More Madness

When I was seven years old we moved from Baltimore, Maryland to Dodgingtown, Connecticut — midway between Bethel and Newtown. My sister and I went to Sandy Hook Elementary School. I was a member of Troop 70 Boy Scouts in Newtown, caddied at the Newtown golf course, walked with a friend of mine every Saturday afternoon to the movie house in Newtown to watch the latest cowboy thriller, and my mother ran a shop in Newtown called “Presents Unlimited.” Newtown, Connecticut is a place I once knew very well.

So when I read about the latest shooting at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, I was touched on a very deep level. I have so many childhood memories of that region. Now those memories are mixed with mayhem. It leaves the stomach unsettled and the mind in a whirl.

The President of the United States fought back tears as he pledged to rise above politics and make sure something is done to stop this carnage. He has said this before, but this time he seems to mean it. Easier said than done: the NRA will be geared up for battle and they are one of the most powerful and effective lobbying groups in Washington. We can expect little in the way of serious gun control to come out of this Congress. But gun control is not the whole answer. To be sure, it is a step in the right direction, but it is not sufficient to stop the craziness that seems to be growing in our population. We need to probe for deeper causes.

Let’s take a close look at the youth in this culture who spend hours each day playing violent games on their Xboxes and watch even more hours of violence on TV and in the movies (which make my cowboy thrillers look like Sunday School stories). Humans are animals and young animals learn from imitation. There can be no question the constant immersion in violence plants seeds in the young. Add to this a weakening reality principle, a thin thread separating these kids from the fantasy world of their games where they rule and the real world where (as things now stand) they also rule: they are told they can do no wrong and they are entitled to accolades and applause for every breath they take. Their sense of self grows as their sense of the world they live in shrinks. They crave fame and glory, like the heroes they play in their games. They learn to expect applause for their every effort no matter how impotent. Their ability to connect with other humans weakens as they become more and more isolated.

These speculations are not far-fetched; they are based on solid data, studies that show our culture is becoming increasingly narcissistic and self-absorbed. Combine these factors with the ready availability of guns and one can easily imagine a young Adam Lanza strapping on a bullet-proof vest, grabbing his automatic weapons, and storming into a school pulling the triggers on both weapons as he shoots his “enemies” and emerges a “hero” to the applause of thousands.

Granted, this scenario is a bit of a stretch, but what I say is based on solid evidence and there is a disturbing sense of truth to what I have supposed here. How else do we explain this madness? How else do we explain how a young man can shoot innocent children and their teachers? Only in a world where people get cut off from reality, where the thin thread connecting them to the real world suddenly snaps and their fantasy world takes over. What happened in Newtown, Connecticut cannot be real: it must be a video game — except it isn’t.

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10 thoughts on “More Madness

  1. Hugh, thanks for your heartfelt and well thought out post. You are the first to mention this complex weave to set a greater context. I am both saddeded and angry by the events and hope some meaningful discussions will occur and not the normal chest beating on positions. Best regards, BTG

  2. I’m sorry you had to realize that this mortifying act is as real as it would be if it was in your actual elementary school. This is despicably sad. I want to leave a long comment but it just saddens me.It makes me think of so many other things, other layers, other aspects of our north american society and its apparently disease-stricken parts. Ill leave it to a blog post this week. And I have to agree with you; it’s not the issue of gun control. This problem runs much deeper than that and we need to have something done to remedy the cause and not just the symptoms of what is happening.

  3. In my youth, when anger welled up, as it always does, harsh words were spoken, threats and intimidations, sometimes fisticuffs. I always came out on the short end. But in every case, I woke up and lived to walk another day.
    In today’s world, the violence goes hand-in-hand with easy access to an arsenal of guns, making the attack or the retribution outcome, permanent.
    You analysis of a self-directed world surrounded by violence and heroic outcomes is right on. Unfortunately the solutions will take decades, if we even have the spirit as a country to do so. I tend towards doubt. Sadly, I see us on a slope downward, we’ve gone too deep into the rabbit hole.
    But having said that, I do strongly believe that gun control measures to eliminate the ease of obtaining weapons is something we can do today if we have the courage and will to do so. It is only a band-aid cure to what ails us, as you note. But it is a start.
    Unfortunately as I noted in my piece, the gun nuts have already come out of the woodwork, as noted by fatherkane’s post.

    Thanks for sharing a heartfelt, sad piece. Having attended Sandy Hook must bring extra levels of pain to your heart.

    • Yes. Your piece was well done. I don’t have a good feeling about this country implementing any significant gun control, but it is a necessary first step. But there are more and whether we have the will to take them — as you suggest — remains to be seen.

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  4. A collective awareness of this tragedy has brought all of us together as we reconcile to the shock and grope for answers. You addressed many great points, but how do we get there?

    Can we roll back to our easy culture of long ago?
    If we asked everyone to disconnect – from all things electronic – for one day, many would protest and say, ‘NO WAY!’ Would’t it be nice if we could get everyone to disconnect for one hour?

    • I think the problem is fairly clear, as is the solution. The problem is, as you suggest, how to get there. It may not be possible unless a major catastrophe shocks us all into realization and awareness.

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