As the horrifying details of the massacre in Newtown come out, my mind keeps returning to the haunting scene from Schindler's List where the little boy is looking for a place to hide and can't find one.  Everywhere in the scene, children are hiding and no where is there room for another one.  That is what children must do when faced when these situations:  hide. 

Descriptions of the events surrounding the horrible scene in Connecticut prominently feature reports from the closets in the library or a classroom, bathrooms where teachers guided children in order to protect them.  Children must hide. 

The rest of us try to make sense out of the tragedy.  Guns, mental illness, the decay of the family, bullying. . .we will now watch as the sense-making proceeds and prescriptions are offered. 

As a parent, my mind searches to think of the right things to say to my children.  "This doesn't happen regularly" and "What do you think you should do if you heard or saw something out of the ordinary?" seem almost contradictory.  But I find the message important for my children.  I've always taught them to do everything in their power to hedge their bets on becoming a victim:  pay attention, be aware, take action, be independent, don't wait on someone else to do something for you. 

This is the horrific case that makes bad law, I fear.  It won't stop lawmaking but will likely produce nothing good.  Author and psychiatrist, J. Reid Meloy writes on the "Seven myths of mass murder" at the Oxford University Press blog (thanks to Dr. Helen):

"Myth 7: Mass murder can be predicted and prevented

Unfortunately this will never happen given the simple fact that we cannot predict such an extremely rare event. If we attempt to do so, we will grossly over-predict its occurrence and perhaps infringe upon individual rights and freedoms. However, we can mitigate the risk of such events by paying attention to behaviors of concern. This stopped Richard Reid from bringing down an airplane over the Atlantic in December 2001, when a passenger noticed he was trying to light his sneaker with a match. It contributed to the prevention of another ideologically driven mass murder in Times Square on 1 May 2010 when two street vendors noticed a suspicious van parked on a busy corner and alerted the police; two days later Faisal Shahzad was arrested as he sat on a plane at Kennedy bound for Dubai. Such situational awareness is critical to interdict someone in the final stages of an attack.

But there is another warning behavior that is quite frequent: mass murderers will leak their intent to others — a phrase expressed to another, or posted on the internet, that raises concern. It may be overt: 'I’m going to kill my supervisor and his cohorts tomorrow;' or it may be covert: 'don’t come to work tomorrow, but watch the news.' The logical reaction should be to alert someone in a position of authority; however, most people don’t. It surfaces after the event, with the rationale, “I just didn’t think he was serious.' Trust your emotional reactions of anxiety, wariness, or fear, and let law enforcement investigate."

I don't have a conclusion or a solution.  I am trying not to hide.


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