by Ginger Costen
My heart has been writing this column since last Friday morning when I couldn’t stop holding onto my three year-old grandson. My mind has been putting the words to the feelings since he fell asleep in my arms and, after laying him down safely in his room, I could turn on the television that I’d quickly turned off a few hours earlier.
Watching and listening to the Connecticut State Police describe how a man had gone into the Shady Hook Elementary School in Newtown and shot and killed an undetermined number of children and adults, was far beyond my comprehension. I couldn’t understand it as I couldn’t conceive his actions having any purpose or reasoning no matter how many times the officer explained the limited details.
Like millions of other people across America and around the world, I sat frozen in front of the television watching and even hoping it was a mistake. I read the details over and over on my laptop and muttered, “This just can’t be happening.” Soon my feelings of shock turned to anger as I thought of my school-aged grandchildren and cried out, “WHY?”
Now, three days later as the story and more details have come to the surface, it doesn’t seem as easy to find just one bad guy in all of this. It’s no longer about one man; it’s about all of us and much more than the 27 families in Connecticut.
It was easy to focus all of my shock and anger on the shooter. Certainly he was evil and deserved far worse than the opportunity to take his own life. Was there more than one? Did we know who and why? What was he thinking? “Clearly he wasn’t,” was all I could say.
By Saturday morning, “the shooting” took on a different dimension. Our shock and anger was now focused on finding out whom or what was responsible for making this monster and so the finger pointing began. I read a statement by actor Morgan Freeman about the media’s role and he blamed it on how we report the news.
Mr. Freeman wrote:
"You want to know why. This may sound cynical, but here's why.
It's because of the way the media reports it. Flip on the news and watch how we treat the Batman theater shooter and the Oregon mall shooter like celebrities. Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris are household names, but do you know the name of a single “victim” of Columbine? Disturbed people who would otherwise just off themselves in their basements see the news and want to top it by doing something worse, and going out in a memorable way. Why a grade school? Why children? Because he'll be remembered as a horrible monster, instead of a sad nobody.
CNN's article says that if the body count "holds up," this will rank as the second deadliest shooting behind Virginia Tech, as if statistics somehow make one shooting worse than another. Then they post a video interview of third-graders for all the details of what they saw and heard while the shootings were happening. Fox News has plastered the killer's face on all their reports for hours. Any articles or news stories yet that focus on the victims and ignore the killer's identity? None that I've seen yet. Because they don't sell. So congratulations, sensationalist media, you've just lit the fire for someone to top this and knock off a daycare center or a maternity ward next.
You want to know what you can do to help? You can help by forgetting you ever read this man's name, and remembering the name of at least one victim. You can help by donating to mental health research instead of pointing to gun control as the problem. You can help by turning off the news."
Is the media to blame or is it our insatiable hunger for information – both good and bad – that sells the news? It’s the media’s job to give us the news. It’s our responsibility to show that it had merit and meaning and the best way we can do that is with or without our financial support. If we don’t like how or what the media is selling; don’t give them financial support. Don’t take away the news; let the people who buy the ad space know you don’t like how it was presented.
Then it was the shooter’s mother’s fault. “What was she thinking by giving this mentally sick guy a gun?” I heard some people saying at a convenience store in Douglas. “I heard he had something called Asperger’s Syndrome,” the other replied. “He was autistic or something like that,” another added. “People like that need to be locked up,” the first man responded.
As the tears once again began to fill my eyes, I joined into the conversation. “Before you paint all people with a mental illness as horrible killing machines, please know that my precious, loving and wonderful 12 year-old grandson has Asperger's and while he may be different he isn’t a bad person,” I said as the tears fell onto my shirt. “He may not fit into the normal mold we expect the rest of society to the follow, but he gets upset when one of us kills a spider instead of taking it outside where it belongs.” I walked away as their apologies fell to the ground behind me.
On Sunday we started to see the first of the faces and hear the stories of twenty small, happy and perfectly wonderful little children and six very special adults as the two sides of gun control began a new fight.
I believe in the right to bear arms as strongly as I believe in the freedom of speech (and the press), but with both there is an even greater duty of responsibility. Not only did a man in New Jersey lose his mother from his brother’s actions, for several hours Ryan Lanza was also accused of being the shooter. Information was not grounded or verified before it was released and for that, the media was wrong. It’s our duty, no matter how arduous or time consuming it may be to check the facts.
And now it’s Monday and “The Shooting” has taken on a life of its own. The first of the 26 (28 if you count his mother as well as his own) funerals have begun as the media is there telling us about the victims and showing us the raw pain of the communities and families. It’s still not clear to any of us why Adam Lanza chose to take 28 lives on Friday, December 14. What is clear though is to see who paid the ultimate price…
There are 27 families that will never be whole and a community, if not country, that will never be the same. At least, as a country, I hope not, for there are changes that need to come of this.
I pray that it will lead to an earnest examination of gun laws and why anyone beyond our military and law enforcement officers need semi-automatic assault rifles. Hunting is a sport. Target practice and even shooting is a sport. So just how many rounds of ammunition does it take to kill one animal? Even in Alaska, gun central in America, you can only use a standard rifle to kill a bear.
What parent encourages a mentally ill child, with a history of violence, to find enjoyment in learning to shoot any type of gun? Nancy Lanza, you lived in one of the most beautiful areas in America, couldn’t you have encouraged your son to go hiking or fishing? You were a nurse and for that alone, you knew better than to put any type of dangerous item in your son’s hands.
But as the many different sides begin the usual rhetoric, I’d like to ask anyone if they read about the 23 children in China that also on Friday, were slashed and cut by a knife-yielding man at a elementary school?
Finally, with one more point to this story. As I wrote this column on Monday I trusted that the Facebook posting by Morgan Freeman was in truth his quote, but now on Tuesday I have learned moments before we go to print, that this was a hoax by a man named Mark from Vancouver. In a statement written by the Huffington Post Tuesday morning, “Mark” is quoted as saying "Couple of us thought it'd be funny, since it was a well written article, to attribute it to Morgan Freeman."
I guess we’re back to where we started. I just have to keep asking, WHY! What part of the shooting that happened at the Sandy Hook Elementary School of Friday leands itself to being any part of funny? There are families that lives have been forever changed and destroyed.
Christmas, or in at least one case Hanukah, will forever have one meaning and it won’t be about presents, trees or lights. You’re an idiot Mark form Vancouver and I’m a bigger idiot for thinking I could trust anything I found on Facebook.