I have been shocked to tears by the events in Newtown, Connecticut, just like billions of parents across the nation. Anyone who has children, no matter what age, will often react viscerally to the thought of harm to them. It is a hard-wired instinct in humans to protect their young, and I see signs of the distress people are feeling everywhere I go this holiday season.
The other day, I spoke with a parent who was dealing with his distress with great anger. He railed at God for allowing this to happen and said, “They should just ban all of the guns. Crazy people couldn’t do so much damage without them.”
Regardless of my personal opinions on gun control, which I will not bore you with here, I couldn’t help but think of the damage mentally disturbed people have done with explosives, knives, and even box cutters. Perhaps the problem lies mainly with the lack of mental health support in this country and the access to weapons just makes it easier to act on dark fantasies.
As I listened to my angry friend, it occurred to me that if any positive thing was going to come from this senseless tragedy, it would be open and passionate discourse about both gun control and mental health treatment.
So, let’s talk a little.
America has had a love affair with guns and violence for decades. The right to have weapons of semi-automatic mass destruction has been closely tied to our fundamental rights as Americans.
America has more gun related injuries and fatalities than any other developed country…and it is not presently at war within its borders.
America shuttered more mental health institutions in the 1980’s than I can count, and those people who are depressed, manic, bi-polar and schizophrenic are now waiting for you at many street corners as their illness robs them of homes and livelihoods. Untreated mental illness is often cited in these recent violent episodes, and we are doing little to change that dynamic as a society.
Just a few things to think about in this season of holidays, parties, and truly difficult questions from your children.
It is too late to make a strategy for dealing with questions about tragedy now. That ship has sailed, so you must respond on the fly and pray that your answer will reassure your little ones and encourage your older ones to stay aware of their surroundings and the people in them.
Why does God let things like this happen?
We cannot hope to know, but rely on faith to find some meaning in tragedy, and create a call to action to make the world better.
Merry Christmas and God Bless.