Sunday, December 16, 2012

Newtown, Connecticut

The horrifying tragedy that unfolded this past week in Newtown, Connecticut is hard to comprehend. Twenty young elementary children and six others, including the principal and teachers, were shot to death. As a dad it is difficult for me think about losing my children. Especially in such a terrifying act of violence. I can't begin to imagine what these families are going through. Our nation grieves for these families and their loss. This senseless act of violence against the most innocent is heartbreaking. I cannot wrap my mind around it. The agony that the parents & families must be experiencing is truly soul-wrenching. The massacre of these young children, their teachers and principal is virtually impossible to put in terms of the explainable. 

News outlets have said the killer had disabilities, and was on the autism spectrum. He also may have had a previous mental illness diagnosis. The media have, in some instances, been careless in their reporting by suggesting that autism and this man's premeditated violence are linked. Unfortunately, this kind of stereotyping perpetuates myths and falsehoods, and alienates a whole segment of society based one one individual's actions. 

There are approximately 1.5 million people in America who have an Autism Spectrum Disorder.  The majority of people with autism are not violent. It's true that some folks with autism do have difficulties with aggression. But so does a certain percentage of the neuro-typical population. To make generalizations and to further stigmatize people with disabilities is wrong and needs to be challenged.

In the aftermath of the Newtown school shooting, we all want answers. We seek explanations as to why this man behaved as he did. Unfortunately, we may never quite know the full picture of what went on in his mind. In times of emotionally charged events it is tempting to assign blame and advocate measures that would seemingly help prevent future tragedies like this. Society often demands instant solutions to problems that usually aren't that simple. 

Take a cursory glance at Facebook posts or the comments sections in any of the on-line news stories relating to the Newtown school shooting, and you will find heated political exchanges about gun control, the 2nd Amendment, and lots of conjecture as to why this man committed mass murder. Already, politicians and lobbyists organizations are arguing for one measure or another in response to the Newtown shooting.   

Unfortunately, what's not being said enough is that our country is facing a serious crisis in social services. Funding for people with disabilities is constantly in question. Mental health services are woefully inadequate and often fail to reach those who need them most. And until we are willing to have a deliberate, sincere and earnest dialogue about these issues, it's likely that unthinkable things will continue to happen with alarming frequency. 

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About Me

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I work for a Community-Based, Not-for-Profit agency. I have worked in the disability field for over twenty-five years. I am the father of two boys, and have been married to my teenage sweet-heart for 23 years. I live and work in the same town where I was born & raised.
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