by Aaron Sturgis
Over the past few decades, we have seen a meteoric rise of planned and horrific mass shootings on school campuses across all grade levels and ages, most of the time causing catastrophic loss of life. In a majority of these incidents, the perpetrators were mentally unstable, socially ostracized, and desperately craving acceptance – many times finding this acceptance in fringe communities with radically unhealthy beliefs, only serving to further stoke the flames of hatred and disdain for their fellow human beings. This is not to sympathize with these acts of terror, nor to paint a one-sided portrait of these people – it is instead to turn the light inwards on ourselves and question what as a society we are doing to continue to allow and encourage this tragedy.
Many, while certainly not all, of these murderers were young men – and I think most readers can relate to some degree to the cruelty of primary and secondary school for almost all students. Though while most of us react to bullying and ostracization with more healthy emotional responses, these young men were further driven into solitude, and in today’s day and age – that is a recipe for disaster.
In most decades past, unhealthy emotional responses and troubling mental signs were reacted to quickly and swiftly. Friends and family were more aware of unusual actions and behaviors because most of these individuals would have no choice but to expose themselves to them, having no other outlet. The rise of counterculture communities that serve to cultivate and perpetrate hate-filled ideas or gaslight mentally ill individuals is a relatively recent phenomenon, occurring mostly with the accessibility of Internet access to the general population.
While a majority of people realize that racism, misogyny, and all various forms of discrimination are destructive behaviors, there are many groups on the Internet that do nothing but encourage and confirm these ideas as acceptable. The problem obviously isn’t inherent to the Internet however, it is within us. We are forcing what we consider the “fringe elements” of society further to the fringe, where the only place they can seek refuge is amongst those of similar principles. An effort has to be made to include those who we feel are ill, because we bear responsibility for them remaining sick.
No matter how we identify or respond to the problems we have outlined, it will never fix the damage that has already been done for the victims of this senseless loss of life. We must take care to treat those who have suffered with as much love as possible, and understand why they might hate those who perpetrated it. We must empathize and love freely. It is the only way they will ever heal, if they ever do.
The hard part comes when we understand that the quickest way to preventing further catastrophes is by showing that same selfless love to those who display unloving principles and ideas. And by maintaining an open perspective about everyone we come into contact with, perhaps we can start to identify those who are in need of further help before it is too late – before we lose them completely to ideas we know full well are damaging to the fabric of our society.
There is no panacea or quick fix for the continued rise in these tragedies. But there is an easy to distinguish cause: hatred. The form of hatred and the target of it differs, but the root always remains the same. And there is only one true weapon against hatred, and that is love. Continuing to shun and separate those who have problems, those who hate from us, will only continue the trend.