a middleSage publication

School Shootings….the root cause

School Shootings….the root cause

I just came in from a beautiful walk on a bright snow covered sunny day.  The wind was minimal, I was more than warm in my big down coat and our three dogs were playing like their life depended on it.

When I came in and showered and sat down on the bed to dry my hair I turned on the TV and was greeted by one of those “Special Reports”, you know when you hear the incoming music or tones it’s not going to be good…..It’s like getting a phone call after 10:00 p.m. you know somebody’s hurt or dead or in some sort of trouble.  The “Special Report” was all about the school shooting in Connecticut.  The tag line on the bottom of the screen told me everything I needed to know….18 children shot dead and 8 adults.  The broadcasters were filling the air time trying to “make sense” or get to the “why” of it all.  The newscasters talked about school security, group text messages for alerts, metal detectors and of course, guns.

I think one of the hardest things we can do after a crisis is grapple with the question, “could this tragedy have been prevented”?  We want to look then at all the things we can control….school safety, text alerts, metal detectors and of course, gun control.

I think of the poem “The Ambulance Down in the Valley” in times like this.

Twas a dangerous cliff, as they freely confessed,
Though to walk near its crest was so pleasant;
But over its terrible edge there had slipped
A duke and full many a peasant.
So the people said something would have to be done,
But their projects did not at all tally;
Some said, “Put a fence ’round the edge of the cliff,”
Some, “An ambulance down in the valley.”

But the cry for the ambulance carried the day,
For it spread through the neighboring city;
A fence may be useful or not, it is true,
But each heart became full of pity
For those who slipped over the dangerous cliff;
And the dwellers in highway and alley
Gave pounds and gave pence, not to put up a fence,
But an ambulance down in the valley.

“For the cliff is all right, if you’re careful,” they said,
“And, if folks even slip and are dropping,
It isn’t the slipping that hurts them so much
As the shock down below when they’re stopping.”
So day after day, as these mishaps occurred,
Quick forth would those rescuers sally
To pick up the victims who fell off the cliff,
With their ambulance down in the valley.

Then an old sage remarked: “It’s a marvel to me
That people give far more attention
To repairing results than to stopping the cause,
When they’d much better aim at prevention.
Let us stop at its source all this mischief,” cried he,
“Come, neighbors and friends, let us rally;
If the cliff we will fence, we might almost dispense
With the ambulance down in the valley.”

“Oh he’s a fanatic,” the others rejoined,
“Dispense with the ambulance? Never!
He’d dispense with all charities, too, if he could;
No! No! We’ll support them forever.
Aren’t we picking up folks just as fast as they fall?
And shall this man dictate to us? Shall he?
Why should people of sense stop to put up a fence,
While the ambulance works in the valley?”

But the sensible few, who are practical too,
Will not bear with such nonsense much longer;
They believe that prevention is better than cure,
And their party will soon be the stronger.
Encourage them then, with your purse, voice, and pen,
And while other philanthropists dally,
They will scorn all pretense, and put up a stout fence
On the cliff that hangs over the valley.

Better guide well the young than reclaim them when old,
For the voice of true wisdom is calling.
“To rescue the fallen is good, but ’tis best
To prevent other people from falling.”
Better close up the source of temptation and crime
Than deliver from dungeon or galley;
Better put a strong fence ’round the top of the cliff
Than an ambulance down in the valley.

— Joseph Malins (1895)


In my humble opinion, the only type of person that could possibly even entertain doing something as evil as killing (numbers do not apply) are those with a mental illness of some kind.  Crazy People.  Until we as a nation get serious about recognizing mental illness as a real disease and we put measures in place to “help” those who have mental illness of some kind, we can put as many metal detectors in and write as many “text alerts” and such as we want, but it won’t put an end to this kind of violence.

A recent survey on NAMI (National Association of Mental Illness)

Survey Finds 75% of Individuals with MH Conditions and their Caregivers Don’t Receive Med Monitoring from Pharmacists:http://t.co/oaWZ7x0n


The stigma alone of having a mental illness will keep people from talking about it.  Even after the tragedy, we look for the why and crazy escapes rationalization every time.  I’ve never been a card carrying member of the “guns don’t kill people, people kill people” club, but seriously we need to look at the root cause of these senseless acts.

My Doctor’s version of a Depression screening is asking me “Are you depressed?  These troubled individuals and their families need somewhere to turn for the safety of those we love and those who need love.  In the movie “We Need to Talk about Kevin”, we get to look at a first hand look at what life might be like with a psychopathic child, we also see how hard it is to face the fact.

Have you had any experience with mental illness in your family?  Was it easy to get help and face it?

Let’s talk about it

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