Raise ‘Em Right

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Interesting that I first started writing this draft on October 3, 2015 after another mass shooting on an Oregon campus. I didn’t finish my thoughts and now sadly, the thoughts are just as relevant today after another hate crime by another American (not refugee) lunatic yesterday in Colorado. The most recent mass shooting is yet another reminder that this society is hurting and in need to reform in more than one way! No, this isn’t about gun laws and reform, which have been needing to change since Columbine. That is one huge piece of the puzzle but that’s not all. What is missing from these shooter’s lives? What makes one so psychotic? What leads one so far down this path of despair that they choose to kill others. How do they become this depressed? And, what can we do as a society to stop these senseless acts of hate?

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Like many of our societal ills, this is a symptom of a larger problem. “Guns don’t kill people. People do.” This statement has always gotten under my skin because I’d like to remove the trigger. There are a lot of crazy people, people who are unpredictable, vengeful, angry, and lonely. I’d like to know my family is protected from them. Making it difficult to get a weapon is definitely one way we could obviously do that. When I see automatic weapons for sale on Facebook through West Knoxville trading so you can go to your local Walmart parking lot to purchase, I cringe. It’s just too easy.

Over half of mass killings, defined as killing 4 or more, are committed by family members. Less than half are complete strangers. Most killers are white males, with black males coming in second. What do they all have in common? They’re nuts. Most have mental illness such as schizophrenia. Most are described as ‘loners’. And, they have guns, many guns.

But what’s just as frustrating is not doing anything to prevent these men from wanting to kill others. They are sick. They are mentally ill and many times, there are many signs that they could do something dangerous. Many are isolated,  holed up, don’t work, don’t have close relationships, and owns lots of guns. We should know they are not healthy. WHY isn’t anything being done!???

Because this society doesn’t value prevention. We are all about band aides. We jump to give pills instead of preventing the sickness. We want the quick-fix because we are so rushed. We don’t believe in mental health and don’t value or pay mental health workers enough. We cut School Counselors first. We let people slip through the cracks. We spend our tax dollars on prisons instead of education and mental health. It’s illogical. More importantly, it isn’t working. The stats are going up and not down.

We need more fathers in their children’s lives. Many troubled children I work with have a lack of a positive male role model in their lives. I’ve heard more than one kid tell me that their dad or their uncle is in jail, and they’ll probably be in jail one day too. It’s their norm, which I’m quick to point out is not a normal goal! Then, there are needy children have a father that is unreliable or absent in their life. Children need these dads, and their mothers need them too.

Overall, we need to be more connected. We need more involved parents, positive outlets, mentors, and opportunities for youth to discover a talent and passion so that we are raising successful, happy, and caring individuals who have feelings of self-worth and don’t feed themselves with hate. We need to teach empathy and tolerance, and we need to in schools everyday. We need to value  empathy and social/emotional health as much, if not more than, math and language arts! We need to encourage our kids to reach out or just speak up if they notice a peer that’s hurting.

Prevention is the key; we need to prevent raising more crazy people! If we raise kids to value and accept others, and to also feel confident and simply satisfied with their lives then they won’t be filled with hate.  Everyone needs to feel like their life has purpose.

In this heavily armed country, for every one American killed from terrorism inside and out of the U.S., 1000 will be killed in the U.S. from a firearm. Over 30,000 U.S. citizens will die because of an armed U.S. citizen snaps this year. Now, that’s a problem that’s not instantly going away so we should focus on the manageable, the children who are still forming their values and building a future. They are the ones we need to protect most, and they’re the future citizens of this society.

Starting with your little family, have a conversation about guns with your children. Talk about ‘what would you do’ scenarios with them. Teach them about empathy and encourage generosity too. Express your concern over massive amount of assessments in school to state officials and your local school board, giving your children’s teachers more time to really get to know their students and to have time to teach important life skills too. Also, advocate for Mental Health workers and School Counselors 🙂 who have ridiculously large case loads, especially in Knox County Schools. And, finally and most importantly, love and raise your own kids right! Feelings of connectedness and self-worth will create loving, helping, and productive citizens.

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