The news about the school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut has devastated all of us today. I want to tell America that we here in Canada share your shock and sorrow, and are mourning with you over the innocent lives lost.
I also want to urge people, as I did just after the movie theatre shooting in Colorado this summer, not to jump to conclusions about the motivations of the shooters or any diagnoses that he may have had. I’ve read the rumours that he was autistic and/or intellectually disabled and/or that he may have had some kind of personality disorder. I’ve not seen anything confirming any of these rumours. Perhaps as you’re reading this, things may have changed, and we may have more information.
If it turns out that any of these rumours happen to be true, please be very careful with how you choose to speak about them in connection to this killing. Too often in these cases, the presence of some sort of diagnosis leads to stereotyping of groups that society already looks down on (namely the disabled and those with mental health conditions). It’s a very emotional time, and we’re all trying to make sense of the ultimate senseless event: the deliberate murder of children. However, when you speak about this event to other people, particularly to children (who are still learning how to categorize information and incorporate it into their worldview), please try to get these messages across should the opportunity arise where they must be discussed:
- The fact that one person with a particular diagnosis commits an act of terrible violence does not mean that everyone with that diagnosis is capable of committing such an act.
- People who share the shooter’s diagnosis (if he has one) need not automatically be feared.
- It’s important not to talk to people like we know why the shooter did this, until it’s been confirmed. Even if we never know, and even if that’s very difficult for us to accept.
I’m not trying to defend or protect the shooter. In fact, this is one of those very rare times when I’m finding it difficult to hang on to my belief that everyone has basic human rights. It’s difficult for me to consider that someone who could kill innocent children is human. But I’m trying.
I’m just trying to keep more people from being hurt by the events of this terrible day.
I hope that you’re all finding a way to find some peace tonight, wherever you are. America, Canada mourns with you.