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January 13, 2013

Question:  How can we explain a tragedy like the Newtown shootings?

The only explanation for what took place on December 14, in the Sandy Hook community of Newtown, is insanity. A new height, surpassing even Colorado’s Columbine High School massacre in 1999, was reached in the affluent town of some 30,000 inhabitants. Children are not the usual targets of violence in “peace time.”

When you add into this mix widespread mental illness, family dysfunction, drug addiction, the real and perceived fear of crime, and the easy availability of lethal weapons, widespread violence becomes a certainty. The ongoing “shoot ‘em up” Hollywood representations of the cowboy and gangster myths have also profoundly imprinted the American psyche. But only the insane will see children as the enemy and murder them in cold blood. Only a deranged predator will vent his rage by killing the weakest, most defenceless members of society.  

Not to be excluded from this tragic scenario is the fine line between fantasy and reality. In news and entertainment media, the constant exposure of impressionable children, bored, unstable, morally defective adolescents and young adults to acts of violence, including the gratuitous violence of video games, addicts masses of young users. Here the message is the same: empower yourself by killing others.

Within the highly divisive and heated political debate in the U.S. regarding weapons, the buzz-words “freedom”, “protect”, “lawful”, “right to bear arms” and the sacro-sanct “American constitution” used by both gun lobbyists and onside politicians enflame the rhetoric. The result has produced anything but freedom. A fearful siege mentality prevails in America. No one is safe from gun violence. Citizens have become potential victims in their own towns, waiting for the next attack.  

Values education and remedial legislation will assist with the complex problem of gun violence which must be checked. Planning for change must be long-term and systematic. Lets us begin with children and youth. One of the “core activities” of the Bahá’í community is a program to educate our vulnerable junior youth (12-15), the adults of tomorrow. The curriculum is available to everyone in the community irrespective of religion. It provides a new framework for positive character education and the rehabilitation of society.   
-  Jack McLean

Printed in the The Ottawa Citizen January 13, 2013
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