"Hey you, out there on the road
Always doing what you're told
Can you help me?
Hey you, out there beyond the wall
Breaking bottles in the hall
Can you help me?"
Chillingly, "Hey You" by Pink Floyd came on my live stream from WXRT on my computer as I was reading about Nikolas Cruz. The song exemplified the loneliness and mental instability of the outsider, seeking help from another who is outside the singer's mental prison.
My 14-year-old son had asked me how Cruz could enter a plea of "not guilty" regarding the shooting at Marjory Stoneham Stoneham Douglas High School in Florida on Valentine's Day. My son and his buddies were playing a video game on as often happens – believe it or not – their conversation during the game turns to current news topics, and the boys were discussing the news story – the plea entered one month after the shootings.
I was doing a little research to explain to my son how the legal system works and that the plea doesn't mean a person committing an act is not actually guilty of committing the act.
That was hard for him to grasp, but frankly, there is so much that is hard to grasp about what is going on with regard to these shootings I'm not surprised by his reaction.
The CNN article I was reading was published the very day that students around the country participated in a walkout to honor the 17 victims in Florida and take a stand for school safety and gun control.
One cannot help but feel angry at the death of these young people, the violence at another school in Maryland and the deaths of all others at the hands of someone on a completely senseless rampage with a gun.
So many thoughts go through my mind as I see the faces of beautiful young people whose lives have ended much too early – or of any person who is a victim of these senseless killing sprees, not just in school settings but in any public setting where no one expects a person to act out violently.
I have many opinions regarding what we need to do as a country and culture to attempt to prevent these tragedies – but frankly I have no idea if any of them will work to ensure we never see another school or public venue shooting. I really don't. But collectively, they may make things better.
These violence stories are very complex issues, and often the most vocal among us are trying to offer solutions are often very politically divided.
If political divisiveness is the route we're taking, NOTHING will get done.
I will say this: I am NOT a political person – I'm simply not, because I feel our politics are too divisive at this time in history to actually make meaningful progress.
More on that in my next post.
Today's post is looking – hard – at the killer responsible for the deaths of 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on a day that was intended to celebrate love – Valentine's Day.
Is there anything anyone could have actually done? What went wrong, and what can we learn?
How should we feel about those who bring violence into our lives?
We should hate Nikolas Cruz.
Except somehow I don't know if I can hate him, or others like him – even though by all accounts he seemed very hard to like or care about.
I see a very lost kid in this video. I see a person who was struggling to find something – purpose? Was he acting out based on self-loathing? What was it?
Did he want help, and what kind would have worked – if any would have helped him?are
I see a person who made bad choices for what he chose to associate himself with which are well-covered by the news accounts – he was involved with hate groups, said horrible things and created YouTube videos to document this horrible behavior. He is said to be someone who hurt animals and was always in trouble. His adoptive mother was exasperated with his behavior and did not know what to do to help him, and she reached out for help regularly.
This is the CNN story I was looking at – "The Warning Signs Almost Everyone Missed."
Were the signs truly missed, or did we as a culture just not know what to do with Nikolas Cruz, or others like him?
I recall reading that there was a fellow high school classmate of Cruz's who was befriending him – a little – but put the stops on going any further because he said he could "tell something was wrong with him (Cruz)."
Would any parent encourage their child to pursue a close friendship with a child who is exhibiting warning signs and makes their child feel uncomfortable?
I wonder what was going through Cruz's mind as this potential friend backed off – did he notice this boy losing interest? Did he understand his behavior and interests were unhealthy and unwelcome? Were there scores of other kids who just simply could not befriend Cruz.
If Cruz was aware others may have thought there WAS something "wrong with him" – why didn't he feel he should change his behavior? Was he even capable of changing his behavior?
Many of the other killers who've committed similar crimes show faces or behavior that show others how disturbed or troubled they were – Dylan Klebold, Eric Harris, James Holmes, Jared Lee Loughner and Adam Lanza showed behavior and appearance that was violent, threatening and appeared to looked troubled, as their mug shots attest.
Were the "warning signs" missed in them or others like them, or do we simply not know what to do with people like them?
How do we make evaluations and take action about behavior that is problematic but hasn't resulted in violent criminal acts?
YES, stricter gun laws will help to some extent – I will go on record saying I don't believe civilians need access to automatic weapons or bump stocks, and it ought be a very involved process with multiple checks to obtain a gun.
I know sheriff's officers, police officer's, hunters and those with military background who enjoy using guns who agree with this stand – and I think it's reasonable.
But in Maryland – 16-year-old Austin Wyatt Rollins used his father's legally obtained gun to shoot students and kill himself at Great Mills High School.
Clearly, resource officer Blaine Gaskill seemed extremely well-trained both emotionally and as an armed officer to control the situation.
And what of Nichole Cevario, also of Maryland, whose father found a diary filled with her writings of attacking her high school? She planned not only to use a shotgun but also a crude bomb to cause destruction.
Thank God her father had the wherewithal to look through this daughter's diary and discover her plans – and I cannot imagine despite knowing it was the right thing to do to turn her in, how difficult it was for him to do so.
Cevario is currently receiving a mental health evaluation – is he beyond help? What can her future be? Clearly it involves prison time – but will her mental health needs be met as well?
These issues clearly incorporate a multi-level set of circumstances that needs to include, once again, sensible and effective gun legislation, mental health evaluations that are effective, parental awareness and what I hope will become a more prudent process for finding ways to circumvent these horrible violent attacks.
My next post will explore how political divisiveness can turn a blind eye to the whole picture of what needs to be involved here – it's not just one issue or proactive measure – it's a combination, and we as a country must come together to do what we can.
And there are no easy, completely certain solutions.
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