ThoughtShades FrameWork

Essays, Themes, Opinions

Constructs, Practical Ideas, Applications

Poetry, Impression Writing

Sermons, Devotions

Personal Revelations, Illustrations

Viewpoint: Politics, Contemporary Issues, Editorials


Choice Offerings by Others

Powered by Squarespace
« When Will the Healing Start? | Main | Antifragilistic Concepts in the Bible »

The Gray Swan of Newtown

The soul of America grieves over the tragedy that struck Newtown.  We cannot imagine getting this kind of news about beautiful, lively kindergarteners that we all have in our own home towns, and that we all were at one time.  We can do little more than weep for the Sandy Hook victims and their families, and hold their hands, if only figuratively, as they walk numbly through the next few days, weeks, months and years. 

But we will do more.  We will think about this.  We will talk about it.  Discussions will cover every possible aspect of the horror it was, and the conversations will run the gamut from dry, scholarly dissertations to reasoned debates to shrill and nasty arguments.  My voice will fit in there someplace, although I’m not quite sure where.  At any rate, I hope we can prevent horrific crimes like this in the future, and also try to mitigate as much of the devastation as possible when they do occur.  I am convinced that if emotion, anger and fear dominate the discussion, we will accomplish neither of those two objectives.  

Was Newtown predictable?  If so, was it then preventable?  If not preventable, was it at least manageable (in the sense of reducing the impact to the lowest possible level)?  This approach is now cast in the light of black, gray and white swans.  If you are not familiar with these metaphors, read the next two paragraphs closely.  

Black Swans are events with extremely low probability but have highly significant impact.  Gray Swans are events with somewhat low probability and relatively high impact.  White Swans are random events that we know, have high probability of occurring and create little implications in our lives. Since most Black Swans have never happened before, we cannot predict their occurrence; we can only try to lessen their impact.  Usually, we try to figure out why they happened after the fact.  Black Swans are events like 9/11 and the spread of the AIDS virus.  As fascinating as they are, it is useless to predict Black Swans.  Those who do are liars preying upon the gullible or the self-deceived. 

Gray Swans, however, may be predicted with some regularity, given certain factors of time, culture and demographics.  A Gray Swan is a FaceBook start-up or Storm Sandy.  While we may not accurately forecast their date, we know they will occur.  White Swans happen all the time, like falling in love, getting a new job, or, to a lesser extent, an economic recession or downturn.  The predictability of a White Swan is so great that thousands of people have achieved expert status lecturing or writing books about them.  The benefit of looking at events this way has to do with predicting, preventing and managing their occurrence and impact. 

Newtown is a Gray Swan and needs to be treated as such.  We owe it to future generations to analyze mass killings more accurately, to understand why they happen, to know how and to what level they may be preventable, and to take effective steps to minimize their impact.  Unless we are honest enough to remove this inquiry from the arena of emotions to address these primary issues, we will cede the process to those who have an interest only in the secondary or tertiary issues.  By definition, they have THEIR best interests in mind, not those of the general welfare (although they will argue loudly that they looking out for the general welfare).  Obviously, the discussion is complex and covers a broad range of issues.  And, the solutions are probably just as complex.  I freely admit that my contribution lies mainly in the area of questions, not answers; of analysis, not solutions.  But if Newtown is indeed a Gray Swan, then we must start somewhere in order to probe the levels of predictability, preventability and manageability.  

Gun control.  This is where the liberal establishment wants to start.  It is the knee-jerk reaction, purely emotional, zero facts supporting it and a preponderance of facts militating against it.  Google is run by leftists, so you will have to dig deep in its pages to find pro-gun stories, but they are out there.  The reason the public doesn’t hear more stories about guns used to protect citizens and to prevent crime is because “guess who” is in charge of the media?  The National Rifle Association has a raft of stories proving that gun ownership, not gun bans, lead to less crime.  The second amendment group’s position is gun education, not gun control.  Gun control will never work as a national policy any more than disarmament works on an international level.  Those who contend that it works need to read “Less Than Zero:  Bursting the New Disarmament Bubble” by Josef Joffe and James W. Davis in Foreign Affairs, Jan-Feb 2011.  This is not even to get into the issue of constitutionality.  If anything, guns should be part of the preventative measures against future Newtowns. 

Mental health policies.  Psychiatrists are starting to speak out over the atrocious policies regarding the treatment of mental health patients.  As prominent psychiatrist E. Fuller Torrey wrote in the Wall Street Journal, “These tragedies are the inevitable outcome of five decades of failed mental-health policies. The solution to this situation is obvious—make sure individuals with serious mental illnesses are receiving treatment. The mistake was not in emptying the nation’s hospitals but rather in ignoring the treatment needs of the patients being released. Many such patients will take medication voluntarily if it is made available to them. Others are unaware they are sick and should be required by law to receive assisted outpatient treatment, including medication and counseling, as is the case in New York under Kendra’s Law. If they do not comply with the court-ordered treatment plan, they can and should be involuntarily admitted to a hospital. 

Fuller’s basic reaction was widely shared across the political spectrum. Expect it to be revived in a big way in the wake of Lanza’s shooting. In Time, Texas A&M’s Christopher J. Ferguson, a professor of psychology and criminal justice writes,  “Our country’s funding for mental-health services has only gotten worse since the 2008 recession. As the National Alliance on Mental Illness has been warning for some time, the existing level of funding is inadequate, so our nation’s ability to identify and care for the severely mentally ill has been hamstrung.”

A more responsible media.  No institution is as rife with hypocrisy as the mainstream media.  They sensationalize crime while denying that they do it, they exploit victims while saying they are only trying to get the full story, they propagandize their views while claiming impartiality, they push their political agendas while saying they only want to serve the public, and they brutalize the privacy of their enemies while remaining amazingly incurious about the glaring faults (or even crimes) of their friends.  

The Media were at their worst covering the Newtown tragedy.  Some reporters stooped to interviewing five and six year olds, trying to get them to describe their experiences when they should have been helping them forget about the horrible ordeal they just went through.  From 24/7 wall-to-wall coverage, to pictures of the killer, to using terms such as “body count,” to turning the killer into an anti-hero hero (just the kind that other twisted minds in society want to emulate), all of this bears the predictable footprint of today’s media.  The media is turning the first amendment into everything they say is wrong with the second amendment.  If the media won’t police themselves, at least they should refrain from lecturing everyone else about the moral and ethical issues of the day.  

Education.  I join with millions of others who believe that the public educational system of this country is broken, and that progressive philosophy and the insular teachers unions are the primary reasons why.  Hundreds of websites, books or magazine articles echo the same thing: it is a systemic woe, not just performance and low teacher pay.  The progressive ideology that drives the system shapes the teachers, sets the standards, chooses the curriculum, and determines the subjects to be either studied or forbidden.

So, what does the Newtown tragedy have to do with education (other than the fact that it happened in an elementary school)?  Because both students and teachers are so immersed in progressive tenets of faith like diversity, social consciousness, revisionism and post-modern philosophy that real life survival issues are ignored.  Kids are taught how to use condoms, but not how to use guns; how to assert themselves, but not how to defend themselves; how to be sensitive to minorities, but not how to think for themselves.  The only thing they know about evil is that it doesn’t really exist.  It is just an archaic term used for things we don’t understand.  When evil walks through the front door of a school, armed to the teeth, nobody really knows what to do. 

Moral training.  What kind of moral calculus functioned in Adam Lanza’s mind that led him to become a mass murderer?  Granted, he suffered from a mental disorder, but he possessed enough rationality to specifically target who he wanted to kill, to know how he would do it, to know where he could get the means to carry it out, to know that nobody had a weapon in the school to threaten him and to know when to stop shooting so he could pull out a handgun and take his own life.  He was capable of carrying out a refined, premeditated crime, complete with all the necessary details in place.  What he lacked was a moral conscience to stop him from inside his own mind.  Some very basic building blocks of moral character were missing from his life. 

A society that aborts millions of babies each year and that has a significant number of people who advocate for euthanasia cannot speak against killing with absolute conviction.  A society that rationalizes its way around lying and creates logical scenarios in which lying may be preferable, cannot forcibly condemn lying.  A society that imposes punitive taxes on some of its people in order to redistribute wealth to other people cannot denounce stealing.  A society that sees nothing morally corrupt with fornication, cohabitation, adultery or perverted lifestyles and condones these activities through the entertainment industry, the educational curricula, and the courts cannot speak with any authority against sexual crimes.  Finally, a society that rejects the existence of God, that does not believe there is soul consciousness after death, that openly ridicules the idea of a final judgment in which each person will be held accountable for his or her actions cannot create a strong enough deterrence to crimes to stop the perpetrators.  If people do not fear God, why should they fear man? 

Better security.  From an immediate and practical standpoint, this is where we should start.  I am appalled that an armed man can walk off the street into an elementary school, find his way down the hall, and go into a room full of kids.  For much less than the price of a school bus, or the salary of a union leader, a school can be made far more secure than that.  Rather than spending millions of dollars for a gun control lobby, spend a few thousand dollars to install electronically controlled doors, surveillance cameras and viewing stations, along with other technologically advanced state-of-the-art systems to keep our kids safe.  We can at least darken the feathers of this Gray Swan until we make it almost impossible for an atrocity like Newtown to happen again. 

Bottom line:  If I am, by law, forced to send my child to a government school, the school should be obligated to keep my child safe while in the care of the school.  While nobody expects 100% effectiveness, we certainly should not accept 0% effectiveness!  Furthermore, I guarantee that parents will gladly ante up more money for security, even in cash-strapped school districts that can’t get a one-tenth point millage passed!  The next step would be to permit concealed weapons to be carried in schools by responsible, trained individuals (not students).  

These are my thoughts on the unconscionable tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School.  I grieve at the loss of precious lives.  Much of my grief is rooted in the fact that it may have been prevented.  May God help us to wake up and get busy before another Newtown.

PrintView Printer Friendly Version

EmailEmail Article to Friend

Reader Comments

There are no comments for this journal entry. To create a new comment, use the form below.

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong>