Like many, I’m deeply saddened by the recent shooting at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. As the initial shock of this awful event wanes and gives way to grief, we’re left wondering why and how someone could do something so horrific. The only person that can provide that answer, 20-year-old Adam Lanza, took his own life as well. As a result, chances are this seemingly simple question of why will never be fully realized.
It comes as no surprise that in light of this tragedy, gun control advocates are beside themselves, vocalizing the need for yet even stricter gun control laws. Their reaction is understandable yet their efforts are misguided. The events that transpired in Newtown had nothing to do with gun control. The reality is even with stricter limits Adam Lanza would still have walked into that school armed as he was and the outcome would have been the same. A key point that many gun control advocates miss is that the “bad guys” will get guns if they want them, no matter how hard it is to obtain them.The tragedy that unfolded last week has nothing to do with gun control. It has everything to do with social control…or the lack thereof. Today’s American society is one in which the individual doesn’t take responsibility for their own actions. We loudly advocate our individualism and feel it is our right to do and say whatever we want, whenever we want. Yet, when we exercise this “right” and the outcome is negative, our individual action suddenly becomes someone or everyone else’s fault. In this respect, American society has become increasingly hypocritical in believing we can have it both ways.
One explanation currently being offered for Adam Lanza’s actions is that he suffered from some degree of Autism and/or Asperger’s Syndrome. If true, I don’t discount the theory that these “isms” played into Adam Lanza’s decision to do what he did. However I’m becoming increasingly leery of “isms” being used as an excuse for kids and adults that act contrary to societal expectations. There is legitimate concern in today’s day and age that adults, and especially children, are being mis- or over-diagnosed for “behavioral disorders” when no real disorder exists. The reasons for this are many and deserve due attention at another time.
Being diagnosed with an “ism”, especially when there isn’t one, also enables the individual a means to not take responsibility for their own actions. Rather than take ownership for their actions, they blame the “ism” because the “ism” made them do what they did. In addition, once the concept of a person’s “ism” is rationalized and internalized that person will begin to act according to what that “ism” entails, even if that person does not actually suffer from that “ism”. As a society, we cannot continue to rely on “isms” as a replacement for responsible child rearing and personal conduct.
This brings me to my final point. There has been some speculation as to the nature of Nancy Lanza’s relationship with her son Adam. Some suggest she was a single mom doing the best she could dealing with her son’s “isms” and social ineptness. Others, who question her rationale of encouraging her son’s interest in guns and shooting while knowing he potentially had behavior disorders, suggest she was too much of a “friend” to her son. Sadly, with her murder, this is yet one more facet we will never really fully learn. I feel it’s fair at this point to suggest that Nancy Lanza’s relationship with her son was a mix of both parent and friend.
It seems as if today there is the trend in American society for parents to want to be their child’s friend rather than a parent. The rationales for this are many and varied, and like the issue of mis- or over-diagnosed “isms”, should be discussed at another time. Pure and simple, parents have a responsibility to raise their child in a manner that will ensure that child’s ability to be become a socially responsible adult. However, when parents choose to be their child’s friend and not the parent, they severely restrict their ability to employ the discipline and nurturing necessary for effective societal integration. The reality is society cannot continue to pay for those parents that irresponsibly choose to be their child’s friend rather than their parent.
Even though we may never fully know why Adam Lanza committed the atrocities he committed, in time we will learn enough to gain some understanding of why he did what he did. Until then, this is yet another instance of a “misunderstood”, “nobody loves me”, socially inept person venting their frustrations in a most horrific and extreme manner. Rather than the exception, it seems as if this is becoming the norm. As a society, we cannot continue to let this happen. We HAVE to accept responsibility for our individual actions. We HAVE to stop blaming “isms” for our actions. Parents HAVE to be parents and not their child’s friend. It is these social controls, and not gun control, which will ensure the tragedy that occurred in Newtown, Connecticut is not repeated.