Obama has gotten mad on his podium.
Parents and teachers are devastated and outraged.
Everyone agrees that the surging wave of lethal violence at schools needs to be stopped.
Almost every day now we hear about an incident, or a would-be incident of someone, usually a young disgruntled and lost individual take to a weapon with the school as their aim. The first such incident just happened in peaceful Sweden, whereas these types of incidents often have mainly been associated with the US.
Apart from the obvious – pass strict gun control laws in every nation – there is many subtler “what-can-we-dos” to turn this god-awful trend. Every time I hear of a shooting, I think to myself, “I just want an hour with one of these kids doing this. Give me an hour and let’s see if I can prevent the attack from happening.” Not out of hubris or heroism on my part, rather, with what I know about human motivation, could I change his mind? I certainly would like to try.
After more than twenty years of learning how people’s sick thoughts can plague them something intensely, I know that people can go off the deep end. I’ve been told to watch the movie “Bully” that shows what someone will do when they just can’t take it anymore. I am also not defending the perpetrator. That said, we can never ever give up on communication. That through words we can find the way out.
Here is what I would say in my would-be hour:
- I would first attempt to determine the level of pathology. Really, should we pretend for a second that these kids are well? There is something sick in there that needs curing. Some really truly are mostly disillusioned and disenfranchised. Others are very sick. We’d need to know which is which.
- I would find out a crap load about the kid. Not, “how are things at home?” (although I’d be curious to know) but about them specifically. I bet no one has asked in a long time.
- I would try to find out what, if anything makes them feel safe. The only reason you would strike out like that, or want that kind over control over life and death and the people around you, is that it is not safe to be who you are and feel what you feel. All those same feelings could be brought to a conversation, no guns needed.
- I’d find out whom they would, if they could, bond with. Often, it takes just one person. If there were one person in the world whose opinion they cared about, they wouldn’t carry out the act – out of consideration to that person. It would be a matter of getting them present to that person. Most people have one person, dead or alive, that matters to them. And if they didn’t, I’d invent one. There are so many people to admire and model oneself after. Sometimes I myself get to be the one person someone truly has and I am honored to be that until they have branched out again.
- What future do they see for themselves? Clearly none, as they predictably are heading for their own death as well. Same thing there. One, two, three pieces of advice that shows a direction – something to do, somewhere to go. I’d try that.
- I’d ask, “where is the chaos?” Something is chaotic. Because if it wasn’t, someone’s system wouldn’t short circuit like that. Is the chaos in your head? With friends? With the family? With your skill set or lack thereof? Body image? Where does life not make sense? If life doesn’t make sense on any level, what is there to live for? I can totally see that
- I’d find out where they got humiliated or felt disrespected. All this, bearing in mind, knowing most of their world lives inside their own head. Still, if feeling disrespected is what will lead to the attack, then it needs to be dealt with.
Human dignity is real. And the need for it.
When you have no dignity left, you have nothing.
And you have nothing to lose.
I would fight to restore dignity.
I would try to make them so happy they didn’t go through with it.