Frank Domenico Cipriani

Of Christmas trees and evening news

December 25, 2012

REU USA-SHOOTING/CONNECTICUTThe emergency room is quiet. A cheery Christmas tree sits by a window near a television set. Horrific images of children’s funerals flash on the screen. Television and Christmas tree- the heaven/hell rhythms of this season.

What am I doing here? Taking care of a young friend. He’s not a relative, but he’s a loved one. He’s in for observations and testing, and with God’s help, he’ll be OK.

Zoom to the larger context: The emergency room. Perhaps the only joyous occasion which would carry a soul across the threshold of this eerily clean, quiet space is the birth of a child. In fact, a nervous mother-to-be comes through the ponderous electrical doors. Her own little nativity will be chronicled only in the private history of personal memory. This new child will be charted, measured, recorded in the hospital, and hopefully, fussed over at home. The mother is Mexican, and no one on the hospital staff speaks Spanish, so I interrupt my reveries to help translate.

What will become of this one child? Will his life be mostly Christmas tree or evening news? Will he, like his mother, live in the shadow-lands of illegal rentals and sub-minimum wage?

Six years ago, in some hospital in Connecticut, a handful of white children came into the world. These were privileged children, living in a wealthy suburb. Their own personal tragedies, their parent’s struggles, were probably typical of their class, and unremarkable. Thirteen years before that, another white middle-class mother had visited an emergency room…

…And gave birth to a time bomb.

The time bomb began ticking as the attentive mother raised this boy. As he grew, she realized that he was different, and that he would need help. Whom could she trust? Adam Lanza’s story calls into question the way our American society operates. However, perhaps in the wake of the tragedy that he perpetrated, lawmakers and journalists do not see the picture clearly. Perhaps the crack through which this boy slipped into that shadow world of the psychopathic killer is not so easily explained by the availability of guns in American society.

So, how does it happen? How does society raise a killer? And what are the consequences of a ban on the same weapons Adam Lanza used to commit this heinous act?

I studied the lives of other school killers, and a clear pattern emerged. The random violent acts which involve more than one victim and which take place in a school setting show disturbingly similar patterns.

Here, therefore is the formula for raising a school shooter:

Disconnect psychiatry from counselling. Let no one have a relationship with a doctor.

In the United States, a stigma is connected to seeking psychiatric help. Increasingly, all that a psychiatrist does is prescribe medicine, and see how a patient reacts. This child was immediately sedated and put on a series of different drugs, to see which ones “would work”.

REU USA-SHOOTING/CONNECTICUTIf I needed psychiatric help, I do not know whether I would trust the medical community in the United States enough to rely upon American Psychiatry. I have seen the effects of the drugs that doctors routinely prescribe for pain even, let alone personality altering medications. All a doctor has to do is write a ’scrip, and move on. As a result, a struggling mother doing everything in her power to raise and care for a son, a mother who is increasingly worried about his behaviour, is justified in not trusting that child to the care of the medical system.

Once a patient is in the system, doctors are often secretive or dismissive of loved ones’ concerns. Even with non-stigmatized medical issues, such as broken limbs, American doctors are, more often than not, too busy to pay attention to the human being, even in their own offices. Imagine how much worse for those who come for emergency psychiatric treatment, to be treated by a cold official whom they will never see again and whose only function is to give them pills.

2. Create tons of first-person shooter games and forms of entertainment that involve guns.

Nothing is more fun than killing people. No greater use of computer programming talent can be imagined than to make guns more realistic, blood splatters wider, the games more appealing. In a study I did of all the recent shooting sprees in America, the perpetrators were not only trained on these games, but in some cases, such as Columbine, they had actually coded some of them. As a person detaches from reality, their fantasies may connect to the life they experience through interactive games, books and movies. Like psychiatric drugs, these games are mind-numbing substitutes for human interaction.

3. If you’re a father, be absent. If you don’t want to get divorced, be an abusive father.

This is another common pattern among killers and a common thread among all the school shooters I researched, with the exception of the Columbine killers. All of these shooters had either abusive or absent fathers.

The United States has the highest divorce rate in the world, according Nation Master statistics. Children require a great deal of attention in order to thrive. Divorce, just in terms of operational necessity, decreases the time an adult can spend with a child. The human factor is minimized, and the shyer children must resort to a fantasy life in order to cope with his hours of downtime.

In every sense of the word, the separation of a father from his son, either emotionally or logistically can create weak links in the chain of caring for a child. We hear an outcry for gun control, but even in countries with strict gun control laws, the disenfranchised and alienated find ways to commit their crimes.

4. Let school motivate by fear of failure.

Oh, it could be any sort of failure, either social or academic. Give children as few options as possible. Teach for the test. Make sure that testing is the exclusive means by which to gauge success, reward test scores and limit activities that may engage a student’s interests on the basis of those scores. Segregate students according to intellect, physical prowess, and ability to interact socially. Make sure that very little of what you teach has any application to the outside world. Make sure that if you live in a wealthy area, the wall between the haves and the have-nots is a glaring social indictment of those who are on the minus side of that equation.

So what will we do?

We make the easy fix. Is gun control the answer?

pareene_arm_everyone-580x386In all fairness, I will tell you that even before doing research, I was against gun control. I object to it because I believe in the American Jeffersonian principle that “The people should not fear the government, the government should fear the people.”

In other words, “Don’t trust the government, be the government.”

Government should fear the people. I have seen too many cases throughout the world of democracies turned into dictatorships to trust that we do not need safeguards against even the most seemingly benevolent governments. A democracy needs some way to protect itself against the rise of tyranny.

However, before this research, I didn’t really believe in the correlation between gun ownership and crime prevention.

Having said that, let’s examine the facts.

On the whole, an objective weighing of facts forces me to conclude that guns do have a preventive effect on many crimes that occur regularly in countries with tight gun control laws. Kidnapping is the best example. We have a low incidence of third-party kidnapping (versus child custody kidnappings) compared to countries that limit the possession of firearms.

The city of Washington, in 1976, passed a law that banned all firearms. In 2006, the Supreme Court struck down the law as unconstitutional. In that 30-year gunless period, Washington’s murder rate climbed 73 percent, while nationwide, the murder rates declined by 11 percent. The truth is, at least in the United States, possession of a gun does, in fact, deter crime.

Guns are in the hands of at least 100 million Americans. That means that there is one gun for every three people in America. Since the year 2000, eight school shootings involving multiple fatalities have occurred. In fact, the worst single act of school murder in American history did not even involve a gun — the killer planted a bomb in the school and blew up 47 schoolchildren. In a nation of three hundred million people, less than five hundred murders were committed on school property between the year 2000 and the current year, while 12,335,000 police reports have been filed since 2000 in which a crime has been prevented by a citizen owning a handgun.

Gun control. A simple answer. Not the real answer.

The real answers are not simple ones.

We require empathy of our professionals. We need a heightened awareness that every individual, despite his family situation, state of mental health, economic situation, or general likeability, needs to feel needed, and needs to be treated as important to those in position of authority. We need to think twice about the messages that we send by detaching our medical professionals, giving our children first person shooter games, failing our marriages, and setting up our schools as mirrors of personal failure for those who do not fit the mould. We need to reach out to the marginalized of our country, so they don’t sit in their mother’s basements, playing first person shooter games.

These things cannot be legislated into existence. They need to be imprinted upon the character of our society by the actions of individuals. The President can encourage, but the change must come from that cheerleader asking that nerd to her party.

The mother insists on waddling into the delivery room under her own power, and I wish her a blessing for her child.

On my own, I pray that in this boy will never make the evening news. In this season where we celebrate a miraculous birth, I say a prayer for that Mexican woman’s child:

God, please let this new life be cherished as an heir to the promise of the Christmas season. Please, please, let all who encounter him regard him more like a shining ornament on a Christmas tree, and less like a face on the evening news.

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Frank Domenico Cipriani writes a weekly column in the Riverside Signal called “You Think What You Think And I’ll Think What I Know.” He is also the founder and CEO of The Gatherer Institute — a not-for-profit public charity dedicated to promoting respect for the environment and empowering individuals to become self-taught and self-sufficient. His most recent book, “Learning Little Hawk’s Way of Storytelling”, teaches the native art of oral tradition storytelling.

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20 Responses to “ Of Christmas trees and evening news ”

  1. Canon on December 30, 2012 at 8:02 pm

    Such a barbaric incident!

  2. Amanta on December 30, 2012 at 8:00 pm

    I still can’t believe any human being can be such a lunatic to go on a shooting spree in kindergarten. Such heart wrenching incident!

  3. Rimin on December 30, 2012 at 7:58 pm

    I don’t think that many countries have as flexible gun law as the US. I heard that you can buy firearms online? Isn’t that really worrying?

  4. Kaiko on December 26, 2012 at 10:10 pm

    Gun control is a must for the US. There are hundreds and more countries where guns are not as easily available as in the USA and their law and order situation too are better. Availability of guns cannot play a significant role in better law and order situation. If the law enforcing agencies play due role then why would there be a law and order situation?

    • Frank Domenico Cipriani on December 27, 2012 at 1:12 am

      I think because the Constitution provides a safeguard against law enforcing agencies themselves. I think that horrible tragedies may happen, and they’re very visible, but they happen in tiny numbers versus the crimes prevented. The worst of these crimes would be the internal abuses of the government itself, which is the whole reason that Americans have the right to bear arms in the first place.

      • Didar on December 27, 2012 at 6:38 pm

        I completely agree with Kaiko. Gun control is the main way to cut down these types of lunatic acts.

  5. manor on December 26, 2012 at 10:05 pm

    The Newton school incident is such a big tragedy! How can someone even if he’s a lunatic kill children? This is just too tragic.

    • Frank Domenico Cipriani on December 27, 2012 at 1:13 am

      It is horrible, and yet it happens every day and in so many ways throughout the world. Abuse against children should carry a special level of punishment for the perpetrators.

  6. Faruk on December 26, 2012 at 10:02 pm

    Yes getting bullied in class can be a big problem which might trigger abnormality in a few. But can’t it be controlled by the school faculty being a bit more cautious and sympathetic?

    • Frank Domenico Cipriani on December 27, 2012 at 1:20 am

      An American high school has eight periods of about forty five minutes. Class size may be around twenty five students. A teacher has five or six teaching periods, so that teacher is seeing about 125 students per day, each that has no more than two minutes of personal time, if the teacher can spend time relating individually to each student instead of teaching. I think that the question is not sympathetic cautious teachers, but a limitation of exposure time between teachers and students.

  7. Gazi on December 26, 2012 at 9:56 pm

    I really don’t understand what this ‘fitting in’ means. I mean why would one not fit in? He/she might not be extremely popular but he/she is definitely to find a friend or two. No?

    • Frank Domenico Cipriani on December 27, 2012 at 1:21 am

      Usually, but unfortunately, not always. These rare exceptions are often the ones that “snap”.

  8. Emon on December 26, 2012 at 9:55 pm

    Yes, family must play a significant role. Because they are the first ones to notice any hint of abnormality in a member.

    • Frank Domenico Cipriani on December 27, 2012 at 1:22 am

      Yes, but then what? Especially if the medical system does little except drug the children.

  9. A K Sarker Shaon on December 26, 2012 at 9:52 pm

    I don’t agree with you Frank. Gun control will play a significant role in reducing this type of lunacy that often takes place in the US. If you can’t access to gun so easily, you will automatically drop the idea of going on a shooting spree.

    • Frank Domenico Cipriani on December 27, 2012 at 1:24 am

      Well, what about stabbing spree or dynamite? A lunatic is a lunatic, and if he wants to do some unspeakable evil he can do it in so many ways. I think that 500 dead in ten years from such attacks in a nation of 300 million is counterbalanced by the number of other crimes the current system prevents.

  10. Sixth Sense on December 26, 2012 at 9:30 pm

    Probably Jefferson said,”When the people fear their government, there is tyranny;When the government fears the people, there is liberty”.

    There exists many variations of What Jefferson actually said.One can easily understand what had prompted Jefferson to say so.
    But unfortunately what happened in Newtown,Connecticut has no bearing with this. And this is not an isolated case.

    A gun may or may not provide security to an individual but it certainly kills individuals without mercy.Therefore, it is high time for the US lawmakers to revisit the Second Amendment and rewrite the law afresh. I have no problem with the writer’s other views.

    • Frank Domenico Cipriani on December 27, 2012 at 1:29 am

      Thank you for your comments. I think we might have to agree to disagree on that one point. I would say that after tragedies involving buses and the death of children, there is no outcry for the banning of motorized vehicles because their benefit outweighs their disadvantages, and they also can cause death without mercy. What I wonder is whether the benefit is worth the cost.

      • Sixth Sense on December 27, 2012 at 7:55 pm

        Thanks for agreeing to disagree on that one point.True,motorized
        vehicles are responsible for causing deaths throughout the world.But these are accidental deaths–not coldblooded senseless gun related massacres!That’s why the outcry for banning vehicles is not seen any where.But again, no amount of benefit can replace a life lost.

        • dunno on December 30, 2012 at 7:56 pm

          I agree with Sixth Sense 100%. Motorized vehicle and firearms can no way be comparable. How can citizens of a civilized nation own individual firearms just like buying popcorn from the store? Then what’s the point of having law enforcers?

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