This is a post about the Newtown Shooting. More specifically, it is about the aftermath of the Shooting on Social Media platforms. Although I would very much like you to read what I have to say, I understand completely if you choose not to read on. Please come back tomorrow for more of my usual brand of blogging.
When I logged on to announce my return to the virtual world and share my happy holiday pics, there it was. Plastered all over my news feed and my timeline.
Children were dead. Shot dead while in the safety of their school.
Facebook and Twitter were full of exclamations of shock, horror, and disbelief; exhortations to hug your children just that little bit tighter; prayers and well-wishes for the survivors and the families of the victims. We, as a world full of people, were grief-stricken by the tragedy and we turned to the internet in full-force to share the pain in our hearts and the knife of fear twisting in our guts: That could have been my child, or my school, or my son.
I didn’t comment. But I did hug my children tightly and let the outpouring of online grief wash over and around me until I could barely distinguish it from my own.
By the following day, the tone of the internet had changed. There was still grief and fear, but now those feelings were almost overwhelmed by anger.
Guns were to blame. Or mental illness. Or society. Or no one. Or video games. Or his mother. Or his absent father. The important thing was that someone or something was to blame. And we, as a world full of people, were going to shout our accusations into cyberspace until our virtual throats were hoarse and dripping with the blood of our impotent outrage.
I felt moved to comment, but what to say? All I really wanted was to dwell in my grief a little longer, and retain some ignorance and sanity in the face of a tragedy where the victim could have been my child, and it could have been at my school. I didn’t want to know the ages of the victims, or see their beautiful, innocent faces smiling at me from beyond the curtain of death. I didn’t want to read the statistics on mass murders in the United States. I didn’t want to read well-written essays on mental health issues, or diatribes on the media’s glorification of violence, or the heartfelt and impassioned pleas to help the people. It doesn’t matter how, just help. Please.
I wanted to come to terms with what had happened in my own time and in my own way. I wasn’t ready to be forced into the open with my emotions still raw and my head full of rhetoric and hyperbole. So my message was simple:
The internet is forever. Make sure what you share today is something you’ll be pleased to have said in five, ten or fifty years.
— Jo Eberhardt (@JoEberhardt) December 16, 2012
As the days have passed, the grief-stricken out-pourings of pain have been smothered and hidden by righteous anger and vitriol aimed at society, guns, politicians, and, most of all, everyone who disagrees with our own points of view.
We, the people of the world, are filled with anger.
Anger at the gunman who committed this atrocity and will never pay for the crime in this life.
Anger at the society that raised and nurtured him and didn’t know or care that he was a risk to the lives of children.
Anger at the laws that enabled him easy access to weapons designed to kill, purchased to protect, and used to decimate the lives of not just the 28 victims, but also the lives of their friends and families.
And I believe anger is good. We should we angry. Because with anger come the drive for change. The desperate desire — no, need — to ensure this doesn’t happen again. To ensure our children are safe when we leave them at school. To ensure that we never have to face and overcome the horror of having it be our child, or our school, or our son.
So, I say to you: Hold on to that spark of anger. But don’t cradle it to your chest and let it turn into rage and bitterness and hatred. Use it.
Talk about how you feel.
Talk about the change you’d like to see.
Talk about what we, as the people of the world, can do to make sure this is the last time, the absolute last time, we have to come face to face with a tragedy like this one.
Talk about it in person, on the phone, over email, on your blog, on your social media platform of choice.
And when you’ve done some talking, stop and listen.
Listen to what everyone else is saying. Share their views, even if you don’t agree with them. Even if you think their solution is ludicrous. Even if it goes against everything you believe in.
Because the important thing is that they’re talking.
They’re not advocating a different solution to you because they’re crazy or deluded or too conservative or too liberal or too anything else. They’re advocating a different solution to you because they have a different opinion AND (and this is the important part) they care. They care just as much as you do. They care enough to talk about wanting to make a change.
We, the people of the world, need to stop yelling abuse at each other and start talking and listening and proposing solutions.
So you don’t want to lose your right to bear arms? Great. Show me a compromise; show me your solution.
So you don’t want to pay extra to improve the quality of care available to the mentally ill? Great. Show me a compromise; show me your solution.
So you don’t want to lose the right to watch violent movies and play violent computer games? Great. Show me a compromise; show me your solution.
Don’t stop talking.
Whatever you do, don’t stop talking.
But don’t use your righteous anger to attack other people with a different opinion who feel the same need to prevent another shooting as you do, use your anger to make a difference.
The blood of one child is too high a price to pay for social change.
Twenty children are dead.
The time for change is now.