Newtown, CT will not be the last time tragedy strikes

I will say this up front: Newtown, Connecticut will not be the last time tragedy strikes. For good or bad, in this age of social media including twitter, it is easier to track the coverage of this story and people’s opinions about it. I have been thinking about this constantly today, and talking with my friends and neighbors about what happened this morning.

Outlining the problems setting up this tragedy are well known and well documented:

  • Mental illness. It is no secret that there is lack of adequate tracking and treatment of the mentally ill in the United States. I wrote a series of posts more than 5 years ago following the Virginia Tech shootings: “Mental Care Delivery In the US,” “Depression = Murderer?” “Privacy Laws Need Scrutinized” Will mental illness finally have its due and be seriously addressed in this country? Nope.
  • Guns. Do guns kill people? Yes. Do people kill people? Yes. Do we need more gun laws? Probably. Are there too many gun laws? Probably. Twitter is fired up on this issue right now. Will anything really change? Nope. Republicans will not let that happen.
  • American culture. Of course there is a desensitization of violence in American culture. This has been happening for a long time. The usual suspects will be blamed including music, the internet, movies, television and video games. Will anything about these change? Nope. Democrats will not let that happen.

Newtown will be added to the litany of names of other tragedies like Columbine, Virginia Tech, Tucson, Aurora, this week’s Happy Valley Oregon. The question always turns to this: “How can we prevent the next tragedy?” More gun laws? Probably. Better mental illness care? Probably. Changing American culture? Probably.

But, let me tell you this. Change is not going to happen. There has to me massive steps on multiple fronts to even try to address this very complicated problem. That is what makes this a continual sad situation. This story will be in the news cycle for two weeks. And, then after Christmas and after New Years, the drive to make change will dissipate.

I wrote the following passage back in 2007 in a post entitled, “Can The Cycle Be Broken“, and, again in 2011 following the shootings in Tuscon, and unfortunately, it still rings true today:

Of course, people are outraged by this situation. I’m outraged by what happened. But, I’ve seen this too many times. We are shocked by what happened, we mourn the victims, we blame whomever we need to blame for what happened, then we go back to our apathy until the next tragedy happens. Well, I’m sick and tired of this useless cycle. Instead of outrage turning into apathy, let’s turn outrage into action. And, I’m not talking about knee-jerk reactions…

Um, uh, wait a minute. As I think about things now, I’m thinking about what realistically can happen? Would it mean a radical change in American culture? A culture that celebrates violence? A culture that makes celebrities out of people like Eric Harris, Dylan Klebold, and Cho Seung-Hui. Unfortunately, this is a culture that shirks at the idea of accountability. A culture that believes that it’s someone else’s job to fix the problem. A country and culture that feels no personal investment to fix its own problems. Am I wrong here? Please tell me I’m wrong…

It breaks my heart that tragedies like this continue to happen. But, if this status quo continues, I will wait for the next city to be added to this list to write about this again.

Mike Sevilla is a family physician who blogs at Family Medicine Rocks

email

Comments are moderated before they are published. Please read the comment policy.

  • drmikesevilla

    Thanks again for the opportunity to post on the Kevin, MD blog!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=881580563 Kristy Sokoloski

    Thanks also for this article. All good reminders.

  • JonSanders

    Republicans? I guess you don’t know how politics works. Divisive issues are kept alive by both sides because that’s how politicians generate donations. Abortion and gun control are probably the top two but, there are others.

  • Gordon Terry

    We can start by getting rid of the ‘Gun Free Zone’ and allowing licensed teachers and staff to carry, if they so choose. When a killer reaches the point where they no longer care about their own life, they certainly don’t care about breaking laws. This predator needed to be put down quickly, and even one armed staff member could have protected the children. The signs may as well read ‘Victims Disarmed for Your Convenience’.

    • bill10526

      Even one armed staff member could have protected the children is true only if the staff member was near to the carnage and got the shooter into his field of action before the shooter got him. In Aurora, the killer had body armor that would have frustrated normal hand guns. What is needed is a study of the risks to children in schools. It is not zero as the Chinese found in their earthquake and the Japanese in their 3/11/11 tsunami. My understanding is that risk from gun violence is less than the risk from lighting. People shout for seat belts on school buses after every accident. But school buses are the safest mode of transportation. The risk from gun violence in schools is probably as low as it can get.

      Early on it was taught that the newton shooter’s mother was a teacher at the school, but that was not true. Why the school and why was the shooting so lethal. Only one person was wounded to go with 26 murders. I think the fellow was trying to break the Virginia Tech record like people making huge pizzas.

  • http://twitter.com/ClaudiaNichols PilotHealthAdvocates

    Thank you for this blunt assessment of our society and the disease that consumes it. I will cross-post this to all of my social media venues. The challenge: How does one person make a difference in the effort to prevent such tragedies from ever occurring again?

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1048633572 Daity E. Salvosa

    Thank you!

  • LBENT

    Totally agree. So we are all responsible. And the future looks bleak. Physicians have to be a voice for ending the stress and violence that have invaded the homes of our families and friends. Staying healthy in the next century is going to depend on this more than anything else.

  • drmikesevilla

    Thanks so much for your feedback and your comments. Hopefully the people’s will for change will change into political will to find a solution