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Wednesday, December 19, 2012

'Suffer the Little Children'

   The Lamb

Little Lamb, who made thee?
Dost thou know who made thee?
Gave thee life, and bid thee feed
By the stream and o'er the mead;
Gave thee clothing of delight,
Softest clothing, woolly, bright;
Gave thee such a tender voice,
Making all the vales rejoice?
Little Lamb, who made thee?
Dost thou know who made thee?

Little Lamb, I'll tell thee,
Little Lamb, I'll tell thee:
He is called by thy name,
For he calls himself a Lamb;

He is meek and he is mild,
He became a little child:
I a child, and thou a lamb,
We are called by his name.
Little lamb, God bless thee!
Little lamb, God bless thee!

-William Blake 'Songs of Innocence', 1789

The Tyger
Tyger! Tyger! burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

In what distant deeps or skies
Burnt the fire of thine eyes?
On what wings dare he aspire?
What the hand dare sieze the fire?

And what shoulder, & what art.
Could twist the sinews of thy heart?
And when thy heart began to beat,
What dread hand? & what dread feet?

What the hammer? what the chain?
In what furnace was thy brain?
What the anvil? what dread grasp
Dare its deadly terrors clasp?

When the stars threw down their spears,
And watered heaven with their tears,
Did he smile his work to see?
Did he who made the Lamb make thee?

Tyger! Tyger! burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?

-William Blake 'Songs of Experience', 1794 
Above are two of William Blakes' most notorious and most analyzed poems.  They compare the age old dichotomous relationship, between good and evil.  How can the same G-d have created both good, the lamb, and evil, the tiger?  How can a world be filled with innocent little lambs, children and babies, while also hiding monstrous tigers, murderers and rapists?  I know that sounds like an extreme, but really that's what the two images conjure.  

Lambs, in this sense, represent everything that is innocent and pure about our lives.  So, reasonably we would think of children, as they are innocent, having what many would call a 'tabula rosa' (clean slate).  Then, there are lions who devour the lambs without a second thought.  The lions being all the sex offenders and kidnappers, murderers and psychopaths out there lying in wait with bloodthirsty jaws.  Perhaps, however, there is more to this metaphor than first meets the eye.  

Perhaps all of us are both the lion and the lamb at once.  Or, maybe when we see acts of evil, we fear that becoming the lion might not be so far-flung and unusual.  This is true, especially since acts of terror and carnage are becoming more commonplace.  So what is it that we fear most at hearing stories like what happened at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, CT?  

As a parent, I put a new spin on things when I read about terrible tragedies like the one that just transpired in Newtown, Connecticut.  Why would anyone want to sire children in a world so full of evil and wrongdoing?  We cannot protect our 'lambs' from the 'tigers' than what's the point?  That is the reverberating phrase that keeps repeating in many of our heads in the past few days.  If we cannot protect our children, our 'lambs' from the 'tigers' of the world then who can?   

Hearing about 20 children getting shot alongside of 6 adults in what is otherwise a very safe, low-crime town, it is shocking to all of our senses.  When I first heard about it, I thought that the gunman must be insane.  How can anyone shoot children?  Although, I would also ask, how can a person shoot anyone (though that brings up questions of survival and self-defense).  So, I go back to the former question.  HOW CAN ANYONE KILL/HARM A CHILD?  It is so distanced from the reality that I imagine we live in, a place where even murderers shun this thought.  In fact, in prisons, child molesters are often killed/beaten because they are considered low on the totem pole.  Even many hardened criminals would shun the idea of hurting a child.
I realize I'm making some generalities, but it is a commonly accepted fact that children deserve to be shielded from the pain, strife, and suffering that adults face.  This includes watching the news and rated-R movies.  But I digress.  My point is that, most people would agree that shielding children from danger is a top priority of our society.  We have countless numbers of organizations that help runaways, feed and clothe children, find shelter for homeless or orphaned kids.  We invest a lot of
 money, time, and resources into helping hurt, neglected, and abused children, as we should.
So, I will make a point that we should also be investing a lot of money, time, and resources, the very same that goes into helping our little 'lambs' into helping the 'tiger'.  The addicts and mentally unstable people in our society need help.  It is a fact that the majority, if not all of the shooters in recent massacres have had mental instability.  So, does this mean to bring back the asylum where we dumb the mentally/criminally insane and throw away the key?  Should we invest more energy into in-patient facilities where patients can deal with their addictions, compulsions and mania?  I think the key question to helping our 'lambs' is to help the 'tigers' as well.  In fact, shouldn't we do this in the thought that the little 'lambs' could one day become 'tigers'?
Also, many people lump together categories that describe anyone who has mental or physical limitations.  However, there are degrees that separate a schizophrenic from a person who is bi-polar or someone who has severe meth addiction.  I know it seems strange to put drug addiction and mental illness in the same category, but many who suffer from mental issues use drugs as a salve to their suffering.  And, everyone knows that drugs, especially meth and heroine can only further one's mental mania.
Remember, Charles Manson?  Well, I would argue that he did LSD and speed way too many times and actually fried his brain, like the old 'this is your brain on drugs' frying pan 'say no' eighties drug ad campaign.  The same thing happens all the time with addicts.  They use the substance to mask and hide the real issue.  I would venture to say that there must be a strong correlation between addicts and people with mental issues.  If I were a betting man, I'd bet the whole ranch, in fact.
Now, back to Sandy Hook.  Many people are discussing how we can prevent this tragedy from happening yet again.  One way, is for the media to change how it portrays and responds to tragedies of this nature.  The media have been obsessed with details, often telling us what the shooter's father drives or what the shooter's mother's last meal was.  I really don't care.  In fact, what I want the media talking about (and some are) is solutions.  How are WE, as a nation going to put our heads together and stop mass shootings from being a common headliner.
It wasn't too long ago that we read about a gunman opening fire on a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado in July of this year.  Then, the Tuscon shooting that left US Representative Gabrielle Giffords in critical condition.  Or how about the student who went on a rampage at Virginia Tech in April, 2007?   Or the first major event of its kind, the Columbine shooting in April of 1999?  Then there are all of the smaller incidents that aren't front page.  The shootings at shopping centers, places of worship, schools, malls, and department stores.  Then, taking it further, all the shootings in South Central LA or South Side Chicago, East St. Louis or Newark and Detroit.  The violence has to end somewhere. Otherwise, there's no end to this cycle.
Now, I'm not advocating for a ban on guns.  I partially am an advocate for arming oneself, as my family's history conjoins with that of the Holocaust, and one of Hitler's first proclamations to Jews was to take away their guns.  So, this is partially why I am not fully pro/anti gun.  I am pro using guns/weapons wisely and only in situations that warrant their use (like self-defense or zombie apocalypse).  The latter was a joke, to add humor to a very grim subject, but I do think we need to reexamine our relationship with guns.
First of all, there is no reason why ANY individual should have military grade weapons, like the Sandy Hook shooter's mother, for instance.  Regardless of the fact that she thought the end of the world was coming (2 days to be exact).  People can hunt and use guns for recreational use, fine.  But, they should do it responsibly.  Guns should be locked up.  They should not be easily accessed by children or people with diminished mental capacity.  The mentally/criminally insane should NEVER be allowed to own/carry a weapon AT ALL.
So what am I saying?  We need severe restrictions on who can own, carry, and use a weapon.  I know, I'm sounding like a hypocrite.  If Hitler took guns away from certain people because they were 'inferior' doesn't that mean I'm arguing the same thing?  Hell no!  If a person has a history of serious addiction or mental illness, then that person should not be able to own/carry/use a gun (or weapon of any kind).  People who are not living in the confines of everyone elses' reality are my definition for those who shouldn't have weapons, meaning people who have issues discerning reality from fantasy.  In other words, people who suffer from dissociative, manic, psychotic episodes.
So, again, I'm not saying to take away the 'right to bear arms'.  But while I'm on the topic, the second amendment, let's bring up the point that many people misuse and abuse it constantly.

Here's what the Second Amendment ACTUALLY says:
"A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed."

However, within context, it has to do with keeping state militias intact, as the nation was just beginning.   I'll give you a 'brief' history lesson.  The army (as we know it now) didn't even begin 'formally' until June of 1775.  Though the army, as an institution, was formed when the Bill of Rights was submitted and ratified (1791), it was more like a militia then an organized enterprise that we know it as.

Also, I'd like to add that each state had its own militia and that the amendments and the entire Bill of Rights and Constitution was not only a guarantee of certain rights but also a system of checks and balances.  Each branch, executive, legislative, and judicial were supposed to keep the others in check, so that no one branch gained too much power (like a monarchy).  Remember, we had just fought off the British and declared ourselves as a nation free from the King of England (George III).  

However, there were still loyalists who were sympathetic to the British cause, otherwise known as Tories.  Then, the Whigs, were Patriots and helped object to and rebel against the British Crown.  There were also Federalists, those men who wanted more power within the government's hands and anti-federalists, those who wanted more power in the states'/colonies' hands.  

There was a lot of tension within early America, and the Bill of Rights was answering a lot of that animosity going on.  The second amendment needs to be taken within context.  We were a) worried that the British would try to come back and tax our tea again and b) worried that the federal government would gain too much power and start acting like King George III of England.  So, to guarantee that this didn't happen, we had state militias and a promise to allow them to stay armed.  There was also threat of American Indian warfare; the French and Spanish also had expeditions in America so they had to be contended with as well.  

Look, to say that the Second Amendment ONLY says that we each have a right to own guns is not exactly correct.  Within a historical frame, it is saying that we have a right to arm ourselves in regards to being a young and volatile nation.  Also, the weapons in those days took much longer to load and reload.  There were no automatic rifles or glocks.  The guns were muskets, or closer to it, where you had to stuff the ammo inside, much like a cannon.  The concept we have of 'modern' guns is not applicable. 

Am I saying the Second Amendment is null and void?  No, absolutely not.  But the threats and context that the writers of the amendment were dealing with is certainly not applicable to us.  So, where does that leave us?  Where do we go from here?  Should we have more guns, thereby arming every principal and teacher?  Hell no!  Do you know how many crazy people I've met while in the field of education?  A former colleague of mine used to take bets on which of our faculty or staff would snap and come in with a semi-automatic.  I know, it's not funny, but really we should not arm our educators.  That is ridiculous.  

At most, a few SELECT individuals should be trained in hand-to-hand combat as well as having the knowledge of how to shoot and disarm a gun.  Should schools have tighter security?  Yes!  Should parents have outlets for when their children are displaying behavior that is all but the norm?  Yes!  Should we stop pointing fingers and actually sit down together and discuss a plan of action?  HELL YES!

So, I hope I leave you with some thoughts.  By no means do I consider myself an expert on any of this.  I just wanted to offer my opinions on the matter.  And if you read this and you want to write something in response, please e-mail me.  I am much more receptive to having an intellectual discourse (minus insults and curses) via e-mail.  Writing to say I'm a #$% or a moron or any other choice word will just cause me to ignore whatever else you have to say and not only delete your comments but also report you to Blogger.  I have no tolerance for small minds and even smaller tolerance for bigotry and well, intolerance.  

My heart goes out to the community of Newtown, Connecticut.  I have cried and cried thinking about how many parents lost their children and how many children lost their parents.  It is unspeakable.  You are in my thoughts and prayers every day, Newtown.  May G-d grant you strength and peace in the oncoming months.  My blessings to you! 

(for the families of and those healing from Newtown)   
Psalm 20:  

Have a pleasant day and remember to love each other.



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