Abby Hevert ’15
And so I turn on the TV and flip to CNN to see what is happening in the world. I do this regularly and often see similar headlines about the same things. Economic crises, problems in the Middle East, and reelections are common threads of knowledge interwoven on the screen. However, disturbingly enough, a new headline is regularly emerging. “20 Children Killed in Newtown,” “TSA Agent Shot,” “Massachusetts School Teacher Murdered by Student.” So, sadly, a new headline becomes commonplace: death at the hands of a gunperson.
So are we more violent than we have been in the past? My best guess: probably not. Throughout the history of the world people have consciously decided to kill others. This is nothing new. Evil has always existed in this world and we would be hard-pressed to eradicate it. However, I have recently noticed the apparent randomness that shooters exhibit. Why kill twenty little children? Why settle your scores with the government by killing a TSA agent? Why is it that people make the most dramatic of statements by taking the lives of other breathing individuals? What is the motive? More importantly, what is the message? This may sound strange, but perhaps the most important message is:
Pay attention to me. For the love of God, pay attention to me.
So they eventually get our attention. Most of the time it’s too late because they decide to take their own lives as well. But think about it: a dramatic shooting in a public place is not the same thing as a covert murder by the means of poison or some other discrete substance. A public shooting is a statement. It is a cry for attention. This may be a stretch and I know that some will disagree, but I believe that it is a cry for help.
Every person exists in context. Except for sociopaths and psychopaths, all people can do things and feel some sort of reaction after. Every action that we take is never in isolation. It is always a result of something else. If we are tired, we sleep. If we are sad, we cry. If we are feeling isolated, we shrink away even more. If we are feeling abandoned, we try to get noticed. Because human beings are wired for connection, it makes sense that people will try to get attention from other people. It also makes sense that we cry out for help. This is when I start to wonder: What would have happened to all of these victims if someone had taken the time to ask the shooter: “are you okay? What is really going on here? You seem upset. Let’s talk.”
And no, I am not sympathizing with evildoers. In a way, I am trying to seek the answers that so many victims never get the chance to learn. People need other people to check in on them. Concern, even in its slightest form, can sustain people. It can let people know that they are valuable. It gives people a form of expression that allows for unhappiness to be conveyed and concerns expressed. It can prevent evil. It does not always, but it is my firm belief that love and concern can deter horror. Now, people will always do what they want to do. Some people will continue to kill other people, despite the best efforts of family and friends. But why not err on the side of caution? Check in on each other.
If you see someone upset, ask why. When you hear your friend crying don’t shy away from her, run toward her. Extend hugs, give smiles, open doors. Check in on each other. Love. Listen. Share tears and memories. Check in on each other. Ask about families. Remember the important dates of death and birth. Check in on each other. Give attention. Ask about the ex-girlfriend. Check in on each other.
This is not to say that all people who are sad, stressed, or anxious will kill other people. It is only a small minority who will be tragically moved to do so. But just as we are living in a society that spawns random acts of violence, I also believe that we are living in a society of emotional scarcity. We rarely decide to ask the tough questions and endure the tough answers. This is unfortunate as connection is how we truly live. Connection is how we discover the capacities of others and ourselves. So check in on each other.
You are too important. Your friend is too valuable. The world needs each and every one of us far too much to risk losing any of us to the hands of another person.
So please, for the love of God, check in on each other.