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What can we do?



I think we're all still trying to deal with the enormity of one young man, with who knows what problems, killing himself, his mother, a school principal and teachers, and a lot of random small children who never did him any harm.

I know there's a tendency for us to want to change something as a society, to make sure something like this never happens again. But what? Opinions differ on whether or how to limit the availability of guns; we all wish that more could be done for the mentally ill (assuming the shooter was ill), but it's difficult to know what. Taken to extremes, the actions we take could well reduce personal freedom without any guarantee that they will have the desired effect. It's not even clear, in the end, that society as a whole will take any action at all.

Where does that leave us? Are we, as individuals, powerless unless we can persuade a large enough percentage of our fellows to take the same action?

Not at all. Even if indirectly, we have at our disposal every day the opportunity to take action. Look out for the defenseless, the children, the mentally ill. Surround them with your love; buffer them from danger; comfort them when they're hurt.

That's an action anyone can do, that has no potential for harm, that needs no negotiation or legislation, that leads by example.

Who knows how many shootings have already been prevented by just such actions as these.


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The funny thing about feeling better about yourself is that suddenly you want to voice opinions you were always afraid to before. I have many thoughts on this, but I don't want to rant. They're only my personal opinions and I always respect the opinions of others. What is okay for me to express here in your blog, Mark?

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Meh. I didn't mean for my last entry to be so inhibiting.

Nothing said in the comments on my blog counts as "forcing", to me, Beth.

I welcome opinions ... most of what I was reacting to was the organizers of the work Christmas party assuming that the Christmas spirit is something one can institutionalize. Essentially, them not welcoming anyone else's opinion ...

The funny thing about how feeling better about yourself, and suddenly wanting to voice opinions you were afraid to before, appears to be that you're still afraid. ;-) You're among friends here, Beth. Hit me. :-)

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Okay maybe I'm still a little afraid, but it's more a lack of confidence in what is okay to say. It isn't so much about my thoughts. I want to be sure that I'm being respectful. I'll write more soon then.

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I know that a lot of people feel like a perpetrator takes the easy way out by killing themselves right afterwards. But I'm not sure I agree: dying is hard no matter how it's done, or, to put it another way, it still gives the guy what he wanted. I think part of why some people feel robbed is that it makes it harder for us, by taking away they chance to vent our feelings of revenge ...

Most likely, no amount of pain given as retribution would change the perpetrator, and the only change in those administering it would be for the worse (knowing that they too had taken pleasure in another person's pain.) In a way, I'm glad that at least this event won't be contagious in that way.

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I have a lot of political ideas and personal opinions about this, but I don't think that's appropriate here.

I found this quote and I think it fits. We can do something. Each of us can make a difference. It may be a small difference, but little things can and do add up. At least, we can try.

"You must be the change you wish to see in the world." Mahatma Ghandi

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I would be deeply curious about why you don't think your personal opinions, political or otherwise, would be appropriate ... I opened the topic for a reason. Granted that politics (and religion) are often difficult subjects, and even more so online, that hasn't usually stopped me, at least in my own blog.

Part of the point of our little "microcosm" here is to allow people to engage in social behavior in an environment that's safer than the outside world. Politics can be a trigger for some, but flirting with the edge of what's difficult, and finding out that we survive, is one way to enlarge our sphere of safety.

On top of that, this is likely to be an event that triggers strong feelings in just about everyone. To me, those need to be expressed, even if we end up with different opinions. And learning how to deal with our differences, here in a safe place online, might just help people deal with differences in more peaceful ways out there too.

That was my thinking, at least. {My feeling, on the other hand, was expressed in the original, and that matches your quotation fairly closely.}

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Generally I stay away from political discussions and always have. I am worried I may upset people. They are just my ideas. They're hot-button topics and these often lead to conflict. I don't know...it feels scary. It's putting myself out there in a way I haven't ever done before. I actually had something written up. I will post it then.

My thoughts (not wanting to get too political, but expressing myself)

-Stricter gun control will (or may) help. I believe that reducing violence and protecting the well-being of children is more important than any individual's personal freedom regarding guns. I personally would gladly give up some freedom to protect the best interests of children and innocent people from being harmed. I've never owned a gun, though, and never intend to. We're all willing to put up with the shoe searches at the airports in order to help protect everyone's safety. I see no reason why anyone needs to own an assault rifle. (my personal opinion)

-Mental health should be considered as important as physical health, More widely available mental health care for anyone who needs it is very important. From what I have read about the shooter's mother, she was at the end of her rope trying to help her son. (I would also add that a lot of his social behaviors match with my child's social behaviors. E is one of the gentlest and most sensitive people I know.) Society needs to be more aware of mental health issues and how each and every one of us is vulnerable to this. Eliminate the stigma and encourage acceptance. How do we do that? By getting mental health and mental illnesses out in the open.

--Media and media portrayals: Portrayals of relationships are superficial. There is a lot of violence shown without the associated consequences of such violence. What about showing strong and respectful men and women as characters? Portray families and family values. Demonstrate healthy ways to relate in relationships. What about portraying someone who struggles with mental illness? Maybe portray them in a way that we can relate to rather than making the person out as evil. This creates distance and keeps us from confronting our own vulnerabilities.

--schools: Incorporate some voluntary parenting courses in high school, child development courses, adult development courses. Maybe colleges can require adult and child development courses as a part of every degree plan, as well as courses about mental health and psychology as part of 'general education.' (again just my opinion)

--Maybe offer some kind of tax break for young parents who enroll in parenting classes.

--As parents, we hopefully teach our children about the benefits of self-care, not just physical care and being self-sufficient with money and responsibility, but also about relaxation techniques and self-expression. Take them to yoga classes. Teach them to meditate.

My thinking is our culture needs to change. Value, appreciation, respect for life, relationships, love, family, friends, emphasis on teaching our children. I don't want to come across as if I have answers. I don't. I'm not sure how to implement or fund some of my suggestions. Just my thoughts and ideas.

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Well, the world doesn't end when people get upset ...

{And I'm aware that I have my own, different, triggers, so I'm definitely trying to be gentle with yours.}

Still, I wonder what counts as "conflict". Say I had a slightly different opinion on one of your points, and/or asked for clarification or your ideas on implementing one of them. Would we be in conflict, or would we just be exploring the issues you've raised? With your permission, let me try it, on one of the less emotional and controversial ideas you had:

You suggested parenting classes. Do you think it's possible to define good parenting well enough to develop a curriculum for these? How would we deal with the vast range of parental opinions, or with their likely resentment of the schools usurping their "prerogatives" as parents? It seems likely that the least skilled parents would be the ones who'd have the most trouble having their skills being questioned.

I'm not actually disagreeing with you; I tend to think that more information is always helpful. My own pessimistic attitude about what society as a whole will change is my own; I wouldn't try to prevent useful change should it occur. And I wouldn't want to spread my pessimism to others.

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I don't want to raise tension with any of my points. I'm not the type of person who wants to instigate anything. Also, I probably didn't think far enough ahead about details and fear I'm walking into territory that might reveal my ignorance on some matters.


Parenting classes. How to implement a curriculum? Well, maybe such classes wouldn't be so much about 'parenting' as they would be about gaining knowledge of children's emotional development. I do think it's possible there may be a lot of parents out there that have little or no idea about this. I recall reading somewhere that most child abuse happens because of over-expectations for the developmental period.

The main idea being to emphasize the importance of being a parent and creating a society that places importance on raising children.

Don't know. Feeling queasy at the moment.

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Those are great observations on the effects that conflict has on you! And that sort of insight is the best possible outcome of my asking ...

I think you're right, that it would help people to have a better idea of what a "normal" childhood is like, as well as a reasonable understanding of how various they can be.

I won't push you beyond your comfort zone. Thank you for trying the exercise at all. :-)

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Ahh, but being outside our comfort zone is exactly where we learn and grow, right? I'm okay with a little pushing if you want to ask questions or discuss more. I appreciate that I can express myself safely here. We don't have to agree perfectly, and I know you're still my friend. I'm talking about myself in your blog again...

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You're participating in the discussion which the blog entry began. :-P

Of course you would use your own beliefs in that discussion.

I tend to use pain (particularly expressed in physical sensations) as my measure of when to stop. Though I would agree that most learning is accompanied by some sort of discomfort, I think that pain is our way of telling ourselves what our limits are. Push them, maybe, gently; but respect them and know when to stop.

How about if we continue the discussion tomorrow? :-)

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