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Sunday, December 16, 2012

Connecticut shooting: Need for introspection


Friday's shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, Newtown, Connecticut, is the worst of such tragedies in recent times. Twenty little angels, aged 6 and 7, fell to a barrage of bullets. Six elders too died. What makes this horrendous and numbing is the way the violence was perpetrated.

A 20-year old man, Adam Lanza, kills his mother, Nancy, using her heavy firearms, then he proceeds with all those weapons in her car to the school where she teaches, breaks through the security, and opens fire all around on tiny tots. He is said to be an intelligent but introverted person. His mother is described by neighbours as a normal, quiet housewife.

With Adam and his mother dead, there is only his immediate relatives and friends, who can give some clues to what possibly must have led to this tragedy. Answers to whether the hard times in Lanza family had brought emotional trauma to the teenager, and why his single mom felt compelled to buy those heavy firearms, are only in the realms of conjecture.

As with any such tragedy, the one question being asked is could this have been prevented? Did Adam show any deviant behaviour? Did anyone notice him disturbed? Did anyone bother to provide him help? He is said to have been an introvert, who wouldn't reply to questions. Most people have said that he didn't behave extraordinarily different from how any normal teenager would.

Katherine Newman, who has researched and written a book, "Rampage: Social Roots of School Shootings" says that in most cases someone had noticed something wrong in the person who later turned out to be the shooter, but failed to inform people who could provide some help. The Connecticut case may or may not fall in this category.

The incident prompts us this question: If we ever suspect anything disturbing or potentially dangerous in anyone whom we know, should we intervene or just leave that person to his or her privacy? I can well imagine, if someone had even remotely suspected something wrong in Adam, he would have preferred to respect the Lanza family's privacy rather than raise questions about the young man's personality giving an impression of intruding into their personal matters. This is all the more likely given the western social custom of keeping a reasonable distance from each other to ensure personal space.

The Newton shooting is not an isolated one. Such incidents have happened elsewhere in the world, regardless of affluence or social mores. Only the scale or method have been different. Often such tragedies have belied the calm these societies have been known for. Antagonists, single or in a group, would have been under deep stress; and the violence was an outlet to prove a point or grab attention to issues which had hitherto gone unnoticed or unresolved.

There are people among us who are troubled. Hard feelings, caused mostly by insensitivity of others, often go unnoticed as everyone else is busy trying to outdo one another, in a ceaseless race to reach some goal which like a mirage is never achieved. These unattended, unhealed wounds fester over  a period of time and manifest in some form of violence, minor or major. How much ever we try, all problems aren't solved, all wounds aren't healed; but at least we shouldn't regret we never made an attempt to set things right.

(Crossposted from Kaleidoscope)

1 comment:

  1. Thoughtful post. Yes I agree, although respecting an individual's privacy is important, there should be limits.

    If we suspect that an individual is very disturbed it is justifiable that we 'interfere' and insist that he/ she get help.

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