When I heard the news about the shootings in Newtown, Connecticut last Friday, my reaction was probably similar to everyone else’s: shock, horror, sadness. One difference between me and many others (based on anecdotal social media and internet surfing) is that I quickly reached my limit for watching coverage and reading sad stories.
Please do not mistake this for indifference. I find last week’s shooting horrendous, particularly considering my repulsion for handguns. However, watching the coverage endlessly, in my experience, leads to unhealthy obsessing over such a random event, and I did not want to get sucked into that. According to The Nation last Friday:
Today’s nearly indescribable tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut, where twenty-seven people, including eighteen children, were shot to death inside an elementary school, is at least the sixteenth mass shooting to take place in America this year. The death toll is now at eighty-four.
As awful as that is, consider these statistics:
• 158,592 people in the United States died from lung cancer in 2008, and about 80% of lung cancer is caused by smoking. (Center for Disease Control and www.cancer.gov)
• In 2009, car crashes killed over 33,000 people. More than half of the people killed in car crashes were not restrained at the time of the crash. Wearing a seat belt is the most effective way to prevent death and serious injury in a crash. (Centers for Disease Control)
• An estimated 300,000 deaths per year in the U.S. are due to the obesity epidemic. (National Institute of Health)
• In 2011, 9,878 people died in drunk driving crashes - one every 53 minutes (M.A.D.D.)
Why spend time worrying about a loved one being killed by a random, albeit tragic, mass shooting when Americans are doing a fine job of killing themselves? As parents, rather than get caught up in the hysteria of the Connecticut shootings, it seems that we’d be better served to model good behavior for our kids to chart a course within their control. Don’t smoke, put on seatbelts every time you get in the car, don’t eat crap constantly, exercise, don’t drive after drinking. These are not huge complicated acts.
There are many awful things that are not within our control, and last week’s shootings are illustrative of that. But we make decisions every day about how and when we drive and what types of food and chemicals we put in our bodies. The horrible shootings in Newtown have prompted me to focus on the things I can control, not worry more about those things I can’t.
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