Category Archives: Violence

Mass Shootings:  An Action Plan – By Delinda McCann

 

guns 2

In my last article I insisted that we can change the direction our society is taking in allowing mass shootings.  I called for dialog and a definition of the problem along with some hints at how to engage all sectors of our communities in productive prevention.  What can you do?

First, realize that you can make a difference.  I made a difference in the world of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome.   We all have our gifts, the things we are good at doing.  I’m okay on computers, so I developed the first web site on earth to teach about Fetal Alcohol Syndrome.  I didn’t have much information, but I shared what was available at the time.  My information reached around the globe as government officials and public health workers contacted me for more information.  Soon, I had them talking to each other about what they were doing.

People who are good at computers can organize the wider community to work together, sharing information, advocacy materials, and how-to lessons for approaching legislators and businesses.

Schools will play a huge role in prevention.  They already identify at-risk youth.  They need funding and community support to develop educational opportunities to keep at-risk youth engaged whether this be drama, band, wood or auto body shop or classes in Movies and Culture.  Our schools know which kids will not be able to participate in such projects, and they need to be pro-active in supporting parents to get the kid into counseling and keep him there.

My friend and colleague, Jocie DeVries, was a woman on a mission when advocating for individuals with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome.  She would go anywhere and talk to anybody.  She followed her instincts to meet the people who needed to know about the behavioral aspects of the disability.  Some people can talk to anybody.  Those people need to start talking to school officials, the mayor, the newspaper, their legislators, or maybe the woman in the office at the end of the hall.  When we start to talk to people, we don’t have to have all the answers for solving our problems.  We just need start the dialog and then listen and learn.

Everybody can write a short note to their legislators, newspaper, mayor, council representative or state representative asking for research on the topic of mass shootings and for public dialog on how to meet the needs of people at-risk for perpetuating violence.  The dialog needs to happen at the community level in order to access available community resources and find the weak places in the community structure.

Do some online research.  Who is doing research on gun violence?  You will find that congress has placed limits on what the Center for Disease Control can do or say.  Can you find federally funded research on gun violence?

Of course, as you start talking about preventing violence, you will run into many if not most people who will tell you the task is impossible.  The correct response is to ignore them and move on.  When working in advocacy, we used to say, “Step over the dead bodies and move on.”  That phrase probably isn’t the best when talking about gun violence, but the advice is still good.

Before writing this week’s articles, I wrote a frustrated post on Facebook.  (1) Basically, I mentioned five things that I could do to raise awareness of the issues around gun violence.  I got back several thoughtful, concrete suggestions about what we as individuals can do to change attitudes about gun violence.  Yes! This short piece was exactly the sort of dialog we need to be having.  Some people shared ideas of services have worked in the past to keep at-risk populations engaged in their community.  From this short experiment, I could see that others focused on the mental health aspects of the problem.  Is that were the bulk of our population thinks we need to go with prevention?  As I read through other dialogues on Facebook about the issue, I noticed that people defined four categories of perpetrators and had some idea of how to serve those categories to prevent those vulnerable people from acting out in violence.  Some people pointed out the cracks in our systems that allow the vulnerable to slip through our network of services.  Yes.  This is what we need to learn in dialog so that each community can move forward to fill in the cracks and build healthy communities.

In my online research, I found an action plan proposed by Bernie Sanders (2) focusing on things government can do to make us safer.  If his legislative plan or any other government plan is to be implemented, it will need public support to overcome the resistance of those who profit from gun violence.  Public dialog can generate that support and fine tune the legislative ideas to make them more effective.

You may well notice that the advocates, teachers and mental health workers focus on mental health and social issues, while the politician focuses on gun control.  This is why we need dialog.  Our public servants need to know what we the people want.  It looks to me as if the people in my small sample want to build healthy communities while the government wants the quick answer of gun control.   We had a similar problem when working with FAS advocacy.  Politicians thought we wanted respite care.  Parents wanted appropriate diagnosis and appropriate school services.  These miscommunications between citizens and public officials can be prevented with appropriate dialog.

I am impressed with what I learned from talking to others.  People do know what they want and how to achieve those goals.  What we need in order to get from here to there is communication that leads to action.  We’ve done this in the past.  We can do it again.  Now, the responsibility for preventing more domestic terrorism is in your lap. What will you do to build the type of healthy society we all want?

 

Delinda McCann is a social scientist with over forty years experience in working with at-risk populations.  She started with a program for migrant workers children, moved on to working with at-risk teens in a street program and finished working in the field of developmental disabilities and Fetal Alcohol Syndrome.  She has worked on committees for the State of Washington and been an advisor to several foreign governments. She currently writes novels that touch on social topics including politics and social justice.  Web site:  http://delindalmccann.weebly.com/index.html

Mass Shootings and the Rise in Violence – By Delinda McCann

“I have no delusion that making assault rifles illegal or intensifying background checks for gun purchases will stop all gun violence. I have no expectation that terrorists and criminals will surrender their weapons or that the insane will not pull their triggers. However, I do believe that if Americans stop making believe that guns are somehow the answer, then those who might be suffering from the frustrations, rage, and mental illnesses that might lead to violence will be less prone to thinking that violence is an acceptable answer to their pain. As long as our culture glorifies violence, it will be the refuge of those who have no place to hide.” –Delinda McCann

guns

Some days we just have to ask ourselves, “What the Hell?”  Yesterday I needed to ask myself that question when I learned of yet another mass shooting and looked at the number of shootings this year.  I looked at the number of civilian shootings.  We probably should add the police shootings to the civilian violence if we want an accurate picture of the senseless violence happening in our country.

Those of us who have some experience in dealing with violence probably should start speaking up.  I’m old.  I’m tired and I don’t want to drive 45 miles to start walking the halls of our legislative buildings.  I’ve done that.  I’ve made changes in our government policy.  I guess I can do it again.  Wish someone else would start the dialog that needs to happen.

The dialog about mass shootings needs to happen in every community.  We need local government sponsored task forces to focus on gun violence.  These task forces need to bring together representatives from the legal system, mental health systems, disability systems, educational systems, and those citizens who work with at-risk populations.  At some point, when talking points are being identified, these meetings need to be open to the public for input.

I am not necessarily talking about gun control here.  I know one of the current major talking points is regulation of guns, which may be part of the solution.  I am more concerned with the social structure around gun violence.  We can perhaps make some progress through gun regulation.  This seems the common sense approach, but we would still leave the support structure for mass murder in place.  My preference is to go for the underlying issues that allow and promote senseless violence.

I am talking about how communities can address the topic of prevention.  Where do the perpetrators come from?  Where have the perpetrators come into contact with community systems?  Where have our systems failed that these angry people are running loose in society without appropriate support systems around them?  Can we identify the intervention touchpoints for violent mass offenders? We already know that they all have at least one characteristic in common.  Mass murderers do not have the cognitive filters that prevent the vast majority of the population from committing acts of violence.

We also know why some people do not have the filters necessary to prevent them from carrying out horrific acts of violence.  Prenatal exposure to various toxins can damage the brain in such a way that the brain cannot communicate within itself to built the filters that stop murderous rage attacks.  We also know that broken bonding can prevent the filters from forming.  Broken bonding can occur when a child is placed out of home, but it can also occur with a child who has undiagnosed allergies or multiple ear infections among other childhood situations.

The private sector very much needs to be involved in the dialog on gun violence.  What can the business sector do to make their communities more safe? Can they sponsor work programs to give disengaged youth a place where they belong?  Do they need to change policies for employees so they can be with their children as infants or when they are sick?

Churches are very much at the center of the issue and need to start working on how their policies promote, enable or prevent gun violence.  Churches can sponsor programs for children and youth to give youth another place to belong and succeed.  They need to examine their teaching to assure that they are not promoting hate and violence.

The entertainment industry needs to take a look at their ethical responsibility around the idea that violence is the solution to every problem.  Does exposure to violent video games really promote violence as some suggest or is the root of the problem exposure to a chemical?

At this point, we really don’t know why mass shooters and trigger-happy cops do not have the cognitive filters necessary to prevent violent acting out.  We talk about stress and mental health issues.  How do these play into the whole picture of what has become domestic terrorism?

We will need to address the issue of government agencies and businesses that do not want to find the solutions that will prevent mass violence.  We need to face the fact that some people profit from mass shootings, and they will shove people into walls and step on small women to keep their profits.  However, we shouldn’t let the lowest levels of humanity prevent us from building the type of communities where we can go about our business in relative safety.

I can make some guesses about what we will find when we start defining and exploring the problem.  The actual perpetrators are probably only the foam on a whole lake of slimy scum.  We will find manipulators and enablers.  We will find big money intent on perpetrating the problem.  We will find deniers.  We will find evil, lots and lots of just plain evil perpetuated by a sub-human species intent only on their own profits and prestige.

The good news is that there are more of us than there are evil people profiting off of mass shootings.  There are more of us than there are people without the brain connections to filter out violent behavior.  There are more of us than there are indolent government officials.  There are move of us, and we have made a difference in the past.  We have taken lead out of paint.  We have gotten labels on cigarette packages.  We got DDT banned.  We have cleaned up our air.  We have raised awareness about drinking when pregnant.  We can and will stop random mass shootings.

Please come back later this week for the second half of this article that outlines an action plan anybody can follow to move us toward a healthier society.

Delinda McCann is a social scientist with over forty years experience in working with at-risk populations.  She started with a program for migrant workers children, moved on to working with at-risk teens in a street program and finished working in the field of developmental disabilities and Fetal Alcohol Syndrome.  She has worked on committees for the State of Washington and been an advisor to several foreign governments. She currently writes novels that touch on social topics including politics and social justice.  Web site:  http://delindalmccann.weebly.com/index.html

 

Those Scary Moments By Trish Jackson

 

elephant-426990_640

It has often been documented that one’s life passes before one in a near death situation, and then a bright light appears. But what about experiences that are not quite that close to death, but are pretty scary anyhow? We all have them. Here are some of mine.

My husband’s position as the group geophysicist for a large international mining group in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) often took him to remote and isolated regions. The ongoing war with communist-trained terrorists who crossed our borders, and raped, tortured and murdered the innocent had caused the company to implement a policy disallowing women and children from traveling with their husbands to out-of-the-way areas. We all know rules are made to be broken, and when David invited me to accompany him to Sengwa coal field, I conned a friend into taking care of our children for a few days.

Most of the company Land Rovers were landmine-protected—reinforced with thick steel plate underneath, but David chose to use the fancy Land Rover with the leather bucket seats and softer suspension—the one that wasn’t mine-protected. He wanted me to be more comfortable. I wasn’t. I sat as lightly as I could—if it’s possible to sit lightly—the entire journey of over 100 miles of dirt road.

Needless to say, I was more than a little relieved when we arrived at the Sengwa mine compound in one piece. The relief was short-lived. A military unit had commandeered the complex, and were digging trenches and laying sandbags. We were told they were expecting to be mortared that night. Turning around and going home on those roads at night was not an option.

My respect for soldiers everywhere grew exponentially. I was issued with a military rifle, and as I took a couple of practice shots, I thought, ‘Is this really happening? Am I going to have to spend the night in those trenches with mortars being fired at us tonight? What happens if they score a direct hit on the trench?’

As it turned out, the attack didn’t come. We spent a restless night inside the building listening to the radio communications, but come morning the danger had passed. The only incident reported was that the local chief had been killed by a land mine overnight, but thankfully, the villagers had not been attacked.

I was thrilled when our Land Rover wouldn’t start and we had to take one of the mine-protected vehicles for the return journey, which was uneventful until we rounded a bend and almost ran into a herd of elephants. The elephants in that area were known to be aggressive, and had picked up a few vehicles and thrown them around and trampled them. We moved way back, and waited for them to head off into the bush.

Back at home on a later date, I was riding my horse, Calypso, alone in a remote corner of a sizeable cattle ranch. I stopped to let him drink at a water trough, and as I glanced up into the thick brush facing me, I caught movement. The shadowy silhouette of someone lifting something to their shoulders, like they were aiming a rifle—at me. Terrorists were known to pass through our area, but they didn’t generally attack anyone there because the country’s borders were too far away for a quick retreat. I forced myself to act calm, although my heart hammered as I turned Calypso around and walked away. Knowing that someone is aiming a rifle at your back is terrifying, and it took all my will-power not to spur Calypso into a gallop. To this day I often wonder who it was in those bushes, and if I really was in danger.

I think we all find ourselves in a perilous situation at least once in our lives, and each and every one of us has a story to tell. The awesome thing about people is that everyone’s story is totally different, and I love hearing them. Maybe you could tell us yours in the comments section.

Editor’s Note: Comments are always appreciated. We like to know what interests our readers. You don’t have to be a member of the blog or even a writer, and you don’t need a website.

 

Trish Jackson believes that her real life adventures growing up in Africa sparked a love for adventure, and being a romantic at heart, she writes romantic suspense. Her latest novel, Virgo’s Vice is set to be released before the end of 2015. http://www.trishjackson.com

Do Words Change Our Responses to Violence and Injustice?   By Joyce F. Elferdink

Doublespeak_From a book cover on Doublespeak by Matthew Feldman                                      cover

Scene 1; Take I

 Awakened by my alarm set for WHYD 89.9 FM, the station that usually bore me gently back to the living, instead shocked me into a fully awake state today with this news flash:

A bomb exploded last night in Our Savior Catholic Church, killing at least 220 persons. Most of the dead are high school students who were practicing for a fundraising concert to continue Mother Teresa’s work in Calcutta. No group has yet taken credit for this heinous act, although evidence points to an anti-gay group. Our Savior’s priest who allowed the church to sponsor meetings of Until Love is Equal is among the dead. Most of the families of the dead teens were already reeling from the announcement last week by Heinz Distillers NA that positions for 700 of the 1476 currently employed locally will be abolished by month end and the lines moved overseas. With unemployment in the area already at a twenty hear high, the surviving family members will become poor overnight. The company’s CEO, Nicholas Nastii, defended the firings as necessary to remain competitive. He was quoted as saying, “Our wage expenses were too high, especially when the jobs required a level of expertise unavailable. We’ve contracted with Employment Services to help those being downsized find more suitable jobs.”

 

Scene 1; Take II

Awakened by my alarm set for WHYD 89.9 FM, I brushed my teeth as I half listened to the announcer discuss last night’s news. Something about an incident that occurred somewhere in the area…

Student workers—as many as 220–have been reclassified as collateral damage. The youth were practicing for a concert in a faith-based facility when the mishap occurred. This comes at a very bad time for most of the families. Many of the teens and their parents were employed by Heinz Distillers NA. The company, the region’s major employer, just last week announced plans to outsource fifty percent of its bottling unit to the U.S., a very large end user and said to have cheaper immigrant labor. Surveys of families affected by the mishap and downsizing indicate the majority will be forced  into the ranks of the economically disadvantaged.  Heinz CEO says that is not so. “These people only need to revise their employment expectations. Those who are willing to work will be able to afford all necessities.”

How differently did your mind and heart respond when the news reporter used the following terms instead of plain English: Collateral damage  instead of  death and property destruction; downsizing instead firing; economically disadvantaged instead of poor; mishap instead of catastrophe. There’s also outsourced and faith-based, which some would label doublespeak.

This is my attempt at doublespeak, a term that combines George Orwell’s ‘doublethink’ and ‘newspeak’ that he originated for his political novel 1984.” As he saw it: “Political language . . . is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.” (George Orwell, “Politics and the English Language,” 1946)

In 1974, the National Council of Teachers of English established a Doublespeak Award, given annually to “public speakers who have perpetuated language that is grossly deceptive, evasive, euphemistic, confusing, or self-centered.” Recipients have included the CIA, Exxon Corporation, the U.S. Department of Defense (three times), Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Glenn Beck.
[Retrieved from http://grammar.about.com/od/words/a/Doublespeak-Soft_Language-Gobbledygook.htm]

What person or organization would you nominate for the Doublespeak Award, whether public speakers, writers, or  other “taxpayers”—oops, are all citizens taxpayers? And please explain the criteria for your selection.

 

Joyce Elferdink’s Bio:

This author thinks of herself as a teacher, apprentice, traveler and activist. Her inspiration comes from life experiences and an overactive imagination (nothing new to authors) and by the diverse novels she reads (but primarily science fiction). This summer she was stunned to receive an Excellence in Teaching award from her employer, Davenport University. Now if she could only get one of those equally prestigious awards for her novel, Pieces of You or the one just begun, The Battle of Jericho, 2035. Actually, her primary purpose for writing is to make readers think about questions we all may be asking.