I write this, soon after yet another shooting in a public place, where yet another individual with (I believe) severe mental problems has taken the lives of yet more people. It makes me stop and ask several questions, and one of those questions is this: What would drive an individual to think that this was his best or only option?
What is the answer to this? I don’t know. However, I do that know we can’t “un-ring” the gun bell. Firearms are here to stay, and the only thing we’ll accomplish by creating more legislation is that more criminals will have guns than law-abiding citizens. Before you argue this point, answer this honestly: Do you believe that a criminal, someone without a moral compass, will follow any gun laws, no matter how fair or strict they are?
Setting aside the legislation question, what can we do? While I think that there’s a likely mental health connection, I also believe there is more going on.
24-hour news cycle
Our addiction to news is fueling this crazy cycle. If we stopped watching 24/7, news organizations would stop broadcasting 24/7. The demand wouldn’t be there. Instead, in an effort to keep people watching (and we allow this!), they constantly seek more “lead stories” to keep viewers hooked. The “news” is exaggerated and sometimes misleading. This is not news; it is drama. I would rather watch a TV show than the reporters—there is better acting and probably a better story line.
Here is a question: Is it possible that the 24-hour news cycle is in part responsible for the perception of violence in the world? The numbers say that even with the recent shootings, the number of deaths attributed to violence of any sort is down. Kidnappings are also down; and our kids have a lower chance of being hurt in high school than we did. So why do we perceive that violence is higher?
Another question for you: Is it possible that, given the vast amount of attention garnered in the news by these psychotic, selfish individuals who commit heinous crimes, they are getting attention they crave? Maybe, if we left their names out of the news, didn’t give them any coverage, there wouldn’t be as much of a draw.
As homeschoolers, we must teach our kids to “question with boldness…” every news item that comes up. The news used to tell us what happened, then left it to us to decide on the ramifications. These days, they (sort of) tell us what happened, how we should feel about it, that their version is the right one, and imply that we shouldn’t even bother watching those “other channels.”
As homeschoolers, we have the unique opportunity to be leaders. As such, we can either bring people together.
Morals & Ethics
That our society is lacking a moral compass seems self-evident. Oftentimes, people decide that under certain circumstances, this is okay, or that is not; only to reverse those same things when circumstances changes! That is not morals. It’s situational ethics—a phrase I first heard my husband use years ago. The idea is simple, and it is that if you believe that something is wrong…but justify doing it anyway by saying that it was okay because of a set of circumstances, then it’s situational ethics. The danger with this is that situations are fluid, and changing circumstances will create different decisions. We are all guilty of it to a degree – but I have noticed that the people with a religious or spiritual foundation that most solidly have a moral compass that they follow, leaving out most of the situational ethics.
Whether you are Christian, Buddhist, Pagan, Jewish, or something else entirely, what most belief sets have have in common is that they teach basic right and wrong, and instill a moral compass. This compass guides them in decision-making, so that they always know right from wrong. They teach that harming others is wrong, and they give us a higher power to which to answer when we do cross a line. Some groups say “As you sow, so shall ye reap; ” others say that it’s Karma or another universal law. Whatever you call it, most people agree that whatever you put out there, good, bad or indifferent, comes back in some form. This idea keeps most of us moving along in the right direction.
It’s important to understand that I am not out to change your mind, and I won’t get my feelings hurt if you disagree. What I am trying to do is spark a discussion, a conversation among people of all belief sets; from a variety socio-economic backgrounds. This discussion must seek common ground, and work to get past the semantics inherent to every set of beliefs.
As homeschoolers, we have the unique opportunity to begin this process, and be the leaders society needs. We can expose our children to beliefs and cultural ideas that differ radically from our own. We can learn from these, strengthen our own beliefs, and engender respect both from and for others. We don’t have to all agree on a thing, but when we can learn to respect each other again for who we are, we will be in a much better place as a society. Our communities also will benefit.
This is another area that needs restorative work. Do we really know what it means to be a community anymore? When was the last time you took the time to greet your neighbor? To genuinely ask how they’re doing, and show them you care?
There is a common thread between the vast majority of mass-shootings: They were perpetrated in gun-free zones, so the perpetrator knew the victims would be unarmed. I have also noticed that the perpetrators felt disconnected from society, and that they felt they had no community on which to fall back.
Since the inception of social media, from MySpace to Facebook and beyond, we have become more reclusive. We hide behind our public profiles. We say things to others online that we would never dream of saying if they were standing in front of us. Then, dozens of other people chime in and publicly berate the person. This is not an open discussion. It is a public whipping.
Many of the people berating this unfortunate soul will say that it is their right to express their opinions – and that’s true. But having a right also means having the responsibility to use it wisely. We must all remember that freedom of speech does not exist to protect the people with whom we agree—but indeed the opposite. If we are not willing to defend a person’s right to say something we find abhorrent, then we do not really believe in freedom of speech.
Does this sound harsh? You bet. I have spent my adult life trying to find diplomatic ways to say things. In part because I do not want to offend, but also in part because I have an instinctive desire—a need, really—to bring people together. All of this is unbelievably hard for me to say without the cushion of diplomacy that I so desperately seek.
However, I think it is long past time that we are honest with ourselves. Yes, to the point of being harsh.
Where do we go from here?
Start the conversation. Reach out to your neighbors and start bringing back the idea of a real community. Question everything you see in the news, and seek your own answers. Find someone whose beliefs are different, and then find common ground. I do not see a better path to bring our fractured communities back together; but together we can find solutions.
Learning Tangent is Gail’s brainchild. When it all goes down, she has to get the magazine out the door and on its way to subscribers. She has four kids, of whom she and her husband David homeschool two. She enjoys a wide range of activities including weaving, photography, writing, is a musician (both a teacher & performer), calligrapher, and is an avid sci-fi- & fantasy reader. You’ll generally find her busy doing whatever it is she wants to on a given day.