Saturday, 15 December 2012

There are no words that can convey the depth of horror and grief sweeping the world as a result of the shooting in Connecticut. Thinking about what the families of those involved must be going through, and will continue to endure, is so overwhelming that many, myself included, find themselves halting their thoughts. It's too painful to even imagine, we cannot comprehend how it must feel to endure. We don't have the words to express the depth of feeling, and sending thoughts and love just feels so inadequate.

Seeing some of the shock that is reverberating around the internet, there is much anger and talk about gun control. That's a discussion that needs to happen, I have no doubt about it, but I find myself too emotional to think about it calmly, and today my focus is on the grief. We can't solve anything or be productive while reeling with horror. This article from The Onion seems to sum it up, titled: "Fuck Everything, Nation Reports". It contains more truth than any real news outlet I've seen yet today.,30743/?ref=auto

It's natural to ask how this could happen, what can we do to help, in any small way, and also to feel so overwhelmed that nothing seems possible except sadness and a sense of despair. Despair seems the only option,but despair is the most hopeless feeling possible, and the only way I can fight it is to focus on the things we can do. All the psychological theories I know don't give me even the faintest glimmer of the perpetrators motivation, It's beyond my understanding, and I almost hope that I never know.

To counter the effects of despair, and as a small step towards action, I'm breaking my own rule and actually asking people to donate to a specific cause. I don't generally do that, there are so many appeals out there and they are all such valid causes, that it can become a huge source of guilt that we can't each support all of them. I believe that people should choose the causes they feel passionate about and do what they can, and I have no right or desire to push my own charities as more worthy than another. I'm breaking this rule because in the face of such tragedy, doing something is an option. The link below is to a Huffington Post article that links to local organisations in Newtown.

The "fuck it, the world is broken beyond repair" response as described in The Onion feels true, but it isn't. There are people suffering right now, and local organisations are pouring resources into offering counselling and therapy. We can't fix the world in one leap, and individually we can feel that our own actions are so small as to be meaningless. This quote from Margaret Mead needs to be placed prominently in every public space, and held in mind whenever we feel powerless to help or cause real change:

"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has."


  1. Pithy words. We all "have a right to our opinion" and mine corresponds with yours. But, opinion only covers things that are not, by nature, logical. To me, if children are being killed by guns, the answer is either to get rid of the children, or, get rid of the guns. The arguments for so many Americans owning guns are so weak that a first grader could counter them. Unfortunately, it has been sucked up into the maw of right wing politics and there has been transformed into a "liberty." So, our Declaration of Independence reads "life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness, and the more guns the better." I guess I agree that people kill people and not guns. But I know for certainty that guns kill children.

  2. Trouble is, Doc, that logic starts from premises ... and people pick their own premises.

    Your unspoken premises in the above logic (and ones with which, of course, I passionately agree) include "children should not be killed by guns" and "children matter more than guns". The NRA and its fellow travellers would agree the first one but equivocate over the second.

    And we all do the same in different ways. Which of us argues for constraint on road vehicles which currently kill about two thousand people a year in the UK (of which approx 8-10% are children), thirty thousand in the USA, three hundred thousand globally? As societies we tacitly accept, as the NRA does with firearms (and governments do with foreign wars, and industrialists used to do with child factory labour), a level of child mortality as the price of our chosen norms. And those acceptances become premises in our logic.

  3. There are key differences though when comparing cars to guns, as in your example. Cars are designed for transport, guns only for killing, whether the death is human or animal. Before having access to a car, you have to pass a test and follow certain laws, or you will have that privilege revoked, at least temporarily.

    We do argue for constraints on road vehicles all the time - it's why we have road laws, and introduce new ones. For example, the more recent ban on using a mobile phone while driving, all to try to improve safety (the fact that the actual danger of the mobile is the divided attention while trying to drive and isn't solved with a hands free kit is a whole new argument).

    You're right, we do accept a certain amount of cognitive dissonance when we accept road deaths as the price we pay for fast, convenient transport - and don't hold it to the same standards as we do other things. The "if it saves just one child" cry we hear is an unsupportable argument, since if that were the rule then we'd also have to ban swimming pools and peanuts, but we continue to try to improve road safety, and we want to continue to improve safety and impose restrictions on the ownership of guns.

    The gun lobby react as though we want to remove all guns from the hands of private citizens, which isn't what I'm hearing from the gun control lobby. Most just want more proof of responsibility and tighter restrictions. It's clearly needed.