“I’m Sorry, But I Can’t Fucking Do This. Can You? Can Anyone?”

In Fuck Everything, Nation Reports, The Onion hits the nail on the head:

Following the fatal shooting this morning at a Connecticut elementary school that left at least 27 dead, including 20 small children, sources across the nation shook their heads, stifled a sob in their voices, and reported fuck everything. Just fuck it all to hell.

All of it, sources added.

What a tragic, fucked-up day. Children. Children! It feels like a strange day to write about food and television, but we did, because I guess that’s what we’re supposed to do. Read the news, talk to each other, drive to Walnut Creek and back, publish the posts. Rachel Maddow had a good show tonight and I was gonna wait until that came out in an embeddable format and then I could post it here and we could have a post here to address what we all learned today about how enormously fucking evil a human is capable of being. All on his own. No self-defense, no drugs, no war-related brainwashing. Just a person choosing to do an evil thing because he wants to, and then doing it. Nothing happens in a vacuum, of course, but after everything wrong with the world that brought him and us to this day, he was literally alone walking in to that classroom.

I admit I’ve always skeptically eyed the media coverage of tragedies like these, skeptical of the fine line between opportunism and honesty so many news organizations seem to tread. But here I am, watching said news organizations for hour upon hour upon hour, so obviously they are doing a thing people need or want. We do want to know everything, want to listen to people talk about it, contemplate the macro-level factors that got us here and the micro-level factors that freeze our bones. This is our culture and all its problems. I admire those who know where to begin — people who are certain it’s about gun control, or mental health care — because I don’t know where to begin. I mean, those two places absolutely. Absolutely those two are the top two on the list. But what else? I need to indict everyone, every aspect of this culture. (But also that man, that fucking man, who the fuck is this guy? Who the fuck?) (children 20 children) (And to think of places where violence like this is commonplace)

I think my skepticism was also because I knew the family and friends of the deceased were so monumentally depressed and devastated and forever-damaged that it was cheap for us to claim a part in that grief. Children. Does that make sense? But nobody is really claiming that, is the thing. It’s a different kind of grief, a much smaller easier transient reasonable temporary kind, it’s just that we don’t have words for all the different kinds of grief. I wish I wasn’t always so skeptical. Because some time this afternoon I finally understood why this communal grief happens, and that it’s real and genuine: we’re all just being honest. And honestly what we feel is a deep emotional connection to something that is very far away for most of us. I don’t know why, really. Maybe that’s the only reason humanity, with its myriad avenues towards evil and its plentifully handsome gates, hasn’t blown itself up yet: because we feel strongly about things that happen far away, because we care about each other. Because we’re born compassionate, because otherwise we’re savages. Because there are people who kill people, and then there are other people, like all of us here, who just can’t fucking imagine it. Just can’t understand it. We don’t understand these evil people. In a way they become monsters, and we’re jumping into bed from the other side of the room just in case they’re underneath us, arms extended, fists open.

I mean, honestly, all 315 million Americans confirmed.

Avatar of Riese

Riese is the 32-year-old CEO, CFO and Editor-in-Chief of Autostraddle.com as well as an award-winning writer, blogger, fictionist, copywriter, video-maker and aspiring cyber-performance artist who grew up in Michigan, lost her mind in New York City, and now lives in The Bay Area. Her work has appeared in nine books including "The Bigger the Better The Tighter The Sweater: 21 Funny Women on Beauty, Body Image & Other Hazards Of Being Female," magazines including Marie Claire and Curve, and all over the web including Nerve, Bitch, Emily Books and Jezebel. She had a very popular personal blog once upon a time, and then she recapped The L Word, and then she had the idea to make this place, and now here we all are!

Riese has written 1719 articles for us.

112 Comments

  1. Thumb up 1

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    riese, i just logged on to see if you posted about this yet — i knew you would eventually. i mean, what IS there to say other than “fuck everything”? rachel maddow did have a good show tonight, but what was up with andrea mitchell’s interview with that dad after RaMa ended? that was super uncomfortable (honest, i guess) and opportunistic. i had to turn it off.
    anyway, thanks for posting/acknowledging this tragedy.

  2. Thumb up 13

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    I tried not to get too caught up in it and then my Republican Facebook friends started talking about how America was grieving this but not “the millions of murdered children due to abortion” which these asshats called “more tragic” and then I just lost it. I don’t think I made any valid points…I was so feelings’d out that I just used every swear word I know a couple dozen times.
    I need to stop caring so much.

    • Thumb up 3

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      yeah someone on my facebook posted something about how people who are anti-capital punishment are pro-baby killing and i just… no. i can’t deal with that. i have had two glasses of my grandfather’s homemade pear wine and i think i need to go to bed soon.

    • Thumb up 3

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      I think people whose priorities are so fucked-up that their first reaction to a tragedy like this is “perfect opportunity for an anti-abortion rant!” deserve several angry talking-tos, even if they are drunken, rambling ones. What you did was good and you should feel good. Those people should feel very very very bad.

      See also: people whose first thought is “Shit, now the libruls are gonna take our guns!”

  3. Thumb up 3

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    this helped me figure out why i’ve been so hesitant to post my reaction to this tragedy, even though i wanted to just to show some semblance of solidarity and support. SOMETHING. anything.

    how do you even begin to express anything. and not feel guilty about it too, though of course everyone is allowed to feel grief and deal with it in their own way. but, really, what is this thing i’m feeling compared to that of the people directly affected today. it’s nothing. but you’re right, everyone is just being honest.

    thank you. i don’t know anything today, but you helped me at least feel better about that.

  4. Thumb up 23

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    “It’s a different kind of grief, a much smaller easier transient reasonable temporary kind, it’s just that we don’t have words for all the different kinds of grief.”

    this. it is strange. for us, for most of us, soon, the world will begin to spin normally again. and we’ll forget, and move on, just the way we forget most things… and every year, on this day, we’ll remember, for 5 or 10 minutes maybe.

    but the mothers, the fathers, the aunts uncles sisters brothers friends – they will remember every day for the rest of their fucking lives.

    i hate it.

  5. Thumb up 11

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    This sums it pretty well. Fuck everything.

    Also, I appreciate that you still posted regular articles today. It gave a place to go where for a short period of time we could read something normal and think about something else.

  6. Thumb up 14

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    I struggle with a post like this. I have been part of too many “tragedies” that no one else moved forward to identify with. Far, far, far worse yet: I have held (literally, metaphorically) my brothers, my father, my mother and my closest friends in the space of terror, trauma and confusion. This day cannot be the result of ‘Just a person choosing to do an evil thing because he wants to, and then doing it.”

    What happened today was horrid. Visceral terror.

    In some regards, I agree: what happened to our youth and our innocent should be protected against by many measures. The innocent (who?) need be and should be protected against those who would do them harm with injurious intent.

    But it isn’t just decision-then-action. No. It is that process, decision-action-decision-action-repeat, of all society. The best thing I’ve understood about violence, however: it cannot possibly be the result of one person. If violence is, then violence is us. We are all complicit. We are all guilty. We are guilty of not actively exploring our nuances of public policy. Guilty of reduction of party lines to class, race, geography, gender, or sexuality. Guilty of not owning guardianship of all youth. Guilty of not recognizing the teacher within ourselves. Guilty of mere and only “awareness”.

    Tragic circumstance & absent community beget unbearable loss and abuse of livelihood. Today’s loss is not just the result of a “demon,” an “animal”. I am part of the murder and abuse of children, youth, and adults. By my complacency, my complicity, my laziness, I continue to be a part of the slaughter. I am sorry. I grieve with my whole heart, my whole body, my whole mind. Knowing this, I hope I will fight. I hope I will fight to my own end to cease my complacence in the blaming of and willing machination of so-called “enemies”. I will fight to change how policies around youth in public spaces are designed.

    What happened today is a nation’s failure to identify a citizen’s murderous intent. What happened today is our failure to identify our own murderous by-products of our decisions and non-decisions. What happened today is my failure to identify my own murderous by-products of my decisions and non-decisions.

    • Thumb up 6

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      On the one hand, yeah, which is why I’m not talking about it yet. On the other hand, when is it the time? Seems like the only time so many people are open to reflection and introspection both about our culture of violence and the devaluing of certain people (mostly people outside of the USA, people of color, poor people, queer people)is when something like this happens. The rest of the time, everyone can pretend it’s OK because we don’t see ourselves as profoundly affected by those processes. While I would second Anonymous’s sentiment, I’d like to frame it in a more thoughtful way – let’s not take this time to dismiss other instances of murder, pain, and hate because we can’t viscerally identify with/feel for the victims because they’re more removed by geography/skin color/ethnicity/socioeconomic class.

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      barack obama is a hypocrite, and this is the perfect time. i grieve for those 20 children, and the terror everybody involved must have/must be feeling; but government-sanctioned killing of innocent people is no more palatable to me than a crazed gunman.

    • Thumb up 4

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      And what do you suppose we should have done about that? Vote for Mitt Romney – who was just going to do the same thing, except more and worse? None of the third-party candidates who were running had any chance of winning, and let’s not pretend this was just because “people didn’t believe in them enough!” No, our system is stacked against them being anything more than spoilers.

      Meanwhile, we can actually do something to prevent against these things happening – demanding better gun control, demanding a better mental health care system to catch these people before they go on a shooting rampage. For starters.

      • Thumb up 0

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        So the only thing to do is never criticise Obama? The problem with white liberals like you is that as long as your rights are protected you don’t give a shit about other people. Obama is responsible for the deaths of thousands of innocent people including people in my extended family. My blood boils every time I see his smug face on my television or when I have to read comments about what a wonderful human being he is because hes aw so funny and aw so cute with his comments about his family.

        As for saying Romney would be worse, that is an abstract point. Romney never became President. Obama did and reneged on all his promises. It’s easy for you to live with that because people like you will never be affected by his foreign policies.

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          Did you even read my comment, or just decide to jump to conclusions that were more convenient for what you wanted to argue? I wasn’t talking about how Obama was a great person. I think I’ve made it clear here and before that I’m upset by Obama’s foreign policy. But it’s not an “abstract point” that Romney would have done the same but worse AND ALSO harmed LGBT people and women here in ways that Obama wouldn’t, when there were many points during the election when Romney seemed very close to winning it and he was literally the ONLY other viable option. And I’m sick of the constant refrain here that somehow Autostraddle and the commenters who agree with them are complicit in the horrible things that Obama did because the site encouraged people to vote for him as the best out of the realistic options.

          I think it’s absolutely time for progressives to hold Obama’s feet to the fire, with his foreign policy and with the crappy “fiscal cliff” deal he now seems poised to offer. And in fact, I think a lot of them are doing that. But I don’t think it’s “privilege” to, during an election, focus on the differences between candidates rather than the ways in which they’re the same. And I don’t think it’s impossible to call for meaningful gun control now AND try to get Obama to realize how much he’s broken his promises on foreign policy. It bothers me, too, just about every time he talks about the children killed in Newtown how he doesn’t seem to care about the children his policies are killing in other countries.

          And we’re going to talk about the privilege of white liberals? I don’t know, I get kind of sick of white liberals who apparently have unending empathy for people of color in other countries who are killed by drone attacks, but none for people of color at home and how their rights and livelihoods often hang in the balance of whether a Democrat or Republican is in the White House. I’m really sick of people with the privilege of not having to care which party takes the White House telling me that I’m wrong for caring when my life – and those of other people in the U.S. who are female, or POC, or LGBT – is quite impacted by it.

    • Thumb up 7

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      And how do you know people grieving this tragedy don’t grieve for those children as well? And the country those children are from… their leaders kill others too, does that mean we should bring that up when they are killed? There are countless senseless deaths around the world and of course many of them are ignored by the mainstream media, mostly because we privilege stories of white Westerners but ALSO because we, as humans, empathize with those who live lives that look like ours. That’s an uncomfortable truth. We see ourselves more in this tragedy than we do in tragedies from a foreign land.

      I’m so sick of people playing tragedy Olympics with this, and I’m sick of academic “progressives” bombarding social media with shit like this to judge other people’s grief. What happened to these children was a horrific thing that came from a culture of violence that needs to be addressed.

      • Thumb up 3

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        “And how do you know people grieving this tragedy don’t grieve for those children as well? And the country those children are from… their leaders kill others too, does that mean we should bring that up when they are killed?”

        THIS.

        It is possible to be upset about the children being killed in drone attacks in Afghanistan AND the children killed in Connecticut today.

        Just like it’s possible to fix both gun control AND the mental health care system, despite the similar game played by those on the right who act like they’re mutually exclusive.

      • Thumb up 1

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        yes, but shouldn’t we also use these tragedies as a reminder to evaluate our culture on a more universal level?

        we need to address the culture of violence from the top down. this is how we honour the lives of those 27 people.

        i’m not judging the voters or grief. this is my grief.

        • Thumb up 5

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          Okay. And how do you know we all weren’t thinking the same, and that we don’t have rage and sadness over our culture of violence and imperialism? You’ve taken it upon yourself to educate us lesser beings on this cause because you’re the only one who was able to think critically? I just don’t understand how someone can be so self satisfied that they have to march into a post like this… clearly, as others have pointed out, just a post to express sadness and thoughts on grief and loss, and grasp desperately at a perceived deficiency. I think it’s absolutely disingenuous to act like these type of comments aren’t coming from a place of lofty judgement when the intent is clearly to say, ‘If you really cared you’d care about these other children’/’Your grief is part of a system of hegemony’, etc.

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          your tone is far more judgmental than mine. i think it’s important to address our inherent hypocrisy and i supported “anonymous” in his/her opinion when s/he was told s/he had no right to express that opinion.

          i don’t know what you think/feel/know, but i know that what you think/feel/know isn’t what everybody thinks/feels/knows. all over the fucking media we see obama’s ‘teary’ national address, and it sickened me. killing children sickens me, and i will highlight the hypocrisy so that people who don’t know about it get to learn about it.

          http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/jul/18/us-citizens-drone-strike-deaths?fb=optOut

          and unfortunately, you don’t get to dictate to me how i respond to this tragedy. i am angry, sad, and disgusted; and i know it’s about much, much more than one mentally fucked up 20 year old.

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        Hahahaha at you seriously thinking that Obama’s victims get just as much attention as the victims of Newton tragedy. I haven’t seen a single article here by any of the white queers mentioning Obama’s warmongering and drone bombs. Even during his foreign policy liveblog it was ignored. But hey as long as white gays like you can get married its all good.

        Also nice way of derailing by saying we are playing tragedy olympics. Thats classic white feminism.

  7. Thumb up 5

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    I appreciate this post. and here’s my experience… I felt sadness at the bottom of belly. This tugging of grief reminding me that this could’ve happened at any elementary school, any store, hospital, in any city, at any point in any one of our lives. This wasn’t my loss, and I don’t claim to hold that grief within me. This was a mirror of my own reality: that nothing is certain, nothing is permanent, and the loved ones in my life could be lost to me at any single moment in time. And that is an emotion/experience that every single human can feel.

    And, yes, fuck everything. fuck.

  8. Thumb up 7

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    Hearing this news today and then having to go to my job teaching/playing/interacting with pint-size kiddos was awful. I just kept thinking of escape routes and what ifs and giving my kids so many hugs. My heart is just breaking for that community.

  9. Thumb up 3

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    It has been a total of 2 minutes, which means my anger/sadness/anxiety should not be increasing at the rate which it is.

    If an article like this–an “I can’t believe evil people still exist in the world and are suppressing innocent human rights to life” article–is so ardently existent and lauded on the thoughtful and nuanced lesbian-friendly space of autostraddle, then I don’t wonder at the state of our causes.

    It is our duty and *privilege* as marginalized human beings (I, personally, claim deaf-woman-lesbian in an interracial relationship) to dive deeply into the confusing, wounding, and outlying intersections and margins of society in order to investigate the possibilities of our societies’ propping up of those self-same confused, wounded, outlying inter-sectors. What are we (the majority, the privledged in our own spaces) doing to blame, Hitlerize, and outlaw those who murder, euthanize, and are less-than-us? How are our lives leading to the destruction and death of others? Is this a mental-delay issue? Is this a who-can-have-guns-that-kill-people issue? Is this a zoning issue? Is this a public-space security issue? Is this some other public policy issue?

    Articles like this: the “US-THEM” article, written far too early and far too divisively in the fact-development cycle, make me wonder what learnings we have actually gained from our minority status.

    • Thumb up 15

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      But … this article isn’t about facts. It’s about feelings. And while it may be early in the fact-development cycle, as you call it, it is fairly late in the feelings-development cycle.

      We can discuss the facts and nuances and intersections later, as they come to light. Right now, some of us need to discuss our feelings so we can figure out how we are going to fall asleep tonight and then get up in the morning and put one foot in front of the other until the horror subsides.

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        As I said my own 2 replies were. I howl at the monstrosity of others. I howl at my own monstrosity.

        Tragic circumstance & absent community beget unbearable loss and abuse of livelihood. Tragedy and absent community beget howling. This howling may happen at mental illness. This howling may not happen at mental illness. It may be true that some people are ‘evil” and are capable of “evil things”. It may also be true that (during their capability of “evil” and “evil things”), “I” am likewise of supporting them in their development.

        I DO hope to use this post as a political tool–I hope to use this post as a tool which suggests that labeling one-and-only-one person as an evil, corrupt, non-salvageable, non-improvable murder, a traumatic incidence of birth-turned-adult may not be the end-all-be-all of a nation’s initial gut reaction and emotion. Maybe there’s something to react toward and feel toward beyond the gut.

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      This person, this shooter, he was probably mentally ill, yes. I’ve seen many discussions today on the accessibility of mental health services, as if that was the cause of today’s tragedy. I’d be the first one to say that mental health is not taken care of seriously enough in this country. But this shooter was not marginalized. He was a white, wealthy male. He had all the privilege that someone could have. He still chose to do this horrible thing. He was evil.
      If you don’t believe that some people are evil and are capable of doing evil things, fine. If you want to blame yourself for your complacency, fine.
      But this is one of the few responses to this tragedy that I’ve seen today that doesn’t use it as a political tool to talk about gun control or mental health services. It’s gut reaction and emotion (oh my god, why?) and I appreciate that.

    • Thumb up 16

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      oh ffs spare me.

      “Is this a mental-delay issue? Is this a who-can-have-guns-that-kill-people issue? Is this a zoning issue? Is this a public-space security issue? Is this some other public policy issue?”

      this is, first and foremost, the death of 28 people, 20 of whom where children between the ages of 5 and 10. this is the lives that the people who loved them are now going to lead.

      yeah there’s a lot to interrogate here. a lot of questions to be asked. but “this” is NOT a public policy issue. “this” is a fucking tragedy. the murders raise questions that public policy is going to need to try and answer. but they aren’t themselves just an ‘issue’. they’re people’s lives and deaths. i don’t know you and don’t want to claim to understand your personal reaction. but your comment seems so concerned with identity politics and ideology that it loses sight of the realness of what happened. and trust me any attempt to intellectualise “this”, any public policy response to it, is going to fall short unless you can cling on to the sheer horror of the human heart at what has happened.

      Riese isn’t offering this as a definitive analysis. i don’t even think she’s offering it as HER definitive analysis. she’s offering a cry of pain, she’s offering what springs in to her mind. she’s a human not a robot that spits out sociological analysis. why don’t you think of twenty 5-10 year old children dying in terror and stop being so hard on people for not yet being in a place to have thought it all through.

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        This is horrid. This is visceral horror.

        I want to keep explaining, even though my so-called-logic is being interpreted as sterile. When one is the familial victim of homicide, suicide, rape, manslaughter, arson, or the-thing-which-haunts-you, then it is hard to be denounced a victim or a demon.

        Maybe demons exist. Maybe demons shoot 28 people. Non-deserving folks certainly exist.

        Maybe we don’t get better if it is just about one person turning corrupt. Because if one person turns corrupt, then one person can be isolated as the problem. If the one person is incidental of larger global or national or regional or political or whateveral problems, then the problem isn’t as easy to rectify. Because larger society has no place in the solution. But maybe if we recognize our collective fault in the problem, then we can recognize our collective compassion and helping hand in the solution.

    • Thumb up 5

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      Aaaaaand I have stopped agreeing with you here. I think we’re all human and we’re all having very human, emotional responses which is understandable when we’re dealing with a tragedy. I, personally, don’t find this article divisive at all. From my understanding, she was writing about her own very raw emotions and difficulty trying to understand where the human impulse to kill (and especially to kill small innocent children) could possibly come from. Let’s please just try to be understanding of each other. Now more than ever.

    • Thumb up 2

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      yes, this is a post about feelings.

      but also, among those feelings, riese does say she wants to indict the entire culture. she does say that there are macro-level factors at work — so many that she doesn’t know where to begin. she does say that there are places where violence like this is commonplace. she does mention mental illness and gun control.

      i feel strongly that this piece is just a thing from the gut, but your evaluation of it seems to have conveniently blown through all the sentences that do address the larger issues, too, and also from the gut.

    • Thumb up 2

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      It can be true that we as a society need to work on many things, while still being true that an individual who has been failed by our society has chosen an evil path by way of response. Examining society’s failings is necessary; blaming society is fruitless. We need less blame and less shame. Blame and shame are what get us to places like this.

      I don’t believe that most people are born evil. I do believe that a lot of harm that people inflict can be traced back to the harm they themselves have experienced. But that doesn’t negate the fact that inflicting harm is a choice.

  10. Thumb up 14

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    riese,

    thank you for writing this. this is my home, both literally and metaphorically. i live 15 minutes away from this school and until this year, when i decided to pursue higher education, was a seventh-grade teacher. my girlfriend is a constable and called me this morning with the news from her police radio. she called me every half-hour with updates. i couldn’t turn off the news. i went to my shift at the restaurant crying and i cried at tables. no one seemed to mind. some tables were crying, too. i came home again and i am trying to do homework and i kept checking autostraddle to see, i don’t know, this acknowledgement of the tragedy my community is going through. i don’t know what the answer is. i am so sad. i don’t know what to do.

  11. Thumb up 6

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    “what we all learned today about how enormously fucking evil a human is capable of being. All on his own.”

    I think nobody really acts on their own. There’s choice yes, and personal responsibility. But certain choices are or aren’t facilitated by the societies we live in. It could be the gunman’s mother’s choice to buy an assault rifle, a glock, and a sig sauer. It could be my uncle’s choice to hang himself after the local mental health authorities turned him away for being ‘attention seeking’. I like what you write about needing indite every aspect of culture. Because culture can enable or disable our capabilities. I’m not trying to spruik a political agenda. Only to say that as America struggles to understand this man he can’t be understood just as an island. We’re all adrift in this ocean.

    It’s a long time ago now but I can still remember this happening – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Port_Arthur_massacre_(Australia). I am sorry for your losses. I think the world is grieving with you today.

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        I didn’t reply for fear of coming across insensitive being from a different country and culture too, though in the UK.

        The closest we’ve had in recent times was Dunblaine in1996, which i can’t remember personally because i was 4.

        Th frequency with which these shootings seem to happen in the US just seem staggering though. I have things i’d say but again, i wouldn’t want to chance distressing anyone any more than the current situation is for fear of coming off as trying to push a political agenda along the same lines.

        I also think it’s easier being not in the US to detach some of the emotion from the event and subsequently think out the views expressed.

        Just trying to reassure you that others of us are kinda with you on this.

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          thanks Ellie, that is nice of you to write and say :) ha, 4 in 1996, I’m an old lady compared to you! I agree with your point it’s easier for us to detach. I think as well when you live in countries with a far lower level of gun violence it’s pretty difficult not to immediately start talking about the reasons for that, because you feel like you know how to stop this stuff from happening.

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          Yup. I’m uncomfortable with saying or person was “evil” or calling him a “monster” because actually nothing nothing nothing can and ever will occur in a vacuum. And he didn’t start that way, although this action was evil and it was monstrous.

          For those people who don’t want to make talk right now or here in this thread political,I understand because we need moments to hurt. But mourning is personal, and the public is political. So yah, as this place is a community we can talk about our feelings. All of them. My number one feeling is anger and that anger is coming from the fact that as a country with a culture of violence, here and what we inflict in places we don’t have to see, and I want to talk about it. Sadness is my feeling, but what could I possibly say about my sadness besides, like, fuck.
          Anger is my other feeling and it’s at this culture that is enabling this behavior and failing its people through a multitude of ways, that I’ll maybe get to if I can like, relax my throat punchy feelings.

          Don’t stifle those of us that want to talk about the culture, because it’s coming from this anger at our culture, and anger is a feeling too, is what I’m saying.

          Thanks for keeping it real though, Riese.

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          I’m uncomfortable with saying or person was “evil” or calling him a “monster” because actually nothing nothing nothing can and ever will occur in a vacuum.

          I agree with you wholeheartedly on this one. I have worked with 0-5 year olds with severe mental health/behaviour/emotional challenges – and some people would call these children evil or bad (like, “bad to the core” or “a bad seed.”). I believe that all people start out innocent, and have potential to be everything good, and that we are all doing the very best we can… and contextual factors (like home environment, which, in my experience, is really just an intergenerational spiral of influence and impacts), social/political environment/dominant discourses/policy, and also genetic components like certain medical issues and/or mental health issues that are rooted in biology (often mitigated or negatively influenced or “triggered” by social/environmental factors) get in the mix. But in terms of a young man being “evil” – this does not resonate for me personally. I have also worked in prisons, and many people who would be described as being evil have extremely complex, traumatic, and painful origins. They started as children, and grew up in what I would describe as madness. Or if there was no madness, perhaps they experienced developmental trauma, had neurological/cognitive/emotional challenges, etc. Okay, think that’s enough. But your point really resonated with me. I don’t believe in a person being evil, based on my own lived experiences… I believe in horrific behaviour and people becoming what would be described as Antisocial personality disorder (formerly psychopath), but not inherent evil.

          Thank you for this space to process and discuss feelings and reactions. I am supposed to be writing a paper right now, but I can’t.

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          Ironically, my paper is supposed to be about personal processing, scripts, emotional experiences, and being involved in a therapeutic experience (counselling grad school)… so another type of processing/feelings. I am easing my way into that, given all these other thoughts and feelings. Again, thank you.

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          What else can you call what happened, and the animal who did this, if not “evil”? What other word is there?

          Those people in prison may not be evil but this guy certainly is.

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          I’m replying to Rose:

          Hi fellow Baltimorean!
          Ugh, so many thoughts and feelings.

          I think people do things that are horrific. Humans have many facets, some of which can create a negative impact on the person and their environment. When those particular facets move someone to commit a heinous act, it’s easy to call them evil. Personally, I think evil has to do more with energy than a person. This situation is more than meets the eye and this individual cannot be summed up in one sentence. I believe what we know is the tip of the iceberg. I’m not trying to justify what he did; I am saying that we need to be careful about labeling. I hope that the appropriate experts will thoroughly investigate it and can shed some light on this person’s situation. Not to mention spur more research on mental health and more funding for mental health providers and social programs. This starts in childhood. Self-fulfilling prophecy is a real thing. Personally, I was disgusted by the way the media responded the day this happened, but that is another discussion.

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          Oh no, sydney, I agree with you. I was responding to this comment from katie: “What else can you call what happened, and the animal who did this, if not “evil”? What other word is there?
          Those people in prison may not be evil but this guy certainly is.”

          not Christie L’s post, which I agree with.

          I also think calling someone like this “evil” makes it too easy for the people who don’t want to find solutions to this, like the NRA or people who don’t want to fund mental health care better. Evil people are everywhere, but the fact that so many MORE people seem to slip through the tracks like this in the USA and get to commit murders is a societal problem, because that doesn’t happen in other countries as often as it does here. Is it lack of gun control? Lack of adequate mental health care for those who can’t afford it? Violence in the media and the way it’s reported? Something else? I don’t know, but it’s definitely something. Saying it’s just one evil person lets society off the hook.

          Also ftr I don’t live in Baltimore anymore, I live in Boston. But Baltimore is an awesome place!

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          @Rose: Oh no, these threads are getting confusing. lol.
          I’m sorry, I thought you lived in Baltimore. I must have confused you with someone else. I should have stated that I totally agree with your original response to Katie’s comment. Furthermore, I agree with your response to my response!

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          No, you probably have the right person; I lived in Baltimore for four years up until a few months ago, and I wrote the Baltimore city guide here. It’s cool!

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    I came home from work (where I basically live under a rock), heard about Connecticut, and cried like a baby. I mean, come on, how could you not?

    I don’t have kids and I never will, but how could you not cry? They were just kids and teachers and doing the usual goofy classroom thing, until someone decided to ruin it for them forever.

    Can we please find a way to make this sort of thing never happen again? Or at least make it harder to do? I would love you all way more muchly if we could.

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    I can really relate to the whole “going about my daily life and then hearing something so extraordinarily sad it just stops me dead in my tracks” thing. I was driving back from getting fillings at the dentist when I first heard about this on NPR. At the time, it didn’t seem like, you know, THAT big of a deal…not that a shooting at an elementary school is ever not that big of a deal…but just that they didn’t know about any casualties. All they knew was there was a shooting, it was at an elementary school, and they would update us as the day went on.

    Well, the day went on and the next I heard over 20 people had died. It was just so heartbreaking. And, like you said, so terrible to think about places where this is just commonplace and happens all the time.

    There is so much violence in the world and it is always so difficult for me to understand. Unfortunately, it is all of our problem that we all need to confront.

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    Our emotional response confirms our humanity. Thankfully.

    Before the politics and the shoulds and should nots of talking about how we feel when a tragedy strikes, we all have an emotional response.

    What I know is that, I drove to my kids’ school yesterday and when they got in the car I started crying because they are 7 and 11 and still so vulnerable and I thought about the 20 kids like them who were killed and the parents who will never get them back and I couldn’t do anything but cry. And then I talked to my kids about what happened and cried more as I tried to explain how and why this happens when we will likely never have accurate answers.

    So, we get to have our emotional reactions. We get to be reckless with our language. We get to feel whatever we feel. We get to be human.

    And when we’ve cried and raged and wrestled with our fear, then we figure out how to move on and what’s to be done. Thank you Riese for putting your emotional reaction out there.

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      Yes, this.

      And I feel that Riese is very clever and would have a number of highly intelligent and thought-provoking things to comment about the ‘moving on’ and ‘what’s to be done’ side of things. But for now, this is what I needed to read. I’ve stifled tears on the way to work earlier and I’ve cried in my room on and off since getting home. It’s now 2:00am and I’ve been watching reports and reading news articles on this for hours.

      As someone who isn’t a resident of the country in question, it feels like there’s potentially more emotional distance for me to cross when talking out feelings about this- real, deep, painful feelings about this- with others around me. People here can and have expressed sadness and been visibly affected by what’s happened. but still, I needed to relate on a rawer level. So thanks Riese for letting me sit here and cry with you all.

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    Kristipolos – I just wanted to echo back and send you all my love and support to you. None of us can ever fully understand each other tragedies but what you wrote, about checking here to see what your community had to say, really resonated with me. I am from New Orleans and after Katrina and the federal flood, I was living in New England and I just kept expecting someone to say something to me that was more than just politics and policies. Not that those weren’t important too, it was really important to understand the larger policies that made such a tragedy possible. But I just wanted someone to acknowledge my own personal tragedy and to, in that acknowledgement, stand with me, beside me, at at time when I needed it. And I am the kind of person who never needs help, I’m always the stoic, the one there for everyone else. But our President is also the stoic too and he even could not hold back tears today.

    I am so sorry for this loss to you and your family and home and community. We are still your community too — if you need anything at all from us, if you just need someone to cry to about how fucked this world is — we are here for you.

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    Thank you, Riese. *hugs*

    I always dread the mainstream media commentary after atrocities like this happen, because inevitably the media starts writing off the perpetrator as “mentally ill,” as if that alone is a sufficient explanation as to why someone would choose to engage in such evil. This hurts me, as someone with a history of mental illness, because it ups the stigma associated with mental health needs without actually addressing the real problem. And of course I’m processing this just like everyone else, I just want to be able to do it without worrying that the incident will be used to further marginalize people like me.

    I suppose it’s similar with any other crime – they try to find some marginalized aspect of the person’s identity to blame it on (race, immigration status, trans status, class) and if they can’t find anything, just blame it on the “crazies.”

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      Robin – thank you so much for your honesty and sharing your responses and reactions. Please please please, continue to speak out and raise your voice as a person with a history of mental illness. Because of stigma and shame associated with mental health issues, often voices like yours are hidden. It is voices like yours we need to hear, to learn, to understand, and to share and witness your truth. 3 of 4 of my immediate family members experience and live with mental health issues, and sometimes their voices can’t be heard (but other times they can, and this is a beautiful and powerful thing, and people learn and change because of it, particularly in regards to compassion).

      I agree that often “mental illness” is used as a sole explanation for terrible actions. I don’t know what your stance is, but often I see mental health issues as a RESPONSE to an unhealthy world… or traumatic environments… I also have 2 years of experience with working at a crisis line, and so many people I spoke to were feeling in crisis/unwell/having a hard time and/or at times suicidal in response to what their lived experience and/or environmental factors. That saying mental illness was the CAUSE of these emotions/thoughts/behaviours/actions sometimes just doesn’t make sense to me. That it might be a (perhaps quite logical) RESPONSE to a unwell world…

      “And of course I’m processing this just like everyone else, I just want to be able to do it without worrying that the incident will be used to further marginalize people like me.”

      Yes. I hope that this is a space where you can have this experience. That we can talk about the responses and feelings we all have, and as time goes on, discuss the issues at hand without pointing fingers, shaming, marginalizing and/or being simple in a complex discussion (i.e. “it was ‘mental illness’, not, “what are all the myriad factors that are inevitably involved, and how can we ALL respond, take ownership/responsibility, of what we can change?”).

      This action is not because of the “crazies.” We don’t yet know why this happened, and we are heartbroken, scared, terrified, confused and unsure. Putting a reason behind it without thought, time, reflection, and information is absurd.

      Sending care and love.

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      This.

      As another member of the ‘mentally interesting’ community, I support better access to mental health care. But it’s frustrating when it gets brought up every time there’s a mass shooting. Such an extraordinarily small portion of people with mental illness ever become violent; it’s almost an irrelevant thing to bring up in the aftermath.

      Maybe you* want to believe the people who commit these atrocities are ‘sick’ instead of ‘evil’. That’s fine, but if so you need to be very, very careful about perpetuating stigma.

      *you in a general sense

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        “And, yes, untreated mental illness often leads to death; but it’s the mentally ill who die from it, usually in the form of suicide, or the by any one of the many ways being homeless leads to an early death, or by doing something crazy, or by starving to death in Section 8 housing, or by being murdered. We are, after all, eleven times more likely to be the victims of violent crime than those who aren’t officially crazy.” — Jerod Poore, of Crazy Meds (crazymeds.us)

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      I completely agree with your sentiments, especially your last sentence, ” ‘I suppose it’s similar with any other crime – they try to find some marginalized aspect of the person’s identity to blame it on (race, immigration status, trans status, class) and if they can’t find anything, just blame it on the “crazies.” ‘

      The important thing to note is that there are people with mental illness across all genders and colors, yet these mass murders are so often perpetrated by white males. Then the typical media response (as you were saying) is to state that they are “crazy”. The authors of this article talk about why this isn’t a “crazy” thing as much as it is a white male entitlement and masculinity issue,

      http://www.examiner.com/article/connecticut-shooting-white-males-and-mass-murder

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      This. I get pretty frustrated when mental illness is automatically blamed for every awful act (especially when the perp is a white male). It only perpetuates the stigma of mental illness even more.

      Also- Shooting children is just plain evil. I am only sorry this coward offed himself before facing justice.

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      I’m also someone with what society might call a “mental illness” and I don’t think the solution to eradicating the stigma is to stop acknowledging obvious mental illness in people who end up committing violent crimes. The issue I see is that “mental illness” is such an all-encompassing term. Take any other physical ailment, for example, and apply the same broad strokes to it: would a person with cancer say that boxers/extreme sports enthusiasts/etc. who break bones frequently are “stigmatizing physical illness, making it seem like the cancer patients brought this illness upon themselves with their own recklessness”?

      Not only is the term disgustingly broad, but the “physical illness” and “mental illness” dichotomy is false and creates these two categories of ailments/disabilities so that one can easily pin assumptions on one group without “marring” the other.

      Basically, I think we misplace the blame when we say that the media’s tendency to report the FACTS – what this guy’s family, acquaintances, etc. say about him, and I believe ultimately what psychiatrists and doctors will say about him – is what creates or perpetuates stigma somehow. I would look to medical education and doctors for that, who as far as I know are buying in hook, line and sinker to the terminology and dichotomy.

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        Apples and oranges. Cancer’s never been blamed for some of the most atrocious crimes in history. But mental illness is always the first thing people look to when it comes to crap like this – especially when a white male does it.

        If the shooter was of colour, they’d be considered all types of evil. I think people just have a hard time processing that evil exists.

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          The point wasn’t the /type/ of stigma cancer patients might have to deal with in this alternate world of “physical illness” instead of “diabetes” or “cancer”, but that it’s been insulated from potential stigmas because of a different set of terminology, categorization, and expectations.

          Besides, luckily our society has ways of dealing with cancer besides a prison pipeline.

          If the person was of color they would have been more likely to have had a criminal record, maybe because the parents or guardians had no other recourse to deal with the psychiatric trouble. It’s not solely because we see a white person and want to think of “excuses” that the public perception of a white person who commits a crime would be different from our perception of a black person. The shoes they’ve walked in are different.

          The science for dealing with “mental illnesses” is light years behind where it could be because people wrote it off as a manifestation of “evil”. Not because they correctly attributed it when it was in fact the culprit.

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          If the person was of color they would have been more likely to have had a criminal record, maybe because the parents or guardians had no other recourse to deal with the psychiatric trouble.

          Ok- I just stopped reading there. I’m ignoring you from this point on.

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          Yeah, I didn’t word that correctly, but what I was trying to say is that black males face a higher rate of incarceration than white males, which is true for a lot of reasons, one of them being that black males are more likely to grow up in poverty, another that racism still exists and black males get charged with crimes or thrown in jail when a white person doesn’t even for the same offense, etc.

          I was also trying to point out that often in order for a person who is mentally ill to get help, especially if he or she is an adult, the only recourse a family has to charge them with a crime, whether the person is black OR white. But it might make sense that if the person is likely to come from a less privileged background, that the money for cushy residential programs or fancy psychiatrists wasn’t necessarily flowing.

          And the point I was trying to make is that someone’s privilege could isolate them from having a criminal record, despite the fact that they are mentally unstable and may have acted out violently in the past. This could contribute to the different tone of media coverage of heinous crimes committed by white guys – “Oh, no one would have ever expected it” or “He was more likely to /be/ bullied than to be the bully!” as opposed to “A year back the murderer was charged with assault.”

          In either case – whether the accused had a criminal record or not – I think we need to see the person more as needing help and less as “evil”.

          Also in either case, that article in the Examiner was absolutely stupid, and relied on statistics that are a lot more complicated than the article made them out to be (the whole white guys are most likely to be serial killers/mass murderers thing has been debunked or at least complicated by a few studies now).

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    My sister was 7 years old when Columbine happened. She cried everyday for 5 days. I just got off the phone with her. I guess people’s reactions don’t change much with time. That kind of humanity is the only reason we haven’t blown each other to bits, it’s the only reason I have hope.

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    Thank you, Riese, for writing this and giving us a place to simply react.
    I’ve been close to tragedies like this before; I live literally just down the road from the Century 16 theater in Aurora, so I can relate (in some small, minor way) to what this community is going through.
    But an elementary school? I have a 3 year old brother and a 14 year old sister, and the fact that most of the victims are closer in age to my brother than my sister, just horrifies me. Absolutely horrifies me. What the fuck.

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    First of all, thank you, Riese for writing this. It summed up a lot of what I’ve been feeling. Like a lot of people have mentioned, I’ve been hesitant to post anything about this shooting on FB or anywhere, because it’s too early for me to think rationally.

    Second, I saw Maya Angelou speak a couple of years ago, and something she said keeps running through my head and is worth repeating here, I think. I don’t mean for it to be inflammatory at all, it’s just something I think about every time a crime like this happens.

    “I am a human being. Nothing that is human can be alien to me.”

    She was paraphrasing the writer Terence, and said that if you can internalize that statement, you’ll never be able to look at anything another human does and say “I could never do that.” It doesn’t matter how terrible the thing is – if another human being did it, you’re forced to say, “I am made of the same stuff as that person.” Now, you can choose to use yourself as a channel for good rather than destruction, but you are still human. She went on to talk about how we can think about that statement in the positive, too – if so-and-so did such great things, why can’t I? We are also made of the same stuff as them, after all.

    “I am a human being. Nothing that is human can be alien to me.” Something to think about.

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      i was thinking of maya this morning too. about that exact quote katie. when the reports first started coming in, and we heard that the killer was a young man in his early 20s, my thoughts immediately went to his mother — this was before i knew she had been killed — and how that would feel, to know that the baby you fed mushy green beans to, the one who went directly to the sofa on saturday mornings with bedhead and pajamas, the one who cried when someone at school hurt his feelings, who ran to show you tooth fairy money, who yelled at you and slammed doors, who begged you for the cool backpack, who asked to hear the same story over and over because it was his favorite — i mean the one who sat in your lap and just sat there, just being a small thing that you’d promised to take care of — how would it feel to know he’d done this? that he’d been capable of it. i mean someone knew him and loved him and named him adam, you know?

      i don’t even know if what i’m trying to say makes sense. i’m just watching slade take the dogs out to the backyard in his green hoodie and glasses that make him look a lot like harriet the spy, actually, and eli is sitting at this giant dining room table and he’s so small he has to sit on his feet to play on his brother’s computer and i’m listening to the clicking of the mouse and slade’s laughing at something outside and i’m thinking PLEASE please don’t let them ever be lost like that. what happens to people? someone loved that boy and just how did this happen? he used to be between the ages of 5-10, and he went to school and just WHAT HAPPENED to him?

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    I was in elementary school when Columbine happened, and I remember that we had to learn all these drills about what would happen if a bad person came into the building, like going into closets or leaning under our desks and turning the lights off to make it look like no one was there. And I remember my 9-year-old brain thinking, “But who would do this to an elementary school? They were angry teenagers who hated school. But we’re not going to have some person come in and shoot up an elementary school!”

    And yet, 13 years later, someone did just that, and a lot of lives were saved by the kinds of drills that we learned in my school. I heard about a teacher at that school, only 27, who was killed but before she died, had put all her students in a closet and lied to the killer that they were in the gym.

    Unbelievable. I wish I had been right when I was 9. Actually, I just wish these things never happened to anyone, at all. But especially not to little kids.

    Ugh. What I thought as a kid just kept haunting me today, because that SHOULD have been true. What is wrong with the world?

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      No, being from another country doesn’t mean that you aren’t allowed to feel sad about this. We’re all human beings and this is an attack on innocent human beings.

      “Injustice everywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

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    I’m a perpetual lurker, but I want to say how deeply touched I am to see this here. Newtown is my hometown, and I was on my way back for Christmas when I heard what had happened on the radio. Needless to say, the town I grew up in is almost unrecognizable–pretty much everyone knew someone who was in that elementary school, whether they walked out or not. We’re all feeling a bit lost right now, but seeing articles like this is a reminder that we’re not alone. Basically, what I want to say is that it really is a comfort to know that we’re not the only ones in shock. It in no way makes up for what happened, of course, but right now I appreciate the reminder that there are so many good people in the world. Thank you.

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    their names were released. why the fuck is there nothing i can do about any of this, is how i feel. i just needed to come here and say that. you know how your middle name is like a secret your parents gave you, like an inside joke only it’s not a joke, it’s just inside. like i just wonder what the v. or the f. stands for, but then again i’m glad i don’t know, because it’s not for me. i don’t know what i’m even saying anymore.

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    an hour after I saw the news I went to my job teaching a bunch of six- and seven-year-olds. they’re so small, you know? like their hands are half the size of mine and when one of them comes up to hug me goodbye, as he does every week, the top of his head is level with my belly-button. all I could think of was how small and fragile they are, and how I just cannot understand why someone would do that. turn those beautiful little people into broken bodies. my imagination just stops at that kind of darkness and emptiness, and can go no further.

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    I wanted to share of my thoughts, to strangers, to people who I think experience the world like I do… You see for a long time, I didn’t think people felt life like me, that they didn’t worry, didn’t feel anxious, didn’t get sad on Sundays because of school or work on modays.. didn’t worry that people didn’t like them… I had all these thoughts in my head.. that people wouldn’t get me, they wouldn’t understand, I went to middle school in an affluent suburb of long island, where people teased me.. and taunted me, I felt a commuity of people via the internet.. but then life got better.. went off to college, started going to lesbian bars by myself and with people I met off the internet.. and realized there are people who get it.. I guess what I’m trying to convey here, is that people get it, people understand the pain of the human condition. Sometimes I think when I see a random stranger that we are seeing a facade, just one small part of this person, that we don’t know how this person acts when he or she is in emotional upheaval, we don’t know how this person acts when she is fighting with a lover. I think what I’m saying is that life is so much more beautiful when we are vulnerable, when we let people in, when we share our vulnerabilities with people.. I have been known to wear my heart on my sleeve, to, “not edit myself,” because I think there is something to being seen and letting people in.. Thank you Riese for creating this place, this beautiful community where people are seen and heard, where people don’t feel alone.. It is so beautiful. sending everyone so much love……. after all life is fleeting, if we can only make it better by smiling, by sharing your hearts, sharing vulnerabilities.. it will be worth it.

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    Hey, this isn’t about us. It’s not about politics, health care, gun control. It’s about 20 fucking children. It’s about 6 adults. All of whom died without knowing that 12/14/12 was gonna be their last day on earth. It’s not about us or how we feel. It’s about how we’re gonna proceed on from today, knowing that each day is a blessing that is never guaranteed.

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      Actually, it’s about all those things, because this isn’t an isolated incident – this is a societal problem, which means a political problem. It could have been any of us, because the problem is a problem with the whole U.S., not just with that one gunman in that one town. Because this KEEPS. FUCKING. HAPPENING. It’s happened in how many places now? Those people in Connecticut thought it wasn’t about them when it happened in Arizona, or Colorado, or Wisconsin, or Oregon before. Until it was.

      And “proceeding from today” shouldn’t mean just reminding each other that every day is a blessing. That’s the easy thing to do, but it accomplishes nothing except our personal peace. The hard thing to do is having the uncomfortable political discussions that would lead to actual policy-making that might prevent another one of these tragedies from happening. What would be truly disrespectful to the dead is refusing to have that discussion because it’s uncomfortable to “drag politics into this.” Politics was in this from the beginning.

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    I am committing all of their names & faces to memory. My heart is continually breaking for their families, & the best way I know how to honour that is to keep their memories alive, even though I didn’t know them.

    That man? I want him to fade to obscurity immediately. I want him to get no attention, no notoriety, nothing. But I want those kids, & the adults as well, to be remembered forever.

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    I’ve got to admit I only read half the comments above, and then scanned the rest, so i apologise if this is repeating things that have already been said.

    This is such a heartbreaking story, and for me personally, the fact that this was children makes it even harder to hear or read about. How somebody can be so fucked up as to point a gun at a child is beyond me.

    I don’t want to say anything too controversial because I dont think this is the time or place, but every time I hear about a tragedy like this – where someone has just snapped inside and shot at the people around them – it just amazes me the amount of people who own firearms and the accessibility to guns. I don’t know much about the details of gun laws in America, but I know that here in the UK hardly anybody owns a gun. And by that I mean it really is a tiny percentage, and nearly all of that is hunting licenses. It seems absolutely insane to me that anybody would want to own a gun for any other reason than hunting. The idea of going into a highstreet store to buy bullets is just crazy to me. And scary. Why any average person would need to own a gun is completely beyond me.

    I know that it’s a more complicated issue than where they got hold of the gun, but I can’t help but think some of these tragedies might have been prevented with stricter gun control.
    I don’t know, it’s just so sad and scary.

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