I thought about the Columbine shootings, almost 13 years ago. My two oldest children were very small -- one was just a baby. I'd spent years working with troubled teens, as a substance abuse counselor and prevention specialist. I was well aware that high schools were full of angry, troubled kids and violence was a very real problem in schools. But the idea that kids were dying as a direct result of school violence? That was mind-boggling.
Since then, there have been about 30 other school shootings in the U.S., but yesterday seemed equally incomprehensible. I don't remember any other incident in which a killer deliberately opened fire on a group of small children.
Today I read about speculation that the young man responsible for the killings (practically a child himself) may have Asperger's Syndrome and OCD, as well as an unspecified personality disorder. Since I have a kid with Asperger's and severe OCD, this caught my attention. Speculation that deranged killers are on the autism spectrum has become commonplace. It was raised in the wake of the Virginia Tech shooting and after the recent tragedy in the movie theater in Aurora, Colorado. I supposed I shouldn't be surprised. When we talk about school shooters, and other random killers, we're talking about a group of people who tend to be loners, a description that also fits most people on the autism spectrum. But is this connection accurate? Is it relevant? Does it matter?
The autism community doesn't need to bear this burden. Having autism or Asperger's often contributes to isolation, which triggers depression, anxiety and sometimes aggression. But this is a group of folks who are far more likely to be victims of violence than perpetrators. By the way, this is also true of individuals who are mentally ill. People seen as "different" are typically targets of bullying, particularly in schools, with kids identified as LGBT or on the autism spectrum often bearing the brunt.
In the wake of a tragedy like this, all of us -- even those of us not directly affected -- are eager for some kind of answers. I am no exception. I find myself browsing the internet, looking for scraps of insight -- even speculation -- about the perpetrator. What kind of kid turns a gun against his classmates? What creates the kind of human being who murders random movie theater patrons? Who could open fire on small children?
It's innate human nature to want to make sense of things. We take hollow comfort in any sort of pat explanation or possible diagnosis. There's a part of me that sort of hopes the perpetrator was the victim of severe childhood abuse. Something I can wrap my head around ... something that makes sense. Maybe this gives us the reassuring sense that children from "normal" families -- our children -- will not become criminally violent.
Clearly I have no words of wisdom -- I'm just rambling. I can barely bring myself to think about the families of yesterday's victims. As people scramble to make sense of these events, in the days ahead, we'll see folks rounding up the usual suspects: lax gun control laws, "bad" parenting, and violent video games, movies, and T.V. We'll be side-tracked by all sorts of fierce debates about everything from the second amendment to whether our kids will go off the rails if we allow them to play Grand Theft Auto and watch Pulp Fiction.
I truly hope that time will be set aside to discuss the real underlying issues. I don't claim to understand all of them or to know how to solve them. But talking about our badly broken mental health system, here in the U.S., would be a good place to start. Ask any parent who's tried to get meaningful help for a troubled child or a kid with complicated psychological or developmental needs. That parent will have an infuriating story to tell. Trust me on this.
On to the round-up. In the midst of being sick and stuff, we haven't posted any reviews this week. Since I'm so far behind, I will probably publish mini-reviews of my recent books and movies soon.
I did publish one post:
It's a Strange, Strange World/Quick Update on My Life/Thoughts About Grieving -- I was overwhelmed by all the kind, thoughtful comments I received on that post. I'm thinking about writing a post on excellent books and/or films that deal with the subject of grief, and commenters left me loads of great recommendations. Thanks, everybody! All your comments on this post meant a lot to me. ;-)
Read: A Brief Lunacy by Cynthia Thayer (3.5/5 stars)
Jessie and Carl have made a terrible mistake. They should have been more careful. When Jonah came to their cabin in the Maine woods, asking to use the phone, they should never have let him in. But he told them his campsite had been robbed and he was stranded with no money and no gear. Jessie took pity on him. She was thinking about her own missing daughter, Sylvie, and hoping she was receiving the same kindness--wherever she was.
So, they invite him in, share their dinner with him, offer him a bed for the night. And they discover that this stranger at their table knows all about them. About Sylvie, their troubled daughter; about the secrets they haven't revealed to each other during forty years of marriage. By morning, they realize the young man has no intention of leaving.
Jessie and Carl are now captives in their own home.
Started Reading: Flesh by Khanh Ha
The setting is Tonkin (northern Vietnam) at the turn of the 20th century. A boy, Tai, witnesses the beheading of his father, a notorious bandit, and sets out to recover his head and then to find the man who betrayed his father to the authorities. On this quest, Tai's entire world will shift.
Movies I Watched:
|Lovely and very real, but not big on plot.|
|Are we being invaded by zombies, or are those dudes just stoned?|
Shaun of the Dead (4/5 stars) -- I rewatched this, for the zillionth time, with my teens. :-) Yup, it's still hilarious.
|Hilarious, believable dialogue.|
|That's one character who's hard not to bitch-slap.|
|A unique sort of thriller.|
|The dark side of adolescent boys. Keep your daughters at home.|
Dollhouse -- In addition to rewatching all the Doctor Who episodes from the Matt Smith era, this is my current T.V. addiction. We've only seen the first few episodes. So far, the dialogue isn't as good as I'd expect from Joss Whedon, but the story is interesting and addictive.
Some Posts I've Enjoyed:
Jessica at the Velvet Cafe wrote a lovely review of a movie I'm really looking forward to: "Amour is as unsentimental as it is heartbreaking --
Have you ever been close to illness and death? I mean, really close, so close that you grew ten years older over a night? Have you ever seen someone near you fading away from you physically and mentally, standing helplessly at their side, unable to do anything more than just being there, not running away in fear? Do you think about your own upcoming death and how your life will look when you’re in your 80s and you’ll hear the countdown watch louder and clearer day by day?Alex at And So It Begins also wrote a wonderful review of Amour
David at Taste of Cinema wrote about 10 Classic Romances of the '80s You Should Watch Again. Nice! :-)
How many times did I see An Officer and a Gentleman with my high school best friend? Damn! We had such a crush on Richard Gere.
m.brown wrote a priceless review for Antichrist by Lars van Trier. Since I would rather have a sharp stick in my eye than watch this film, I appreciated getting the gist of it, in a relatively painless way, in his usual hilarious style.
Theresa at Red Oak Road blogged about art appreciation books to share with your kids
Nostra at My Filmviews posted some hilarious cinematic captions for The Hobbit
And finally ... parents, don't miss Books for Curious Children -- Part One and Part Two -- at The Estella Society