Thursday, December 20, 2012

There Is Not ONE Answer

"It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men."
-Frederick Douglass

I have spent my adult life studying, learning about, and being in the presence of broken men. I have walked among rapists, murderers, pedophiles, the mentally ill, the criminally insane. As someone who has studied criminal justice and psychology in college, as someone who has worked in some realm of law enforcement and as someone who knows all too well what humans are capable of and how depraved they really can be, I am not afraid of the knives, hands, guns, penises used to commit these beatings, rapes, and murders. I am afraid of the people who use these tools to commit these horrific acts.

I'm afraid of their violent tendencies, of their psychopathology, sociopathology, genetic predisposition, whatever it is, that causes them to carry out these acts. I'm afraid of those people.

What compels humans to do the awful things they do? The answer: There is no easy answer. There is no ONE answer. Not always. It could be biological, it could be the circumstances one grew up in; the classic "nature vs. nurture" argument. However, the circumstances that cause one human to break and commit horrific crimes can be applied to another human being and while they may break, they do not go on to commit crimes against people. 

Bad people are among us. They are everywhereAnd NOBODY is immune from them. Not me, not you, not my kids, not yours. Whether you want to believe it or not, they are in your neighborhood, your town. You pass them on the street and don't even know it. One of my dad's friend's was a parole officer, and he has said, "If you knew who you walked among, you would never leave your house."

I've learned that bad people are the enemy, not the tools they utilize to harm others. I've learned that when confronted with the bad people, in order to defend or protect yourself against them you have to be capable of fighting back, and to fight back, you have to be able to match or exceed their level of power. I've learned that laws do not and will not stop them, and that a determined person will always find a way. They don't give a shit about you, they don't give a shit about the law, they don't give a shit about a fucking thing. Except destruction.

Having seen the darkest of humans, it is impossible for me to live in an ivory tower. I understand what humans are capable of. I'm not trying to scare you. I'm trying to advocate for you, for the innocent. I'm trying to help you be aware, not so you can live in fear but so you can protect yourselves, protect your families. So that you can be diligent. So that you can understand what you need to protect your children from. People are flipping out right now, calling for more gun control laws and to be perfectly frank, there is so much more to this issue than simply "gun control." We need to look beyond gun control.

We have to focus on making changes in our society. 

We have to focus on getting these people off the streets, on supporting the resources that will either help or remove these people from society so they can't harm others.

We have to focus on building strong children.

Strong children turn into strong adults. Strong adults create a strong society. 

I'm very angry. I'm saddened, I'm grieving. I'm angry that it takes an incident of mass murder for people to wake up as to what's around them, as to how broken society is. I'm especially angry that people only become outraged when something as dramatic and traumatic as the murders at Sandy Hook occur, when children are being murdered every day, children are being abused and molested every day, and nobody seems to be outraged, en masse, at this fact, and that the general public does not seem to be making the connection between these children being broken, and then turning into broken adults who then turn on the society that did not protect them as children.

I'm angry that people have not been looking at the core of the issue: Broken people. And what to do about them.

Earlier this year a disturbed man in my city sat on a sidewalk and waited for the next woman who was alone to walk by. One did, and he stabbed her over and over, murdering her literally in the street, in broad daylight. 

I am fucking outraged. I don't give a shit how he murdered her. Whether he stabbed her, shot her, strangled her, I don't give a shit. I give a shit that he murdered her. I give a shit that he was loose in society in the first place

If you want to sign something, sign for more funding for mental health services. Fight for the services that will take the violently disturbed off the streets, whether to get them help or remove them from society. 

I see a huge outcry for more support for mental health services and agree with that outcry, but also think we need to fight for our schools to have the funding for mental health services, for counselors, for people who can identify the broken children and try to help them, give them a chance to get help before they are permanently set on a dark path that they will never recover from. Whether by counseling, or taking the steps to remove them from their volatile homes, or by recognizing the ones who have already become a danger to others and taking the steps to either get them help or get them off of your streets, keep them from preying on you and your family.

And speaking of schools, fight your schools, period. I'm heartbroken at the financial slashing that schools are enduring. Children suffer because of that. Society suffers because of that.

And especially, instead of voting for cuts to law enforcement, vote for more funding for them. They are the only ones who are going out and actually taking the people who will harm you and your children off the streets. Funding for law enforcement agencies is being slashed across the country, and people are wondering why even more bad shit is happening in their cities. 

A fully funded, fully staffed police force will have the resources to put officers in the schools. If you fight for funding for your local law enforcement agencies, fight to put officers and deputies in your children's schools, fight for them to be staffed enough to have a strong presence on your streets, just imagine what a safer town you would live in, how much safer schools would be. Police officers are already involved in the communities they work in, are familiar with some of the residents and families, and therefore can do more than just guard the school. They can work with students, they can recognize deviant behavior, see warning signs, and take action.  

No matter what your opinion is on guns or gun control, don't believe that laws are going to stop all criminals from obtaining guns. WAIT. LISTEN. I am merely being matter-of-fact here. We cannot afford to be naive or in denial about this.

I just want people to understand that no matter what the laws are, someone who is bound and determined to obtain a weapon to destroy a person or persons will find a way to do it. There is such a thing as arms dealers, of the underground, of the black market, and like drugs, guns will ALWAYS be in existence. The gun manufacturers, the gun dealers, they are not going to stop making and distributing the product that gives them their paycheck. They just aren't, no more than the drug growers/manufacturers and dealers are going to stop and find another job. 

Until there is ZERO DEMAND for drugs or guns in the entire world, they will continue to be made, consumed, used. They will continue to be obtained by people who are bound and determined to obtain them, no matter the laws. 

With the understanding that THERE ARE bad guys out there, ask yourself what changes we can make in society to protect ourselves from them, and to either get them help or get them off the streets.

Ask yourself what we, as a society, can do to prevent them from "becoming bad" in the first place.

It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.



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I debated about whether or not to post about the recent tragedy. I vacillated about what good, if any, it would do, I vacillated about whether or not I wanted to risk angering or upsetting people. And in the end, I decided that I would post because I think ALL perspectives need to be heard and considered. I want to offer my perspective, as someone who has seen and dealt with things that most people don't. 

How we move forward as a country in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook murders needs to be carefully and rationally considered, and I see a lot of knee-jerk, emotional responses occurring, and I get that! People are hurting, are scared, and want to, need to, blame something. But we need to focus. We need to look at all sides, and all potential solutions. There is not just one answer. I see that many critical issues are being overlooked, and that really scares me. It scares me that not every issue surrounding the tragedy is being considered, not every issue is being fought for, and frankly, that will just keep us on the same path we've been on. 

**I welcome discussion about this, and only ask that everyone is respectful of one another.

And now, back to my regularly scheduled programming of sarcasm, humor, debauchery, and trivial complaining.



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22 comments:

  1. Wow very well put!! I am not sure how you super mom of 3 little boys manage to find free time to write as much as you do! You said what I would love to say. Thank you for now I will share your blog. I love the way you see things. As well as the way you share it!

    -Stephanie C. =)

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    1. Thank you, Stephanie! I appreciate your feedback and support!

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  2. I am very glad you went ahead and posted this. These are things that need to be said, and you said them very well.

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  3. Also, not one minute after I read your post there was a discussion in the office... and I quoted you!

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    1. Thank you, Kylee! And I hope the quote was well-received...!

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  4. I am glad that you posted this as well. I think people have a hard time believing that there are evil people in the world...I am personally a gun owner, and a mother of 1.75 kids (anxiously awaiting kiddo #2). If I felt like banning guns was the answer, I'd be all for it. But bad people are going to do whatever is necessary to accomplish what they want to accomplish. In this horrific tragedy, if this young man was unable to obtain a gun, he would have just used something else. It wouldn't have made it any less tragic, and the outcome would not have changed for those parents. The system failed this young man and I really feel like that's where we need to start....it's sad to me that no one wants to start there, though.

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    1. Thank you, Trish. And I wish you very well on #2! Congratulations!

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  5. Amazingly written Elizabeth and I totally agree with what you wrote. More people need to look past gun control and at how to fix the issues before they get to their breaking points.

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  6. Disclaimer: I am honestly and completely writing all of this in a polite respectful and thoughtful tone. I do not judge, even if I do not agree.

    For discussion's sake... (insert laughter) I think it is a matter of gun control... and mental health services... and a whole host of other things. But gun control and accessibility to guns IS a part of the overall issue and does deserve to be looked at. Now, you should know... I am speaking as a Canadian. And I understand that there can be a HUGE difference between some Americans and Canadians on the issue of gun ownership. So consider me extremely biased :) However, I have 3 points in light of the most recent school shooting that don't neccessarily mean I want people to have my opinion... but I'd hope they give a pause for some serious reflection. #1: Air traffic security measures. In the wake of massive tragedy, attempted shoe bombs and other acts or attempted acts of terrorism - the whole world has completely over hauled the entire security system for air travel. We have eliminated, or tried to eliminate, the opportunity for a repeat crime. I do not understand how gun related mass muder does not warrant the same sober second thought and an overhaul of the system as it currently functions. #2: It is of course not universally true (nothing ever is) but school shootings of this kind are not as common in other countires. I specifically look at the difference between Canada and the States - we are geographically close, our economies are linked, our cultural influences are very similar and our history is (somewhat) similar as well. Canada does not have the same enshrined "right to bare arms" and our process to obtain guns legally is extremely thorough in comparison. Canada does not have school shootings in the same frequency as happens in the States. I can't help but think there has to be a correlation. Australia overhauled their gun regulations 10 years ago in the wake of a rampage shooting and in 10 years they have not had a single repeat incident of the same magnitude and gun violence of every kind has dropped dramatically over the years. #3: You mentioned a broken society. Broken people. I couldn't agree more. Coming from a nation where the culture, history and attitude towards gun ownership is drastically different, I wonder as an outsider: what makes them (the general populace, not individual people) so afraid? Why are they so terrified? What is broken deep down inside that makes it neccessary to carry a fatal weapon just to feel safe? That makes me sad. I am not talking about having gun in your house to protect your family (although I don't truly understand that either) or to have in the woods camping or to use for hunting... but one you can conceal in your purse and take out at a mall full of people... The question for me is: why? Does the potential for more gun violence really mitigate the threat or the fear of it happening to you?

    As I said, I am biased but I am also respectful and understanding of the many differences that exist between every person, every country and every specific situation. Those are just my thoughts. Now... discuss!
    Katie

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    1. Also, I know your whole post wasn't about gun control only... that is just the one issue of many that I wrote a response to.
      And I really appreciate your perspective and the wholistic approach you take to the issue -- that is the only way we can save our children in their schools... or adults in movie theatres or where ever. Great post and great perspectives!
      Katie

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    2. Katie,

      Thank you for your very well-thought out and especially respectful reply! Thank you for being so open and honest and bringing up good points. So in response to #1: Again, that's a very good point, but the catch here is that airports are secured, controlled environments in which checking for bombs in shoes is easy to do. We can't just stop and check people for weapons out in public like we can in airports- my point being that while you gave a good example, the gun thing is not as easy of a fix as the shoe-bomb thing was because of the fact that the criminals can still access weapons through the underground and because we don't have "checkpoints" out on the streets. But yes, you are definitely correct that we DO need to look at what we can do to overhaul broken links in the system.

      In response to #2, I don't know 100% how to respond to that. I read conflicting information and am not sure we have the full story... i.e. how much did OTHER violent crime go up when gun regulations were overhauled? Did they just find a different way to do the same things? If so, then we're back to square one, essentially, right? I guess I have difficulty believing that the mere restriction of guns removed the violent tendencies that exist within in the "broken" people. Also, the problem I have with the statistics that are flying all over the internet right now is that for every statistic that supports more gun control by quoting what has happened in other countries, there is another statistic that flies in the face of it. The statistics that I see that are specific to America are that many of the towns and cities with more private, legal gun owners and carriers have LESS violent crime. So it's all very confusing and conflicting and I think that shows us that there are significantly more factors at work here than JUST guns. And they ALL need to be looked into, so we can solve the ENTIRE problem, not just look at one aspect of it. I'm not opposed to gun reform, IF it is something that will actually make a difference. But I don't want us to be blind about the criminal mind at the same time. I don't want the innocent left unprotected.

      Which leads into #3 and I can see that we are asking the same question there: how can we fix people and change our society so that guns (and knives, and rape, etc.) are not a problem? I want it ALL fixed, and feel that it's dangerous to just focus on just one of the steps to fixing this entire problem. That's what I wanted to offer up in this post: we need to look at MORE than just figuring out the gun thing, we need to get to the crux of the issue if we want any chance!

      You bring up very good points, and I think the main thing that we need to realize is that we ALL want the same thing: A SAFE SOCIETY. We have to find a way to get there that is practical, and does not overlook critical points.

      Again, I appreciate the good points you bring up, and the kind things you said about my post. I appreciate that you see that we're trying to work towards the same goal and we all need to offer up several viewpoints for discussion in order to try to find a solution!

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    3. Or maybe for #3 we're not asking the same question. To answer, we're afraid of what we know to be out there, or maybe not afraid; that's not the right word for everyone. AWARE, I guess. I just know what's out there, like many people do, and those violent people are who others are trying to protect themselves from. And that's what I want something done about. The violent people who prey on the innocent in any capacity.

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  7. So looks like once again what I had to say is more than one post long.. Because this is an issue very dear to my heart, and likely because I am VERY VERY pregnant so even more opinionated and hormonal than normal... #1 -
    Elizabeth.... THANK YOU for this post!!! For numerous reasons. I agree with you on most points, so that is one reason. Also because we as a people NEED to speak up, need to speak what is in our hearts and minds. When we lose our nerve, when we remain silent everyone loses. We cannot live our lives in fear. We need to look beyond fear to solutions. Families are most definitely a part of the solution. Being strong together, raising children who are strong confident and compassionate. I am a mother to more than my "own" children. I have two fabulous step-children and I am very fortunate to have their mother as a co-parenting partner. Also we are examples for our children's friends. My husband struggles with this some. HE would rather we be just us, I suppose that is what 10 years in prison can do to you. He, like the parole officer you wrote of says if you knew what is walking the streets with you, you would be horrified. As I have told him many times I do know.
    My father was a police officer, also in the military. My family has been military for generations. The things we hear about from their tours of duty are appalling. Also I work in the community with Parole/probation officers, attorneys, mental health professionals etc. Yet I close my office after dark and walk alone into a dark parking lot every night. Not because I live in a fantasy where nothing bad can happen, but because I am aware I watch, I listen, I am vigilant with my own safety. I do not however live in fear.
    Mental health is a huge part that has been missing from the discussion. Not simply the diagnoses of mental illness, the treatment which is generally cost prohibitive and often ineffective. But beyond that is the screaming senselessness of our society as a whole. People often take no responsibility for themselves, their choices or really anything.
    My son, 15 almost 16 has had 6 friends in 4 years move away. None of these children have any form of stability in their lives. The most current one, barely knows his father, sees his a couple times a year. His mother, does not work, yet I cannot count the times this boy has come to our house because he is locked out at home. Or has asked to stay the night because his mom "just needs to get out for awhile". Now I understand feeling overwhelmed and needing some time. I don't understand partying 3-4x per week every week when you can't afford to live and you have children.


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  8. #2 - 2.5 years ago I sat for 3 hours in a municipal court room. I listened to case after case of "domestic violence", each one needed money for an attorney, yet somehow even though they were unemployed etc, could afford to go with their spouse or significant other to the bar, get shit-faced drunk and fight over whatever. I looked at my husband and said, "You know I like a drink now and then, but right now I am so grateful we made a no drinking pact." We were appalled. That doesn't even touch the DUII cases. Unreal...
    When my husband came home from 10 years in prison, he had 3 years of post-prison supervision to complete, one of the conditions was no drinking. So we agreed before he came home that neither of us would drink, at all period. Because we choose to be a family and families stand together. Now he is no longer on post (made it through with NOT ONE single sanction!!!) we may rarely have a drink away from home, but we found that our teenagers responded so well to our decision and were proud of it, even to the point of bragging to their friends, that we do not permit alcohol in our home. AT ALL. My little brother is 23, in the military in a drinking culture, filled with idiocy and abuse. He had a hard time at first because he would stay with us when home on leave. He found our no booze rule silly at first, until he got drunk at a party and got knocked into a fire getting third degree burns on his leg. OF course his "friends" left him there. When I did finally see it, it was already infected. He took off with his buddies and put some Neosporin on it and went three more days before we were able to track him down and hauled his butt into the ER. The nurse upon hearing the story decided enough was enough. So she wasn't particularly gentle, then she told him he had a bad infection bordering on septicemia. And had I not tracked him down and made him go get treated, he'd definitely have lost his leg, possibly his life. He started to realize at that point, what he was costing both himself and his family by being a dumbass. Now he rarely drinks. Because genetically he can't handle it. Growing up responsible, being held accountable by your parents makes a big difference in how a person behaves as an adult.
    I see so many who have no clue, they rail against rules and restrictions without a clue that those restrictions they think they have as teens become 100x more as an adult. Especially as a parent.
    I agree on supporting the teacher, mostly. I have some serious issues with our school systems right now that go far beyond their budget shortfalls.
    I cannot bring myself to agree on the police force. While I am aware that there are some good people on the police force, too many are corrupt or on a power trip. I have personally never had a traffic ticket, speeding ticket, or any criminal charges even pressed against me. I have however been subject to harassment and extreme bullshit. I've had to call them on it many times. I have witnessed it to others many, many times. And I have found the few times I have actually needed assistance they were unavailable or claimed there was nothing they could do. I understand other people rely on their faith in the police, in my experience it has always been too little too late. Now our Fire Dept and EMS teams, totally different story.

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  9. #3 - But as you said people have their own life experiences and opinions on things. Having worked with prisoners perhaps you know that our current system is also part of the problem. We speak of rehabilitation, but in reality people do not want to deal with things. The idea is lock 'em up. Not deal with the issues. How can you expect to throw a bunch of people together in a small space that mostly all have the same mindset and expect them to miraculously change how they think or do things? Really? And why would they? Because when they get home, there are mandatory fines, no jobs, often mandatory classes (that cost quite a bit actually) again no jobs, most times no training available and often no family to help them survive. So they do what they know, they steal, they get high to get away from the sad reality of their lives, they rob people. No I am not saying its ok. What I am saying is often there is not room in a program, parole officers do not help find work, in fact they do not even keep a list of felon friendly companies. If you cannot work, you go to jail, if you go to jail you cannot work. IF you have no training, have been out of the job market, no job.
    We went through this with my husband. He went to prison at 20, with very little job experience. He electively did some classes in prison. Marriage enrichment, parenting, GED. Several others actually as well. He worked while in prison, several different jobs.


    He came home. He was told, you have to pay $60/month to be on supervision. OR we can put you in jail. Plus we want UA's whenever we want them Min $10/UA. Doesn't sound like alot right? Except he had no job. No money for clothes, food, no license (they kept that for old fines and back child support) very little work experience and no work history. So he walked, rode his bike and put in applications everywhere. AT McDonald's he got an interview, when the manager asked him why he hadn't worked for so long, he told her the truth. She stood up, didn't even say that won't work for us, in fact she said nothing just walked away leaving him sitting there. Imagine for a minute if you will what that kind of response does to a person. Over and over and over this kind of thing happened. Finally he was able to get his tattoo license and we borrowed enough money to open his own shop. Because I worked steady. But during that time we racked up almost $3000 in debt to fines for a man who had done his time. The police would pound on our door at 3 am saying they had a domestic violence call and had to check every one UNTIL I informed them that I am in Rotary with the Chief and if it continued I would be filing a complaint. That did not however stop them from stopping him whenever he was walking, searching his person whenever they felt like it, or even to this day pulling me over and looking through my car. I'm sure they have better things to do than harass us, apparently they haven't figured that out yet however. My husband was not in prison for domestic violence. He was in prison for robbing a drug dealer.. Because someone who was with him used a taser he has firearms charges... These drug dealers are doing life for murder. Because the next time they went on a deal to sell weed and decided they would keep the weed and the cash, they simply shot the person rather than having the shit kicked out of them again.
    Yet because he was 20 and stupid we will all pay forever for that moment in time. As if the ten years gone wasn't enough. Because drug dealers have more rights than other people?

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  10. #4- Our system is out of balance. People allow fear to dictate and hide behind both laws and their false sense of security in those laws.
    We need to not simply teach our sons to be good men. We also need to teach our daughters to be good women. I tell my boys over and over all the time, there is nothing more dangerous to you than teenage girls. In the society we live in all they have to do is point a finger and your life is over. It is sad. Because this wildness and irresponsibility in the girls, allowing them to be however they want without the same consequences that boys have, make bitter men who hate women. Its a cycle that cannot be stopped by one thing.
    I am very thankful for my marriage. For the strength and perseverance my husband has shown. I am thankful that he is a role model for our children AND their friends. I am thankful my kids like to have real conversations about real life issues with us, that they engage and learn from our experiences and mistakes. I am thankful for a strong family that has come through HELL more than once and continues on anyway. As a Nation we have a problem, we have been blinded by a fairy tale dream. As a SPECIES we have an even bigger issue.
    There IS EVIL all around. It is in the hearts of us all. Each person chooses to listen to that call or not to listen. It does not matter the tool that is used in the name of evil. In the end even the why does not truly matter. What matters is that we attempt to learn from the bad things and rather than hide, bring them into the light you cannot dispel darkness with more darkness. Face the fear, address it rationally, continue to live and raise your children to the best of your ability. And remember that kid that is friends with your kid... You know the one that acts out and has issues, that your kid insists on being friends with but you think is a BAD influence. YOU have an opportunity to make a difference in that kids life.
    I married that kid. I will never regret that.

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    1. Shoshannah, thank you for your replies! I read all of what you said and you have some very good points. The criminal justice system is definitely broken in many ways. We definitely need to focus on being there for the children of the world and on fixing broken homes and broken parenting. And there are definitely corrupt police officers but they are few and far between and I don't think that should stop us from placing them in schools. Police officers in schools can do so much good, and all I ask (with all the love in my heart for you, friend) is that if presented with an opportunity to support that occurring, you are able to put aside your bad experiences with the police so that the children can have some type of protection. A police officer may be the only line of defense they have.

      I admire how you and your family have been able to prevail after all you have been through. You are so strong, Shoshannah. Keep doing good work, and good luck with that baby! I look forward to seeing photos!

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