Friday, June 6, 2014

Countering terrorism

The morning of May 30, 2012, a mentally ill and emotionally disturbed Ian Stawicki walked into a local coffee shop and opened fire after being asked to leave due to his continual destructive behavior. In the wake of this madness, five different individuals lost their lives and many more were left to pick up the pieces and rebuild.

For many years, Grey and I commuted to work passing Cafe Racer every morning. Though we've never stepped foot through the door, this coffee shop was one we were both familiar with and I knew a number of people who visited regularly. The day of the shooting came on the heels of our second loss. And I remember thinking about what would have happened if I lost Grey that day. Would I have had the will to continue living without him while still in the middle of grieving? Would I have had the will to go on?


Yesterday while waiting for the shuttle so I could meet up with Grey and pick up the Beats, I learned about the shooting at Seattle Pacific University. It was only 7 hours earlier that we as a family had driven past this small university on our way to work. And it was on the heels of a celebration of a colleague who had just defended her dissertation. Sitting with the others on the shuttle, I thought about the fact that my babies were only 3 miles away from where Aaron Ybarra had decided he would fulfill his fantasy of reenacting Columbine. And as I thought about those students, it reminded me of my students, my children and the people I knew who worked at similar institutions.

And for the first time in a very long time, I wished a lifetime of suffering on an individual.

Since the Columbine Massacre, there's been a trend in this country of mentally disturbed young men taking their aggression and anger out through mass murder. The scenario is always the same: kill as many as possible and then off oneself or be killed by the police in the end. Adam Lanza is a perfect example of this as he viewed his massacre as a game. A more recent example is John David LaDue and Elliot Rogers. Let's not forget James Holmes, Jared Loughner, Alex Hribal and Seung-Hui Cho. In each case, they took the anger and hate they had about themselves and turned it on others. In each case, people claimed they didn't see the signs.

In the past, the focus following each of the instances has been on gun control. Before anyone jumps down my throat, I do believe that we need stricter laws and regulations concerning guns, particularly handguns. But I also think we're missing the bigger picture: these boys (they don't deserve the title of men) are each mentally ill. They come from families that were so broken they failed to identify the issues and take the necessary steps get intervene. And because of that people died.

In the US, we live in a country where our prison system houses many of our mentally ill. We live in a country where people are afraid to step forward and speak out because we're not suppose to judge someone else's parenting abilities. We see countless examples of children raised in dysfunctional homes and do nothing about it as we believe it's not our problem. Instead of intervening, we turn away and hope the problem disappears.

But instead it grows. Instead it gets passed through the generations.

I won't lie: I want Aaron Ybarra to live a very long life where he spends the rest of his days atoning for this attempted massacre. I want him as an example for all disturbed boys that there are consequences for spreading hate. But I also want us as a society to stop putting individual freedoms over the good of one's community. To question parenting decisions that could put so many at risk. To hold our leaders liable for failure to push policy that address mental illness.

And, most importantly, I want people to have the courage to speak up when they sense something is off. To speak up and be rewarded for their bravery.

Yesterday an amazing thing happened. When Aaraon Ybarra was reloading his shotgun, a campus security guard had the courage to tackle him. And then other students put themselves at risk by piling on top. They had the courage to stop the rampage.

And as a community, they've come together to grieve and heal.

Just as the community from Cafe Racer did.

Just as so many others have done.

THAT needs to be our focus. The victims and the lives they lived. The community rebuilds and grows in the wake of tragedy.

Not the cowards who take lives in the hopes of glory.


  1. These things are never as simple as just gun control. There is typically mental illness involved as well. But I love your point about focusing on victims and survivors in the community and rebuilding stronger.


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