Those setbacks taught us something. They taught us that the world doesn’t always go our way. They taught us how to deal with adversity and thus provided us with the survival skills necessary to navigate life’s challenges. Back in the day there were no school shootings by kids who were bullied; if you were bullied more than likely you learned how to stay downwind of the bully. If you passed the bully’s house on the walk home you took an alternate route, if you were tormented on the playground you learned to stay near the teachers (usually in the shade), if the bully was fat you kept a Snickers or honey bun handy, and if you were particularly brave you stood up to the bully. Who among us didn’t experience heartbreak growing up? If your heart was broken, you’d mope around a little, listen to some Lionel Richie (I was partial to Still) and move on. Back in the day you’d break up with a girl one day and go with her friend, cousin or sister (that’s right…SISTER) the next week… and not that I advocate it, but back in the day we weren’t punished or suspended from school for fighting in self-defense. Adaptation and conflict resolution were parts of everyday life back in the day.
Fast forward to today and people lose their minds when life happens to them. Survival and adaptation are virtues of the past. In the last couple of months a number of multiple shootings and suicides have been in the media; from ex-husbands shooting up churches and Christmas parties to laid-off workers killing their families and themselves. I’m guessing these people didn’t support the president and his ‘Audacity to Hope’ ideology. These people seemingly lost all hope… hope in their abilities to overcome their circumstances as well as in the system’s ability to recover. I wonder if they felt a sense of entitlement to only the good things in life. I wonder if they had ever dealt with rejection or loss before. Were their lives (up until the points when they took them) filled with bliss and success? It’s remotely possible that these people’s lives were filled with so many failures that they had no reason to think anything good could happen, but I doubt it.
One of the more disturbing aspects of this phenomenon is that it transcends religious and racial boundaries. American culture is the common thread in all of these acts. We don’t hear of these kinds of killings happening in other parts of the world, and even if we did these actions would be no less of an alarming indictment against the society we’ve created. Perhaps we’ve become too much of a melting-pot when people regardless of cultural origin all choose to solve some of life’s most common problems with death.
Any steps towards eliminating the possibilities of these disturbing murder/ suicides must start with parents specifically and ‘the village’ in general teaching kids to embrace failure as an opportunity to overcome. We must teach them that a setback is a setup for a comeback. Providing the youth with perspective arms them with the ammunition needed to fight life’s battles. Back in the day we didn’t wear helmets when we skated or rode bikes. Today we shelter our children too much. Some things in life have to be learned through experience… especially how to deal with hardship.