December 28, 2012
It takes more than guns to produce the increased frequency of mass killings such as the school shooting in Newtown, Conn. ("What must be done," Dec. 26). As a society we are at risk of accepting the lethal combination of firearms in the hands of disturbed and marginalized individuals as the norm.
If we are serious in our effort to remedy this rising tide of "random" violence, we must look beyond the proliferation of assault weapons and the policies that enable their ownership. The problem is much deeper than that.
As a culture, we are increasingly disconnected from one another. It is not just our newest technological devices that have become digitized. We as individuals are speeding up and noticing less.
Face to face interactions with our fellow humans have become characterized by "efficient" sound-bites, lest we be distracted from what else is going on. Every thread of our social fabric is showing signs of strain — communities, institutions, families and individuals.
We exercise less patience. We work longer hours and spend less time with our families and friends. And thanks to our "devices," we are never truly away from work.
This trend toward social isolation and atomization has dire consequences. Healthier people will simply have relationships characterized by less intimacy. But for those who are already vulnerable and who may be predisposed to engage in destructive behaviors, there is a greater risk they will turn further inward, while those around them fail to notice the change.
To truly honor the lives lost at Newtown we need to call time out for a serious reevaluation of what has brought us to this point and where we are going. We are in a cultural "state of emergency," and we must change direction.
The writer is a family and couples therapist who teaches at the University of Maryland School of Social Work.
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