I am deeply saddened by the news of the tragic school shooting at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut this morning. As of the time of this writing, 28 people have been confirmed dead, including 20 young children at the school, six adults at the school, a seventh adult at a second scene and the young 20 year old suspected gunman himself, Adam Lanza. My heart goes out to all of the people involved in these tragedies: The victims, their families, the surviving children who will suffer trauma from what they have witnessed and for the young man who could find no other way but violent means to meet his needs.
It is tragedies like these that cause me to feel deep gratitude that my son was unschooled and that I parent him by Attachment Parenting principles. These tragedies cause my heart to ache for the other children in my life who I love deeply or who I care about who are unfortunately not Attachment Parented or in a safe and need-meeting learning environment. My heart also aches for a society that will rush to hateful judgements and will blindly recycle superficial causes and superfluous “solutions” for the symptoms of a deeper malignant problem of Industrialized culture: Child trauma.
It is too early at this point in the investigation to confirm most details, including the exact identity of the alleged gunman, his motives, his targets or his history. There have been some reports that the young man named as the alleged gunman, Adam Lanza, targeted and killed his mother, who was a kindergarten teacher at the school. WCVB.com, Channel 5 reported that a woman who knew the family described Adam as “a troubled child”, with “Asperger’s Syndrome and OCD” (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder). The woman described Adam’s mother as “a dignified but strict” mother and that Adam would “rebel against” her strictness.
My son made a poignant comment tonight as we were eating and discussing this occurrence with somber moods. Deeply saddened by every aspect of this tragedy, my 18 year old son expressed an insight and piece of wisdom that most expert commentators in the news miss:
“He must have been in an inordinate amount of pain.”
At the heart of every act of violence is child trauma. At the heart of violence so extreme, such as taking the lives of innocent children, there are deep, chronic unmet needs. At the heart of violence targeted against one’s own mother, there is a disruption of attachment that could find no relief anywhere else in life’s offerings. To discuss these issues is not to make speculation about the family, or to in any way condone violence. Many people are fearful that empathic understanding of violent people negates responsibility or condones actions. Empathy does no such thing. Empathy in these situations allows us to stop, connect to the humanity and suffering in people, and to realize that crucial and immediate paradigm shifts are in order in our culture’s way of parenting and educating children in order to prevent future tragedies.
Terrified parents ran frantically to reach their children this morning after the shootings. No doubt when they were fortunate enough to find that their children survived, they held onto their children and didn’t want to let go. Not all of the parents were so fortunate. Their grief tonight is unimaginable.
Despite this horrific expression of industrialized culture, our culture will encourage parents all over the country- including the parents of Sandy Hook Elementary School- to send their children right back to school on Monday. Back at school, with the addition of a few grief counselors, it will soon be “business as usual” as children are expected to swallow their trauma, tears, fears and needs and attend to apathetic curriculum assignments. Our culture will increase school building security, tighten up on school rules and maybe even enforce that all youth are screened for mental illness and referred for mental health “treatment”. Psychiatric drugging of “troubled youth” may increase, crime punishment may intensify, metal music groups may be blamed and each political faction will most certainly capitalize on this tragedy to push their obtuse, self-serving agendas.
In other words, nothing will change. Nothing will change in our culture’s paradigm of parenting and educating children just as nothing changed after the infamous school shootings of the late 1990’s. No lessons will have been learned by our culture as a whole. Children will continue to suffer in home and school environments that do not even meet a fraction of their needs and when the conditions feel so intolerable that they act-out or sink into depression, they will continue to be punished or diagnosed as mentally ill.
It is time for us to heed Gandhi’s words, “We must be the change we wish to see in the world”, and take action to live them rather than just re-post them as a Facebook status update. If every one of us did this, our culture would embark upon a true paradigm shift.
The first step in heeding and taking action to live Gandhi’s words is empathy and compassion:
Following violent tragedies, social media sites, the media, the office and our dinner tables can immediately become ablaze with judgmental and hateful comments self-righteously dehumanizing the violent offender and demanding punishment and tougher laws. What can you personally do within yourself to challenge these fearful beliefs and instead see the situation with compassion and love? The Hawaiian practice of Ho’ Pono Pono is a deeply healing and cleansing process that invites each of us to assume responsibility for our role in contributing to violence in the world while forgiving others and freeing ourselves of fear, anger and hatred. I love Ho’ Pono Pono and do my humanly-best to use it regularly.
Additionally, what can you personally do to help others connect empathically and view violent offenders through the lens of childhood trauma and unmet needs rather than through the lenses of cold political theories, religious judgements and legal system punishments?
The second step in taking action to live Gandhi’s words is reaching out to those who are seeking another way:
How many children in our culture are surviving day in and day out in homes that are disconnected, strict, overpowering, authoritarian, neglectful, abusive and tormenting? What can you personally do to reach out to these families, report suspected child abuse and neglect or to inform the media about Attachment Parenting? How many children are trapped day in and day out in schools that are neglecting their basic needs, violating their human rights, confining them to desks and chairs and punishing, shaming, verbally abusing and instilling fear in them? What can you personally do to inform politicians and inform the media about unschooling? What can you do to reassure the distraught parents around the country that they don’t have to let go of the children they are embracing tightly tonight- that they can protect them through homeschooling and unschooling?
I believe that living a lifestyle that has the potential to heal humanity, as Attachment Parenting and natural learning certainly does, carries with it a responsibility to inform others about children’s needs and how to meet those needs. We can take action to reach out to parents, politicians and the media and inform them that more and more families of all demographics are living the need-meeting lifestyle of Attachment Parenting and Unschooling.
Tonight, hold your children close. At all ages, they need this from you. Allow your heart to feel the magnitude of the suffering felt by the families involved in these shootings. Allow your heart to connect to the conditions in this culture that are causing young people to feel so desperate, distraught and despairing that taking their own lives- or taking the lives of other people– seems like the only solution they can find to escape this culture. Then, reach out. “Be the change”. Don’t just post status updates to your social media platforms, but use the platform of your voice, your written words, your connection to family, friends and your communities to help update the paradigm of this culture.