Musings on Tragedy and Violence

I don’t know how to talk about the heartbreaking tragedy of the mass killing in Newtown, Connecticut without somehow adding imperfections to the attention and tributes that have already come to the events. How can I really add to the discussion in a productive way, when so many people have said what I am thinking, yet much more eloquently than I am capable of doing.  I’ll just say this – now that I have a young child, my perspective on this has completely changed as well. I simply could not imagine such a thing happening to anyone, and certainly not to my family. The whole thing is just plain awful – the event itself and also the challenges of so many moms who have children with mental illness. Listening to NPR the other day  I was brought to tears learning about the women who died saving the children in their classrooms.  Such courageous acts we all could only hope we would take if placed in such a horrific scenario. What’s also pretty sad: it finally takes a tragedy like this to make everyone open their eyes and take seriously the challenges of need for serious gun control, better and more accessible mental healthcare (which as I know, as a pediatrician here in Philly, is exceedingly difficult to obtain), and an overall culture of safety in the United States.   I mean, to see such a seismic shift in the discussion from some key opposition – I have no words.

While all this productive discussion is happening and the guys in Washington are somewhat appearing (or not) to grow up a little in their dealings about this fiscal cliff, amid all this tragedy I’m going to hold L very tightly.  My jewel, my love, my one and only who looks at me like there is no one else in the world.  How can someone lose someone so close to them, I cannot imagine. It is only too sad. He is too young to have any idea of what is happening in this event and I am not sure how I would talk about it with him if I had to. But for those of you who have children who are dealing with this, here are a few things to consider.

1. Do not keep guns at home. The best way to keep a gun out of your child’s accidental hands is not to have a weapon at home.  And certainly I agree with the AAP in the need to remove guns from households where children may be suicidal or have mental illness.  For parents who do keep guns, the general recommendation is for them to be kept locked and unloaded and have ammunition placed in a locked container far away from the gun. But I’d be the first person to tell you that I still am majorly against guns!

2. Avoid allowing your child to play with toy guns and try to avoid cartoonish violence.  I am increasingly disgusted with the culture of fighting and hatred that continues to build in this country. Last week I went to see the “Silver Linings Playbook” – now one of my favorite movies ever, but was horrified to see what preceded it.  The previews of movies such as “Killing them Softly” and “Django Unchained” came across as a disgusting pieces of work that revel in atrocities – slavery, gun violence, revenge; the glimpse showed me everything that’s bad about modern culture.  Dear Tarantino: I used to be a fan, but I’m not really convinced that you are trying to “tell it like it is” as much as you are  showing me you think it’s amusing to capitalize on the violence and hatred in our society – and to build it up as if we all should have retribution on our minds with our every action. What happened to feel-good movies (like Silver Linings Playbook) that strive to show us what we can do and be and the positivity we can bring to the world?

3. Be there for your children to help keep in perspective what is going on.  And Turn off the TV.  Avoid letting children get all their information from the media sources on television – it is traumatic for children to have been a part of this in the first place, and it is traumatic for them to see the images online. It doesn’t help that so much misinformation has spread, especially in this case.

We need to end the epidemic of violence in this country and in this world and learn to love one another. It’s a crazy and simple message, but I wish it was so.

I end this rather fragmented post with an essay from NPR’s brilliant Michel Martin in her regular essay “Can I Just Tell You?”  Please. Read it.