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Read when you have courage: Too many shootings and deaths

What should be done about all of these shootings and deaths?

I remember when I was teaching early childhood education, a very seasoned teacher-turned-guidance-counselor showed me one of the best tricks ever: The teacher (ie: leader or boss or organizer) can change the behavior of the students (ie: citizens or workers or attendees) by arranging the environment a certain way.

In my first grade classroom, I had problems with too much milling about, and misbehavior my colleague thought could be due to a lack of structure. We changed the furniture so that there just weren’t any long paths to run across. We made the shelves prettier and actually put silk flowers out to create a sense of calm. We put emphasis on the calendar, so children could feel in control of what specials and activities they would have each day. It really did help the atmosphere of my classroom.

And, after that, I always noticed how the set up of a room can effect how people interact with each other. (You may know the old trick of putting the desks in a circle for more discussion and interaction.) And, I also realized the power of the person who sets the tone, and controls the environment.

There is a lot going on in the world to create anxiety and stress for citizens. The economy is bad. People have money problems, or have lost their jobs. It is more tedious to get what you want, there is less money to buy services or go out to eat. There is a war going on, for which we have to hear and process about the deaths occurring, and for which we have to live among the folks who have fought in it and are now veterans who sometimes need our help.

Adding to all this, the earth has moved, and there is less light in the day. That affects a lot of people. But, also, our government decides we should set the clocks back for Daylight Savings Time. That is a further jolt to people’s system. And, it caused many people to have insomnia, and even more stress. Have you noticed, too, that when it turns dark so early, people aren’t used to it, so they are driving really strange around twilight? I have seen lots of near misses on the road in the last couple of weeks.

I can’t help but think that all of these background stresses have added up to a whole lot of violent, horrible deaths in the last few days. I try to keep focused on my own life and problems, and to not get too distracted by the news. Heck, I don’t even have a TV. But, I am on the internet, looking for political news, and these stories keep popping up that call for my attention. And, after awhile, you think that you see a pattern. You want to make sure other people see the pattern. And, you want to hope that you and/or other people have some ideas to make things better.

So, as part of a kind of ritual of acknowledging, and hopefully letting go, I have to list the shootings that have occurred throughout our country since last Thursday. Maybe you keep hearing about them, too, and mixing one up with the other. You are not crazy. It has been an extra bizarre spell of shooting deaths and bad news. Hopefully, someone will get out the statistics soon, and assure us that this is an anomaly. And also, afterward, I want to think of some ways to address this. When the universe gives us a challenge like this, we have to rise to the occasion with a good response — even if our leaders do not always do that.

So, here goes…don’t read if you are too depressed…

A list of some shootings that happened in America from Thursday until today:

-Fort Hood, TX – Thursday. 13 killed and 30 wounded.
-Orlando, FL – Friday. 1 killed and 5 wounded. Workplace shooting.
-Colorado – late Saturday night. 1 killed and 3 wounded. The shooter was a Vietnam Vet with PTSD
-Fort Worth, TX – Saturday night. 1 killed (a 16-year-old girl. Incident possibly gang related)
-Tuscon, Arizona – late Saturday night. 1 killed and 1 wounded. Happened at a texting party.
-Reading, PA at a Speak Easy – Sunday. 1 killed and 6 wounded. (possibly included up to 4 gunmen)
-Kansas City, MO – Monday. 4 wounded (3 teenage girls and an adult man) Related to school fight
-Seattle, Washington, a strange workplace dispute – Monday. 2 injured in attempted murder-suicide
-South Carolina – Monday. 3 killed and 6 wounded.
-Fairfax, VA – Monday. 2 killed. (Probably a domestic incident)
-West Palm Beach, FL – Monday. 1 killed and 1 wounded. Tree trimmers attacked during robbery
-West Philadelphia – Tuesday. 1 killed and 1 wounded.

(I say to the universe: Enough! That’s it. Give us time to heal and sort this out.)

How are we to process all of that? Should all of us have to process all of that? I am thinking that perhaps some of the problem is the scope of news organizations, so that something that is local news becomes forced in front of our eyes based on the media market. As a citizen (not a law enforcement agent or elected official) in Long Island, NY, I am not sure the value of me hearing about a domestic shooting in Fairfax, Virginia, or a shooting in some other part of the country, as long as the gunman is not on the loose.

And, I have to say, it is not helping me one bit that the person who killed people in the Beltway sniper incidents is going to be executed, and that the news is rehashing that story. It is just another horrible narrative to deal with. And, it is making me realize how the karma of government murder in the form of execution has such a profound psychic blowback. Society is now having to deal with another life lost to murder/execution. And, in order to justify that execution, we also have to hear the government and the media recite the stories of those past murders, at a time when death is already too much in the news.

I guess some of the overabundance of these stories to ingest relates to my own patterns. As I look for political news around the country, I stumble upon these other stories. Perhaps some of you reading this had not heard about all those incidents. But, I can’t help but think that a lot of this pops up on the front page of the e-mail services that most of us use. And, that they are probably mentioned on national television if they have some aspect about them that a newsroom thinks will be compelling or very visual.

How could we make it so that we, personally, have to ingest less of these stories?

Should there be protocols, or even rules, so that the media has to report the stories more responsibly?

Though, I am also interested in deeper answers to what could be done to slow down the momentum of the shooting violence. I do wonder if some of the abundance of all these shootings is related to fear among the population because of a shooting at a military base. I know that when news reports – evidently wrongly – reported more than one shooter at Fort Hood, I was very worried that something big was about to happen. How did those reports get out? How could such false information, that would be so upsetting, get out so fast?

And, after the incident happened, what are ways that our government could have helped us? Could the government or military have stopped the erroneous stories from getting out that it was more than one shooter? Was it the job of the President, or the military leaders, or our local elected officials, to do something profound, proactive and healing after it happened? Were there speeches? Were they good enough? Should people have swung open the door to mental health clinics? Should the government commission a songwriter to quickly make a song of healing to put on the news as an antidote to the fear that spread with the bad news?

Related to all these shootings: Are there things that our government or other leaders could have done that might have stopped them? I mean, thinking of all actions, at a deep level. Many of these shooters were people expressing anger and frustration. If our government constantly made economic and power decisions to support prosperity and citizen empowerment, would these people have been less likely to wind up in a state of desperation?

If mental health care was more available – ie: because candidates and congresspeople did not take money from health insurance lobbyists; because our government had worked out a health care deal decades ago when problems started to arise; etc – would some of these people have gotten help months or years ago? If the government had spent money and resources on reminding people that it is okay to seek mental health support (as advocates like to preach), would more of these people sought help?

What if law enforcement handled things differently overall? In the instance of the shooting outside the school in Kansas City, the shooting happened after a fight inside the school where adults used pepper spray to break up a student fight? That decision seems like a law enforcement idea bound to have blowback. Perhaps law enforcement needs to internalize the oath of “First do no harm”, especially in instances where young people, or lots of innocent people are present.

Here are some wishes I have, for a world more resilient against outbursts of violence:

-When someone loses his or her job, they can envision finding financial support from the community or government until they are back on their feet again.
-People have access to mental health care.
-Schools teach, and the community support for adults, lessons in conflict resolution and Nonviolent Communication.
-More people like and trust law enforcement.
-There is less classism and racism, so that more people like and trust law enforcement.
-The leadership at school districts strive to bring out the best in young people, so that there is not a need for armed security at schools.
-Gun laws are put in check, so that there are less guns, and less guns in the hands of criminals.
-Gun manufacturers are forced to make guns that would do less damage.
-Gun manufacturers and gun sellers are held more liable for shootings that occur with their product.
-News organizations care about the impact of their reporting, so that one horrible story does not cause the stress that leads to other horrible stories.
-There are news outlets that discover ways to provide news that is shielded for graphic violence, or useless stories about far away violent incidents.
-Governments who build buildings, and architects who plan buildings and cities, and communities who vote on creating buildings and cities take into account measures to make them more harmonious – stop overcrowding, how must people pass each other in hallways, how safe are things, is there art, beauty, and nature which soothes people and reduces violence?

I also wish that our government would think about karma, so that we would stop the wars overseas. All these deaths are horrible, but we can’t forget the horrible deaths happening in the wars going on in Iraq and Afghanistan. These wars make no sense: There were no weapons of mass destruction; These countries were not responsible for 9-11; Killing people is not making things better.

But, hearing about the deaths is worrying us and weighing us down. And, dealing in death is killing our American people, and giving us bad karma for killing other people. A recent article at Reuters gives the figures for how many people have died in the Iraq War:

U.S.-LED COALITION FORCES: United States 4,362; Britain 179; Other nations 139

IRAQIS: Military Between 4,900 and 6,375; Civilians Between 93,897 and 102,451

Our personal healing:

I am guessing and hoping that the people reading this blog will not be the kind of people who will ever go out and cause great violence. But, we are all part of the energy of this world. And, it would be great if we all discovered our own building sense of calm, peace and harmony. So, here are some ideas that you might think about to help yourself settle down into the winter, and the shorter days, with more calm and security:

-Get lots of rest. And, try to stay on a good sleep schedule. The time change may have thrown off your sleep schedule. Make yourself get back on track.

-Get sunshine. Go out of your way to be outside.

-Consider a lightbox. They aren’t a toy, so you can even think about it with your health care provider. They have full spectrum light, and you use them in the morning to adjust to the amount of light in the winter. Extra helpful for people with Season Affective Disorder and/or the winter blahs.

-Exercise to stay healthy. Exercise to fight off cabin fever. Exercise, move, dance, go on walks, etc, to let your body experience movement and creativity and joy.

-If you feel frustrated or angry, find someone you trust to talk with about it.

-Don’t be afraid to seek counseling from a health care professional, mentor, or spiritual leader.

-If you are feeling sad and confused and desperate, please hide your gun until Spring.

-Study conflict resolution, Nonviolent communication, or even assertiveness training. Realize how important it is to relate to other people and build friendships. Study new ways to communicate and create intimacy.

-Turn off the Television and/or computer when you have heard too many stories

-Seek community. Be among friends.

-Seek out nature, it is very healing.

-Seek out art, it is almost as good as nature. And, you can find art that addresses your own current issues, concerns and struggles.

I am going to go outside and get some sunshine, now. In the next day or so, I may go back to this post and try to create links to support some of the ideas and suggestions I tossed around.

-Kimberly

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