This past Friday, I had just finished my 36-mile trek to have lunch with my boss, and when I looked at my phone, I saw a slew of disgust on my social media feeds regarding the shooting in Newtown, CT.
I was almost late to meet her because I was kept digging for more. Digging for the name and photo of the culprit, perhaps because I wanted to start making attributions in relation to his behavior. I wanted to know what kind of person would have the nerve to point guns at small children and pull the trigger.
According to evolutionary psychology, we aren't supposed to be killing ANY children -- they could very well belong to us or someone genetically related to us. We are supposed to help them, and their cute faces kind of compel us to do so. Obviously, there was something very wrong for that evolutionary instinct to have failed in this young man.
This public shooting thing is getting old. Besides mentally processing them as they occur, I am reminded yearly of the anniversary of the Columbine shootings because it happened on one of my birthdays. In high school, on that same date, there was a car fire at my high school. My best friend and I went up close to take pictures of it for the school newspaper. Only later did we find out that the car had been rigged with a large amount of gas and was intended to be a car bomb. A car bomb gone wrong, luckily.
It's easy to attribute these occurrences to "society turning south" or whatnot. We usually try to figure out which mental illness these shooters have, in order to make some sense of it all, in order to stigmatize people and in order to feel at ease that this isn't just something that "normal" people do. As someone who studied psychology, I am definitely torn on the issues regarding how to manage those with mental illnesses. Too often, we just look away, hoping to ignore their existence, perhaps because we really don't know what to do or because we are afraid of their unpredictability. And when shootings like this happen, we can only further stigmatize -- or worse, propose some form of genocide/eugenics. In my mind, we have a big problem very difficult to solve and too much ambiguity in society to come together and work on it. (Same thing with the "gun control" debate, though I tend to be an anti-hunting vegetable lover who has lost classmates from guns and definitely has an opinion on the issue.)
What compelled me to write this post in particular, though, is that the thought of pointing guns at/killing small children struck me in an exceptional way. It made me nauseated, actually. Although children constantly crying/whining on planes definitely doesn't make me a happy camper, I have a bright, energetic toddler-aged niece and definitely a soft spot for the young children at our local synagogue... dancing, singing, and generally more understanding of "the right thing to do" than most adults.
They were dancing around in a circle during a Hanukkah dinner I attended this weekend, and along with the overwhelming feelings of "cuteness" I experienced, I immediately thought about the shooting again. Hanukkah is a highly children-oriented holiday, and as one might be able to guess one of its themes is to "bring light" to where there is otherwise darkness (typically by doing good deeds/giving rather than just receiving).
And from what I've seen, children do often bring that light. Last week, someone extinguished 20 sources of light, and I'm sure he would have done more had it not been for some very quick-thinking heroes. Well, I guess he tried... as of course these children's essences have only grown since then.
Although........ the thought of twenty sets of parents unable to bring their little sons/daughters home is utterly unimaginable and brings me a shadow of sadness for sure. Unfortunately, every time a bomb goes off in the Middle East, a child is beaten by their parents, or starved to death by their governments, that shadow grows even more.