Some thoughts on Sandy Hook.
Like most of you the last couple of days have given me a lot of stuff to process. Here are some of those thoughts, in no particular order, not necessarily finished. but hopefully useful. Maybe in the future they will fit together better, but for now this is where they are.
1. The need for gathering together as a church. I have been down on weekly organized church meetings, they seem very routine, are often mistaken for the end of church participation that is required, and often seem devoid of a real purpose and spirit. But I must say this week was the exception. It was a week that I think saw all of the meticulous plans and sermons get thrown out and a real focus on what people needed replaced it. I have not seen very many more emotional or sincere services than the one this Sunday. I expect there are a lots of places that had that experience this Sunday.
2. The community did not wait to come together. I think that the coming together on Sunday was great and helped a lot of people, but I also saw something else, people did not wait to start processing this event in Connecticut. They started online immediately. I cannot think of a real equivalent in the social media era. 9/11 and columbine were before the advent of social media. We used to need the media to guide the national conversation, determine what to cover and when to move on. But not this time. No waiting for a newsbreak, my twitter feed was the fastest source of information beating normal news outlets to the punch by 30-60 min it seems all day. No waiting for Sunday, the encouraging words you might have gotten in a sermon to put it in biblical context was on Facebook within hours. No waiting for meet the press, the political implications we also played out quickly and publically in the social media space.
3. Help is on the way. Social media for processing and community is one thing, but the other thing that I saw was that people started pulling together real grass roots support for these families online as well. Within the day artists that I follow were volunteering their time and energy to organize a benefit concert for them. Hopemob already had fundraising and outreach efforts kicked off, so did many other online places. We as a people were able to take the initiative.
4. The quest for motive. It seems to me that the question of why is always asked. That in most scenarios there is a reason someone tries to hurt someone else, whether they took my toy, or called me names, or made me feel bad, love triangle, prejudice.. Something. But there are circumstances when that won’t ever get us all the way to the understanding we want. Like when a terrorist picks out a target, the fact could be it is easy, or close, or has some calculated “statement or shock value”. Or in this case it could be that the person had underlying mental issues that prevent them and us from thinking the same way. We can’t understand their view of the world and thought process any more than they can think like we do. Maybe that is just it.
5. The quest for security and safety. If you can’t think like the person, how can you design a security system to protect you from them? Same thing if they are intent on killing themselves, then any security model designed by people that assume self-survival is present will be inadequate. I think we saw that during 9/11, that the airport systems designed around a hijacking, were not sufficient when confronted with suicidal actors. And we can see the amount of change that airport security had to go through.
6. Media Criticism. I have been rereading “Amusing ourselves to death” and it seems that there is real current need from some of the ideas in the book. It is also refreshing to see that, although Morgan freeman didn’t say it, there is a lot of people that are seeing the issues that traditional media creates, and when we are given the keys to the social media distribution, I feel like we are doing a better job in a lot of ways, covering the parts that need to be covered, having the conversations that need to be had, and policing those that get off topic.
7. Overcoming AstroTurf. I think that having the conversations that need to happen will ultimately lead to some changes that a good for the country. I don’t know where that will lead, but I think that after all the canned talking points are spouted, and we get to a real conversation about mental health, gun rights and designing public safety systems that we will make some actual progress in preventing similar things in the lifetime of my own children and grandchildren.