These are the victims of the school shooting that occurred on the morning of Friday, December 14, 2012 at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut.
We have purposefully not included a link to a news story in this post because the news is concentrating on the details of the gunman's life. We believe that is a mistake. Here is the information that we believe is important and undisputed:
- All of these victims deserved a longer life, and a better ending to their story.
- This tragedy was preventable, and future tragedies like this are preventable.
- Everyone of us has the ability to contribute in some way towards making our country a better place where violence like this is a history lesson instead of a headline.
- The only way that we can take away the power of one bad man to write the ending for these victims, is to change that ending by recognizing our ability to contribute, and taking action.
We have all had three days now to voice our pain and outrage. As a country we must experience this grief and we must find a way to deal with it. Whether we individually grieve publicly or privately, we must accept that everyone will grieve these victims in their own way. If you have been on facebook or twitter this weekend, it is clear that many of us are experiencing anger or depression in reaction to these events. And while anger is a natural part of the grieving process, the direction of anger is not always rationally linked to the cause, which is why the anger of this weekend must give way eventually to acceptance.
But what does acceptance mean? Does it mean we should forget what happened? Does it mean we are powerless to prevent future tragedies?
Acceptance means that we must accept that we cannot change the past.
We cannot save the victims of Newtown.
But we can remember them.
But we can remember them.
We remember them by letting go our anger and depression, and by taking positive action for the future. Whether small or large, every action has a reaction. Here are just some of the ways that you can make a difference:
Remember the Heroes:
Numerous stories have emerged regarding teachers who protected their students on Friday morning, including at least one who gave her life doing so, Victoria Soto. These teachers were not trained to deal with gunfire. Their job description does not include saving lives by giving theirs. But they became heroes anyway. They stood up to violence and fear, and saved lives with their courage. Remember that sacrifice. Talk about it.
Make sure our children know that
everyday people can be Heroes.
everyday people can be Heroes.
Remember the Helpers:
Fred Rogers taught us that in any tragedy there is hope because you can always see the people who react and respond: the Helpers. Police officers, firefighters, nurses, doctors, paramedics, and more all put aside their personal fears and grief to help the victims and their families. Remember the importance of those people that choose to do those jobs, and who handled themselves professionally in a time of crisis. Nobody can change the past and these helpers couldn't save the victims, but they modeled for us the way in which we heal from tragedy. By helping the victims and their families they reduced the trauma those people experienced as much as was possible in the given situation. Remember the helpers, and strive to help where help is needed.
Be a Helper:
You can help the Newtown Victims by donating to a local non-profit.
Or you can help people in your community who are the victims of violence. The Mass.gov website has a list of resources for violence prevention and specifically for domestic violence prevention. These include both government resources that you can educate yourself about, and non-profit organizations that you can volunteer with or donate to.
Of course, these are just some of the ways that you can be a helper in Newton or your community to help protect others from violence.
Promote Gun Safety and Meaningful Debate:
Guns were a part of the Newtown tragedy and they must be a part of the discussion. But it is impossible to already know the solution before you completely understand the problem. Preventing future tragedies like Newtown requires more than signing a petition, or posting on social media that there are more gun deaths in the U.S. than in other countries. Supporters and opponents of private firearms ownership need to engage in meaningful communication to discuss solutions that protect both lives and liberties.
Like too many debates in this country, many would rather be polarizing in their statements and beliefs than learn from each other.
In Collaborative Divorces, we take two people who have every reason to distrust each other and we force them to talk about how they can work together to resolve their disputes. This requires effective communication about how each person feels and what their goals are. It is often uncomfortable, sad, angry, or frustrating. But the result is usually solutions that both people can rebuild their life from.
If divorcing spouses can having a meaningful conversation about solutions by using effective communication, then why can't people on opposite sides of the gun control debate?
Can we use 10 Tips for Better Collaborative Communication to have a meaningful discussion about gun control?
Calling someone a gun-nut violates #3. Assuming that gun control means they want to take away all your guns and institute a police state violates #10.
Prevention requires that we all grow up and learn how to communicate effectively. If you truly care that our country becomes a safer place, then take meaningful steps to make that happen:
Non gun owners need to recognize that they have something to learn from gun owners. Read the 10 tips, print them out, and then ask a gun owner to have lunch with you and have a conversation that abides by those tips. Ask them about their interest in firearms. Ask them how they think we can practically prevent gun violence. Ask them about the difference between a rifle, a shotgun and a handgun, and about the difference between a semi-automatic and an automatic weapon. Ask them why there are different types of firearms and different types of ammunition. Ask them about the proper way to store guns, and how to prevent unauthorized access. Ask them about regulations or restrictions that they would support vs. those they wouldn't, and why.
Listen to the answers.
Owners of firearms need to recognize that civilized society requires proper safety precautions to be respected or implemented around the ownership and use of potentially hazardous items. Read the 10 tips, print them out, and then ask a non gun owner to have lunch with you and have a conversation that abides by those tips. Ask them about why they don't have an interest in firearms. Ask them what, if anything, scares them about firearms. Ask them about what types of information would reduce their fears. Ask them how they think guns are similar or dissimilar to other potentially dangerous items or tools. Ask them about what types of regulations or restrictions could make them feel more safe.
Listen to the answers.
After having this conversation and actually listening to each other, try to agree on two things that either you individually or your government (whether municipal, state or federal) could do to help prevent future gun violence in any form. Write down those two agreements and then take action to make them happen. If your agreements involve something that the government can do, then contact the appropriate level of government and request that your representative take that action: Contact your Elected Officials
At the very least you can help yourself and your community by learning about the risk factors for gun violence, and gun safety at the following links:
Studies and articles regarding Gun Violence and Children.
Firearms Responsibility in the Home
Obtain a Safety Kit Cable Style Gun Lock
Take a course in Home Firearm Safety
Never stop learning, never stop asking questions, and never stop looking for solutions that honor the memories of the fallen.