Wednesday, December 19, 2012

On Newtown: Stop micromanaging the debate

Posted By on Wed, Dec 19, 2012 at 11:02 AM

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Since the unspeakable became a reality on Friday at Sandy Hook Elementary, there has been, for every impassioned opinion, outcry and Facebook meme, a smarmy cynic wagging a finger and playing armchair society critic.

Those who dismiss the opining of their peers as "slacktivists": What do you propose we do? Quietly mourn and make change behind the scenes with dignity and smug superiority? Wouldn't one venture a guess that encouraging silence and repression may be a course of inaction that breeds the epidemic of violent overtures by the mentally ill?

Regardless of hyperbole and misquoted aphorisms, isn't it something that people are talking? The bonding, the national conversation, I can't help but feel a little inspired and hopeful. Go ahead scoff that I'm viewing the scenario through rose-colored glasses, and that our society is doomed to surrender to its id, and we're just a couple of orgies away from the moral depravity of Caligula. Throughout history the human spirit has overcome hopeless times and will again.

Respect society's right to mourn how they choose.

It's good that people are posting inspirational thoughts on Facebook, and don't stifle people arguing back and forth on gun control.

We need to encourage dialogue, to seek solutions, to feel empowered that we can create change and not just lie back and complain.

We also need to engender compassion for the mentally ill, to help them and not shun the lonely and disenfranchised with an eye roll and the cold shoulder. What can we do on a public and personal level?

I remember when children in elementary school were taught that littering is wrong and a TV commercial starring a Native American TV icon cried and made us feel guilty for ever chucking trash on the ground. I don't want to trivialize the major issues swirling around massacre violence, or suggest that a PSA could solve the problem, but trying to get at the problem of violence at the intrinsic level is a start.

Also, let's include media responsibility in the dialogue. During the aftermath of Columbine, Aurora and Sandy Hook, and even going back to the Manson Trial, we've see images of disturbed individuals who crave attention or power, showing us that the unthinkable is indeed possible. Those, like Lanza, who opt for suicide give us dramatic escape and misguided attempt at heroism.

It's like they're the star of their own movie, an underdog story of rising up from obscurity after being ignored, relating only to the world through fiction, be it in books or on film. How do we de-romanticize that lead role?

So, given the ego issues usually indicated in the murderers' psychological profiles, what can the media do to prevent copycat massacres, to ensure that craven individuals don't crave the spotlight as much and methodically compose a violent production?

What if the personality of the murderer(s) was somehow underplayed, or you had to read online to get the details; something to lessen the impact of the perpetrator stealing the spotlight from the victims.

Those are my concerns. They may be flawed or incomplete as I'm rushing to meet early holiday deadlines, but I reserve the right to open my mouth or type my opinions, however eloquent or ridiculous they are.

If one thing I've said makes you think about something differently, even if it's just to point a finger Nelson-style and say "Ha HA," I've not wasted my time, and I've helped in my little way. There are sometimes virtues to being a slactivist.

In the meantime, let's ratchet down the adolescent smirk and let people express their grief, debate, opine and search for solutions. How else can we start to find answers?

P.S. Stay tuned to Daily Loaf for events in the Tampa Bay area memorializing and raising funds for the victims and their families.

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