On tragedy

I’m not generally one to share my social and political opinions on this blog.  I know you don’t come here to watch me hop onto a metaphorical soap box and tell you how to live your lives but you’ll have to excuse me today while I get some opinions off my chest.  If you’re not into that sort of thing, feel free to move along.

Ironman Finisher

image c/o rojo-brother sports photography

I’ll start by saying that my mom is a triathlete as well as a marathon runner.  She’s completed the Boston Marathon twice and when I initially heard the news I couldn’t stop picturing my mom crossing the finish line with us cheering her on at the end.  These events are joyous and encompass so many more hours than the race itself.  The people who run are true champions and spend months training for their big day.  To have robbed everyone of the energy and positivity surrounding such an event, in and of itself, is truly heartbreaking.

But when you take a step back and realize that a few short months ago a school full of children was shot up by an unstable young man, and that the anniversary of an all-to-similar bombing is creeping up on us, and that we have one too many instances to compare this situation to it really makes you wonder what’s gone wrong.  Why are we killing each other?  Why are we killing strangers that we brush by on the subway or in line for our coffee in the morning?  Why are the killers glorified and the victims nameless and faceless?  Why is it that one act of violence spurs a slew of copycat crimes?  When did it become unsafe to ride a train, go to the top of a tall building, run a marathon, or walk out our front doors?  In a country with a policy of “no child left behind” I can’t help but feel that an increasing number of children are, in fact, being left behind–both in emotional and academic development.  We isolate those who are different than the masses and we no longer allow our children to fight their own battles.  We make excuses for those who under-perform and turn a blind eye to mental health issues until they become dangerous.

My generation isn’t maturing anymore.  We get out of school and continue living with our parents.  When we do move out, they support us so we never have to learn the tough lessons in life.  We’ve stopped volunteering and when life doesn’t go our way it seems as though we cannot handle the stress.

In addition to the structure of our childhood, we turn on the news each night to see photos and videos of men and women who have committed horrible acts.  We’re constantly reminded of the violence that takes place just outside our front door and we have become extremely desensitized to it.  We watch shows about murders and get a thrill out of solving the crime before the detectives on screen.  We go to the movies and watch psychopaths with chainsaws torture people for a couple hours.  We have a culture that glorifies violence so when children slip through the cracks and need attention, they know exactly where to get it.

Another gun law will not solve this problem.  Our struggles do not lie in securing our borders against all foreigners.  Pinning the blame on all brown, black, yellow, or red people is not the answer either.  Rather, each and every one of us can make a positive impact and change this state of violence we’re living in.  Hold the door for the person behind you.  Take your headphones out and have a conversation with someone new every once in a while.  Extend extra kindness to the weird kid at school or the quiet guy in your office.  Volunteer your time rather than donating your money and looking the other way.  When acts of violence happen, don’t glorify them.  We mobilize and send copious amounts of money and supplies to those involved but what we should really be doing is focusing that energy in places where a tragedy has not yet occurred.  Our focus should be on prevention through kindness, generosity, and vigilance.

In Malcolm Gladwell’s book, The Tipping Point, he shares a story about crime rates in various parts of town.  Researchers realized that if an abandoned building had a window broken and no one fixed it that damage continued to pile on to the building and crime rates were higher.  But, researchers also learned that if a broken window in an abandoned building was fixed immediately (and graffiti was painted over in a timely manner) that the destruction to the building slowed rapidly–sometimes stopped entirely–and crime rates were lower.  Essentially, people realized that someone cared and chose other places to commit their deviant acts.  What if we start to treat our neighbors and communities like these buildings?  Let’s take this out of politics and onto a personal level.  Let’s fix each others broken windows as the happen.  If you want to feel safe again, it has to start with you.

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4 thoughts on “On tragedy

  1. You hit on something interesting about how young people don’t care. I think that’s a new perspective and I’m glad you brought it up. When kids get their way or are coddled so much, they realize that tantrums – small and large – get attention and end up getting them “their way”. Very interesting.

    • It’s a really strange reality but the fact that we don’t expose our kids to the tough side of life sets us up for outbursts later down the road. It’s an unintended consequence but seems to hold very true.

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