose to publicly share this on facebook, rather than maybe send it in a private message or not feel the need to say it all, I am sharing it here and the feelings it stirred in me.
"The media reporting all this puts ideas in the heads of kids who are on the edge looking for attention. A way to draw attention to their sick lives these days is to go out on a killing spree. I feel for teachers and school personnel, also all the innocent children who are subjected to the insanity of a few. Why don't they take their own lives in a way that doesn't destroy others! But no! They won't make national news and get their 15 minutes of fame."
I feel like this is a common knee-jerk reaction shared by a lot of people. I get it. Why feel the need to hurt others? But really... are we promoting "kids" committing suicide? Is one death better than several... sure, but is one death really necessary? (Granted this is a bit of a rant - no one died yesterday) Why can't we show compassion to not only the victims but also the shooters? Why can't we imagine what life is for them that draws them to this point of view that they have to kill others, or kill themselves, or both?
SIDE NOTE: one of my previous jobs was working as a counselor at a crisis unit for individuals who were homicidal, suicidal, and/or psychotic. So maybe my perspective is different from these experiences.
But really, why do people automatically jump to saying "Why don't they taker their own lives" vs. why don't they seek help! And the statement "Why don't they take their own lives in way that doesn't destroy others" doesn't make any sense to me AT ALL. Suicide does not affect just the person who commits the act. It affects their families. The person who wrote this statement should know that - she felt the effects of suicide in her own family, and it left tragic damage that is left unrepaired for over a decade - she and all her siblings are alcoholics. That is not my story - so I will not go into it. But I do have my own stories...
(A) My own history with thoughts of suicide. Thankfully I got the help I needed and I haven't felt that way in a very long time. However, having that history makes me realize that even though suicide is one of the more selfish acts a person can complete - it doenst feel selfish. Usually people are not trying to get attention (although that is a common common misconception that is fully supported by a lot of non empathetic professionals) but instead feel like they are burdening those around them. They don't think they have anything to offer- so why be here at all. Or they are overwhelmed and don't know how to get from A to B but being in A is too painful. And even if it is a cry for help - they really are asking for help not just attention. Maybe some attention that says, "hey we care" is what they need to hear. But it isn't like "oh I want to be on TV" sort of attention.
(B) My sister's attempt, which thankfully was not serious nor lethal, but she did attempt while her four young children were home. I was there also. The fact that she went into a bathroom, closed the door, and didn't tell anyone that she felt the way she did BEFORE swallowing too much Tylenol still left an impact. Her oldest daughter was maybe 7 years old at the time. No one told the kids what was happening. Instead my mother and I stayed over for dinner and just let them know that their mom was out for the night and would be back tomorrow (the hospital just kept her overnight for extra measure to make sure that when she returned home she wouldn't repeat the act... she was physically fine). However, the 7 year old made a comment half a year later that was along the lines of noticing that her mom's behavior had changed around the time of her attempt. Kids are attentive and even without a death resulting from such an attempt - the kids still knew that something was up, something was right. And yes, I do believe this has affected them. The oldest child tries really really hard not to make her mother upset (beyond just being a good daughter - to the point where it isn't healthy - I am constantly having to remind her that she is only 10 and she isn't an adult), one of the boys feels the need to rescue his mother (again a 8 year old shouldn't have this burden! his mom should be the adult, not him!). Ect.... you see my point? It totally affected the family - and it wasn't even suicide - just her belief system that led to attempting suicide!
(C) My cousin battled with psychological issues for a lonnnng lonnnng time. He was diagnosed with rapid cycling Bi-Polar II (more depressed than manic) and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) at a really young age. Both were more severe cases. He was getting a lot of help. Counseling, sent to an alternative school that could handle the behavioral issues that accompanied the mixture between these two disorders. His immediate family responded well. They were supportive. He still felt like an outcast from the extended family (thankfully, excluding me. We really got a long. He wanted to come live with me - I wish I had known, I would have let him). When he was 16 he had had enough and was found hanging. He was the oldest of three boys. His father began drinking heavily, both brothers had emotional problems as a result (the littlest one was so stressed out his hair fell out to the point that it never grew back) and began using drugs. Not destroyed? My cousin's death was totally the last straw for this family. Eventually the parents split up. The youngest one also committed suicide with a drug overdose (he too was 16). So my one cousin who was a middle child is now an only child. Thankfully he is not destroyed. But did he have the potential to be. Certainly. He has gotten a lot of support and love. He has managed to be a positive person. But he is missing two brothers and his parents are in the middle of a divorce. Has his brothers' deaths taken a toll on him - hell yes.
So really. You're going to wish that a shooter at a school killed himself/herself? If you are going to make "What if" statements why not wish that the person had gotten help before violent acts were committed.
And despite the fact that now violent acts have committed, you can't look for some form of empathy. Not to excuse their behavior, but to understand how much pain that person must be feeling that they felt like it was necessary to hurt someone. Really? Seriously?
If that is your believe... than how are you any better. You might as well be the one holding a gun to that person's head.
Rather than respond with more hatred. Let us open up our hearts. Let us show love - unconditional - to those who experience these things... the kids, the parents (my god, I can't imagine the feeling of hearing a shooting has happened at your child's school regardless of if you child was injured or not!), the teachers and staff... but also the shooters. Let us cry not only for the pain they caused but also for the pain they felt that led them to such a point. Again, this is not an excuse. This is not saying that it is okay to go through something rough and then turn around and do it to someone else - I am not advocating for the believe that if you are abused or afflicted in anyway that you should then afflict others.... I am just saying that isn't that person human also? The media and a lot of people label them as monsters. But they are humans. Lets not dehumanize them by saying they should have killed themselves. Put them in prison - yea - but still as an act of love. Not hating the shooter, not dehumanising him into a monster doesn't mean that I condone him. It doesn't mean that I don't think he doesn't deserve justice. Not hating the shooter doesn't mean that I am any less sorrowful for the victims. Not hating the shooter simply means that I will not let the hatred he carries in his heart spread into mine through the acts he has committed.
Anyhow.. Just food for thought.
"I have learned silence from the talkative, tolerance from the intolerant, and kindness from the unkind; yet strangely, I am ungrateful to these teachers" Kahlil Gibran