Thursday, May 28th

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Recipe for Disaster

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Eloquent words have been spoken in the wake of Newtown. I can't seem to find any. This catastrophe was too close to home.  It's five days since Newtown and I haven't written a thing about it- uncharacteristic for me. Usually I love to write; the words provide a catharsis of thought. Now I know why I've been stalling. The tears are starting to flow.

On Friday, the facts came in as wrong as they came in fast. A school shooting in Connecticut. Where? I live in Connecticut. I have a kid in school in Connecticut. First it was a teacher, then maybe one kid- injured, not dead, then somebody hurt in the foot. Newtown, Connecticut, a scant few miles from our school.  It sounded bad, but not incomprehensibly awful. Between the time I went to a Christmas lunch at 11:30 and the time I came out at 2, everything had changed. 17 kids killed, maybe more. Little kids, kindergartners. What? I called my friend Dave, who lives in Sandy Hook. I knew he had two little ones. He told me his wife had gone to school that morning to help out and she and his son were hiding behind a bookcase, in lockdown. I assumed they were at the very same school, turned out they were at another school in the neighborhood, and had been put on lockdown just in case. I grew a little numb.  Needed to get a show on at 4, find a way to talk about this to an audience. Inside, I was growing cold. If I let a little ice melt, the dam would burst. I'd be lost.

More facts, more questions. She wasn't ever a teacher there, the shooter's mom. In fact, she had nothing to do with the school. The murderer didn't get buzzed in by the principal- he shot his way in.  The guns weren't even his. They were legal, yes. But they belonged to his mother. His mother??? His mother had 6 guns registered to her name.  She lived with a kid whom she knew to be mentally disturbed from the time he was very little, and still she kept guns in her own home.  Who is this mother?

Nancy Lanza and I might have been friends. Why not? We had a lot in common. Both around the same age, both white. Both choosing suburban Connecticut to raise our kids.  Both invested in our kids, in trying to make sure they were successful in the world.  Both professionals, well-educated, with college degrees.  From what I hear, Nancy Lanza was a really nice person. Really nice. Except she never let anyone into her house. Her marriage fell apart, and she had no male figure in the home to help control her son. She chose to take up shooting as a hobby.  She taught her son Adam how to use guns, viewing shooting as a hobby they could have in common, a way to bond with her socially inept son.   
And she kept those guns in the house.

Nancy and I had something else in common, something we shared with every other parent of every American boy. We all know about those violent video games. Addictive games, where the winner is the person who can kill fastest, most ruthlessly, most efficiciently.  Games that immerse players in a virtual world of warfare, simulated to look as real as possible.  Fake guns, with unreal consequences. Last year, a study from the University of Indiana School of Medicine confirmed what common sense told us all along- that violent video games alter brain function in young men, to a significant and detrimental degree. What a shock.  Parents need to add another "No" to their long list- along with smoking, drugs, alcohol, now we must "No" to violent video games too. 

Here is your recipe for disaster: A disturbed individual. Violent video games. A broken family. No friends. Guns.

Motive. Means. Opportunity. 

How do we prevent the next Newtown? We could do lots of things. I have some ideas. But I'll tell you tomorrow.  Today, I'm still trying to understand how Nancy Lanza could have allowed guns into her home.