Sweep it under the rug

by Don Hartness

You can almost write tomorrow’s headlines today.

By now, most readers know the name Adam Lanza; the deeply troubled post-adolescent who murdered 20 children, six adults, and his own mother in Newtown, CT. before killing himself. I wish I could say that I felt a deep sense of sadness when I heard the news but, other than a vague sense of discontent, the simple fact is, I didn’t. The scene of the crime is the only thing mildly shocking about the news (an elementary school), but the rest is all too common.

The first one I remember was next door to my backyard: the 1984 San Ysidro massacre.  I searched for the link in Google, beginning with the words “McDonald’s shooting”. With its real-time search suggestion feature, Google began to pour out numerous suggestions for completing my search. As I typed each letter, the list didn’t get any smaller…

  • “S”…(Stockton, Sydney, Sydney Nova Scotia)
  • “A”…(San Antonio, San Jose…)
  • “N”…(“ah, there’s San Ysidro…”)

The script follows a predictable pattern. Investigators searching for motive will discover a hidden history: a secret history of abuse, some previously undiscovered mental illness, or a pattern of warning signs that went unnoticed.  Interviews with family members, both close and distant, will portray shock and dismay to an event so close to home. Classmates will reveal a history of teasing and ridicule of the poor awkward kid with no friends (although none will name the culprits, especially if they were complicit).  Regardless of the details, the story will likely involve an interwoven complex pattern, painting an all too common picture.

Public discourse will also follow a common path. Gun-control advocates will use the event as a rallying cry, with an equally predictable response from the pro-gun lobby. This time, due to the simple innocence of the victims and a democratic president, gun-control might win a few concessions, concessions that will slowly erode over the coming years. Policy changes will be suggested, with a few implemented, and the rest ignored. In the end, the implemented policy will not begin to touch the root of the problem.

The script also includes a predictable response from a country groping for  understanding. This time, it’s a bubblehead on NBC named Ann Curry. During a moment of introspection just deep enough for a country afraid of the nastiness in the rabbit hole, Ms. Curry suggested 26 acts of kindness for others, one for each victim in the shooting, as a way to “help heal us all.” The proposal has gone viral, with thousands all around the country performing little charitable acts for each other.

This was the part that finally evoked an emotion in me: disgust.

Before I go any further, I want to be clear about a few things. First, I don’t question Ann Curry’s heart in this endeavor, as I’m sure she means well and is just trying to help. I also don’t oppose random acts of kindness out of principal; the world needs more charity, even if done with selfish motive (i.e., for the tax break, more than for whomever it benefits).

In some instances, it is also the appropriate action. For the residents of Newtown, its victims, and the family and friends of the victims, the last thing they need is a fresh debate on gun-control. They’re grieving. Grief is universal. Charity, along with the comfort it provides, is oftentimes the only right response.

With that said, random acts of kindness as “healing” is akin to taking a terminally ill patient to Disney World: a kind act, if the disease is truly terminal. However, the disease is terminal precisely because it is ignored. If the disease isn’t terminal, then ignoring it with such an act is cruelty, not kindness.

  • I wonder how many connected with this incident will be second-guessing what they could have done?
  • If they realize that there was, indeed, something they could have done, what does a failure to act say about them?

(“ummmm…I don’t like where this is going…”)

  • Those people are no different from you and me. What, then, do those questions beg of us?


  • Adam had some problems, none of which lead to the kind of violence he displayed that day…

(“…rabbit hole approaching…”)

  • What does Adam’s actions and existence say about us?

(“Code blue! Code blue!”)

…and the mind shuts down, since questions like these challenge are assumptions that we are all basically, sort of, somewhat, good people. Keep asking questions like these, and our illusions might unravel, causing a cardiac-arrest of the conscious.

The cure? Morphine for the brain: singular acts of goodwill and charity on behalf of others, all while witnessing a few randomly isolated acts from our neighbors, as a way of reinforcing this notion that we are all basically, sort of, somewhat good people. Douse the stench with perfume, and sweep it under the rug.

“Evil? What evil? I didn’t see any evil…”

Ms. Curry and others are entitled to their opinions and responses. As for me, I’m not going to honor the victims by sweeping yet another shooter incident under the rug with behavior sub-consciously meant to cover the problem. Instead, I’m going to tackle the issue head-on by making a long, overdue observation, supported in a series of upcoming posts:

You are not a basically, sort of, somewhat good person.

Introductory Guidelines

A few points before I begin…

Yes, I mean the above statement in a collective sense, although I’m going to keep it personal for you, dear reader. In other words, I’m not going to minimize the impact with anonymity.  And yes, I am not excluding myself in the above statement…

Which brings me to another point: this is not a value judgment of you or anybody else. These are observations; nothing more. What you do with them is up to you…

No, I’m not going to start quoting scripture to you (except where appropriate, such as the discussion of money as the root of all evil), since there are some here who do not believe scriptural authority. And that’s fine, because I don’t need too. Instead, I will simply tell you some stories from my journey, spliced with observations from the world around us and some well-timed quotes and articles.  Above all, I don’t recommend reading anything that follows when depressed, drained, or just before bed. Everything in balance, and this is not happy reading…

However, if you want to stick your head in the sand, then go follow Ms. Curry. You can’t understand the need for a cure if you don’t diagnose the problem. There are those here that do not agree with my solutions, and that’s fine, since proposed solutions come after the diagnosis. My only goal here is to point out that, even if you don’t agree with my solutions, there is a more serious problem than most dare to admit…

Lastly, I don’t pretend that this is going to answer all the questions, nor am I arrogant enough to believe that I can tackle the issue better than some others have done. With that said, I’m done playing politically correct and nicey-nice. The gloves are coming off for this one. If my words sting, then there is something within you that needs stinging (something I will explain later in this series). If you need salve, there are plenty of other blogs to nurse your wounds.

This one is surgery. With a sword.