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Salem Grieves and Worries, The Dialogue Must Begin

We are not immune to the issues of today's society.

Billy Cormier, Susan Sorois, Neil Cornacchio, Gloria Riley, Peter Doyle, Barbara DuPray, Frank Hooley, Karen Kobialka, Wayne Malionek, Aurora Oquendo, Bobby Carter, Beth Tobin.

Those are the names of a few but not all of the Salem children that attended St. Mary's school with me in the late 1960's and early 1970's. We were instructed and disciplined on a daily basis by a group of nuns belonging to the Sisters of Charity. Kindergarten was the realm of Sister Anita. One of the years I was in kindergarten (yes I did kindergarten twice) the student teacher was a tall young woman by the name of Nancy Harrington. 

All of the people I named went on to to live their lives as most parents expect their children will do. Some got married and had children. They all have had careers of some kind. A judge, a couple of policemen and probably more than few blue-collar type emerged from that group. They all went on to chase their dreams and face their disappointments.

We were young, innocent children putting our trust in our parents and the nuns every day. We felt safe and secure in our little corner in the basement of the building on Hawthorne Boulevard. Our world was not perfect. Incidents like this were not unknown but they did not seem to be as common as they have become today.

In 1927 the Bath School Disaster was inflicted on Bath Township, Michigan. 45 people including 38 elementary school children were killed in three separate bombings.

There was a school massacre in Cologne, Germany in 1964. Eight students were killed by a man wielding an improvised flame thrower and a 24-year old teacher was stabbed to death.

Charles Whitman killed his wife and mother prior to climbing the clock tower at the University of Texas in 1966. He killed fifteen students before he was done.

Three school massacres, three different methods of massacre.

It is impossible for me to imagine such a thing happening to my kindergarten class back in 1966. I see Neil Cornacchio, tall and strong around town frequently. I read of Judge Peter Doyle presiding at Newburyport District Court. Sergeant Bob Carter patrols the city streets today.  On occasion I have had the pleasure of indulging in a cold beer with Beth Tobin. I shudder to think of all of us of lying broken and bloody on the floor in 1966.

They have all gone on to live lives. To be happy and sad, to achieve and fail, to love and lose, to travel or sit at home as they desire. 20 children in Sandy Hook will never experience any of that.

The time for dialogue is now. waiting until tomorrow, or next week serves no purpose.

The mental health system in this country is a pharmaceutical driven nightmare. Instead of actually helping those with emotional issues or personality disorders we choose to medicate them with drugs that suppress or mask the issues.  More serotonin seems to be the answer for everything.  

To me, a layman with some personal experience in this area giving mind altering drugs to children whose brains are still growing makes no sense. Who knows what long term damage Ritalin or Adderall is doing to undeveloped brains?

Years ago it was common to give children with certain issues large, regular doses of phenobarbital. Many of those children, deal with the residual effects of that practice as adults today. This I know from personal experience.

Did the Sandy Hook gunman have any experience with psychopharmacology?

Do we need more restrictive gun laws? They are already quite restrictive, especially in Massachusetts, and Salem is not an easy place to acquire a license to carry. I do question however, what any rational human needs with a rifle that can fire up to six bullets per second.

No matter your position on mental health care, or gun control the time is long past for rational discussion on the national level.

Bill December 17, 2012 at 01:21 PM
You make two good point - we already have significant gun laws, especially in a place like CT. The shooter tried to get an gun on Monday and was turned away and used his mother's legally obtained guns. If you think gun laws are lax try and get a licence to carry in Mass. For the past few days I have been turned off by many, especially on the left, who look to make this tragedy "all about guns". It is not, they are a secondary issue. The story here is one of mental illness. As Bill says, giving these kids drugs as an easy solution is likely a mistake. No one want to go back to the days of Danvers State when people when mentally ill people were put away, but what we are doing is not working. The question no one really wants to ask is what are we doing as a society that is producing these monsters. Guns enable, but they are not the cause. I don't have an answer, but the frequency of these incidents is more about our violent culture/mental health response than gun laws. I am sick of hearing about the need to "have a conversation" about guns. How about a conversation about why a kid from an affluent background came to a place where murdering 6 yr olds was his final statement. Guns didn't produce this twisted person. Let's find out what did.
Josh Turiel December 17, 2012 at 01:40 PM
There's a lot of problems that converge here. Mental health is one of them. Our gun culture is another. I think we have to take a hard look at everything - not just ban guns (or one type of gun), not just focus on mental illness. If we banned the sale of guns tomorrow, it would be decades before there was any underlying change in the culture - if that even happened. Personally (and this is just my personal opinion), I would be perfectly happy to see most weapons that aren't light-duty in nature banned from private use. Revolvers, single-shot hunting rifles, and shotguns? Keep them around, they're not what we generally find in use in crimes like these and they're far better stuff then the "well-regulated militias" of 1792 had available. I really don't think we need enough of a private armory in our homes to overthrow the government. But mainly I agree with both Bills here.
cindy December 18, 2012 at 05:21 AM
As an active and concerned parent, I can tell you the other part of the conversation- media (of all types!). Our society is bombarding our children with violence and "dark" images. I couldn't let my son watch the Macy's day parade without screening the commercials- at 10am! I went to Barne's and Noble to get ideas for his new love of reading- the entire section for "young readers" was dark- vampires, werewolves, and other hooded types. It is no longer good against evil-- it evil as cool, or misunderstood at the worst. I haven't even found any decent recent Disney movies that I'll let him watch. We resort to old TV shows and classics. But we are on guard constantly and it's hard work. Most parents just are not- and frankly we shouldn't have to be. Just because an advertiser is willing to pay for an early time slot does not mean they should get it, just because violence sells- does not mean we must continue to sell it to children. If all that matters is the mighty buck- then why continue to prevent drugs- those sell too! Any parent, or adult that is paying attention, can not wonder why these things are happening- it's pretty d-mn obvious- we fill their heads with violence every chance we get, we drug half of them, we poorly manage mental health, and then we hand over the tools by allowing weapons of mass destruction. It's not just about guns, or violence or drugs or mental health or parenting or values, but they all must be included. We need to start change now!
Bill December 18, 2012 at 03:28 PM
Cindy - I could not agree more - I am stunned at the level of violence in video games and movies aimed at teen boys. Where do you think they get the idea to dress in body armor and arm themselves. It is learned behavior from movies and video games. Of course, that is not part of the anti-gun narrative b/c they are owned by the same companies who own the TV news.

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