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Loss of Life in Newtown (Dec. 2012)


Orginally this was a letter written to poet friends on 17.12.2012, the day after Barack Obama gave his speech in Newtown. Something hit home when he stated this is the fourth time since becoming President of the United States, that he has to extend his condolescences due to similar circumstances, namely a lone man or group going out on a shooting rage to kill innocent by-standers. What made it worse in the case of Newtown was the fact that 20 children at the ages six and seven were killed as well as the director of the school and along with her several teachers who tried to save the lives of the children. Once such a tragic unfolds, the news media converges but soon afterwards life continues and the once very vivid pictures fade into the background. But this time, news reporters expressed outrage at the gun lobby and expressed their fear that soon it will be back to business as if nothing ever changes. Barack Obama has, however, promised to initiate new measures to deal with this huge problem barely circumscribed with the policy issue called 'gun control'. Ever since Michael Moore has made the film 'Bowling for Columbine', it should be clear that the American society has not only a problem with this form of ready made violence, but also has not learned to come to terms with its own schizophrenia. In Michael Moore's film there is being interviewed a manager working at Lockheed, one of the world's largest weapon producer, who tells Michael young boys should not have access to guns. The problem is that they can easily be bought at the next supermarket or else ordered online but the real issue is that contradiction made explicit by the manager standing beside one of the rockets under construction.


List of contents

Gun violence in the United States

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gun_violence_in_the_United_States

Gun violence is a regularly debated political issue in the United States. Gun-related violence is most common in poor urban areas and frequently associated with gang violence, often involving male juveniles or young adult males.[1][2] High-profile mass shootings have fueled debate over gun policies.[3] In 2010 there were 358 murders involving rifles. Murders involving the use of handguns in the US that same year totaled 6,009, with another 1,939 murders with the firearm type unreported.[4] High-profile assassinations such as those of John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King, and the Beltway sniper attacks involved the use of rifles, usually with telescopic sights, from concealed locations.

Hand guns figured in the Virginia Tech shootings, Binghamton massacre, Fort Hood massacre, Oikos University shooting, and 2011 Tucson shooting. Assailants with multiple weapons committed the Aurora theater shooting, and the Columbine High School massacre.

In 2009, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, 66.9% of all homicides in the United States were perpetrated using a firearm.[5] There were 52,447 deliberate and 23,237 accidental non-fatal gunshot injuries in the United States during 2000.[6] Two-thirds of all gun-related deaths in the United States are suicides. In 2010, there were 19,392 firearm-related suicide deaths, and 11,078 firearm-related homicide deaths in the United States.[7]

Policies at the federal, state, and local levels have attempted to address gun violence through a variety of methods, including restricting firearms purchases by youths and other "at-risk" populations, setting waiting periods for firearm purchases, establishing gun "buy-back" programs, law enforcement and policing strategies, stiff sentencing of gun law violators, education programs for parents and children, and community-outreach programs. However, federal legislation also aims to prohibit intentional interference of weapon sales to criminals domestically and insurgents abroad by prohibition of ATF and local law enforcement from access to digital databases for the purpose of idenfitication of the place of sale for weapons recovered at crime scenes.[8][9][10]

Gun policies are influenced by interpretations of the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution, an amendment which has been the subject of disagreement over the years. It was not until 2008 that the Supreme Court first attempted to clarify the meaning of this amendment in District of Columbia v. Heller, in which it invalidated a firearm ban in Washington, D.C., stating that the second amendment protects an individual's right to possess a firearm for traditionally lawful purposes, such as self-defense within the home and within federal enclaves. In June 28, 2010 the Supreme Court ruled in the case of McDonald v. Chicago that this protection extends to the states as well.[11]

The Congressional Research Service in 2009 estimated there were 310 million firearms in the United States, not including weapons owned by the military. 114 million of these were handguns, 110 million were rifles, and 86 million were shotguns.[12] In that same year, the Census bureau stated the population of people in America at 305,529,237.[13] Data analysis of crime gun databases showed that 70% of guns recovered at crime scenes in Virgina were purchased within one year of the crime, suggesting that in some cases guns are purchased with the intent to commit a crime or murder.[8]


February 22, 2013|By KELLY MCBRIDE | COMMENTARY, The Hartford Courant „Wrenching assignment: Unraveling Newtown“ http://articles.courant.com/2013-02-22/news/hc-op-mcbride-getting-at-truth-of-newtown-adam-lan-20130222_1_frontline-documentary-journalists-heartbreaking-story

„You can't hide from what happened. You can't pretend it's over, because it will never be over. All you can do is try to understand.

Courant reporters Alaine Griffin, Josh Kovner and Matthew Kauffman, along with a crew from the PBS investigative news program "Frontline," did just that with last week's special "Raising Adam Lanza."

A community transformed by loss of life - Newtown after Dec. 12th

Another tragic event

All of us around the globe have in mind the constant loss of life, but all are now more than just stricken by what happened in Newtown. Horrific is the news when we learn that this time innocent children suddenly shall no longer come home, and as some parents said, brighten up no more the room with their smiles as they had done until then.

But while responding to this news coming out of Newtown, we are constantly affected as well by what is happening around the globe, right now in particular in Syria. A friend just wrote after having been visited by two friends from Syria, that they are full of fear. Life to them has become most precarious. Add to this the austerity measures crushing Greek society and leaving more than 60% of the youth unemployed, with much the same in Italy, Spain, Portugal, then many things in this world strike one as no longer 'normal'. One begins to wonder about happy life being possible, if it ever were!

This loss of life strikes home all the more when there are innocent children at the age of six and seven involved. Again it happens in the United States. Already when visiting Detroit for the first time in 1987, and after having been at a meeting of SOSAD – Save our Sons and Daughters from killing each other (in that year alone children or teenagers killed more children than the number of days a year has), violent deaths was an unbelievable phenomenon. Much later on, Michael Moore would make a film about it. Called 'Bowling for Columbine', it was about two teenagers who had been together with the other class mates on the same bowling team, went to a supermarket where they bought weapons with which they created a slaughter. It happens so often that all schools have a special alert system. It means no one feels really safe.

As for everyone, including the rest of the world, once something like this happens again, then all are thrown into this double perplexity, the reason being that not only words fail in view of what just happened, but also that it could happen 'again'.

Since there are so many layers of experience in need to be worked through, before a discussion about how it could happen, is taken up, something else has to be said at the outset. This most recent shooting incidence brings not only to the fore such problems as permanent violence and gun control in American society. Rather things have to be put the other way around, namely why despite the existence of different insights into what can prompt such a horrid incidence, no better understanding of how to live together peacefully i.e. without violence, could mature enough, so as to bring about many needed changes in education, politics and ways of working together?

There was even a note of disappointment and resignation in the air. Many linked it not merely to the faltering American economy with 'Occupy Wall Street' addressing but one of the many issues, namely the growing polarization between the rich and the poor, but also to Barack Obama directly. He had been four years in office and many had hoped, that he would bring about a much needed change in American society. When entering re-election campaign, it was thought he could easily lose since this disappointment meant a likelihood those who had voted for him the first time around would not do so a second time on Nov. 4th, 2012. He was re-elected, and just one month later, this tragic event in Newtown.

Newtown threw up immediately the all too familiar question which Michael Moore had posed already, namely why this peculiar violence? For it expresses itself through ownership of a gun or a range of weapons. With everyone feeling in need of having a gun, what makes it so hard to argue against is that everyone cites the American constitution when claiming the Right to own guns. Originally it was meant to cover the need for a home militia should the need for defence of the country arise again. Over time, and with the help of the all powerful gun lobby, this has become a private Right of every citizen. Needless to say, the selling of guns had become as a result of this need a booming business. Someone referred to it as a whole gun culture which has developed as a result and which permeates by now the entire American society. The worst aspect thereof is not the fact that so many people possess guns. As Michael Moore pointed out in Canada more guns are possessed by even a smaller number of people, but compared to the United States there is far less gun related violent incidences registered per year. One reason for this difference is that the gun culture in the United States has gone out of control, and is, therefore, without any reality check. Instead of altering this development, for sure the gun lobby went finally public after what happened in Newtown and rather than admitting it is time for a change, made the proposal from now on teachers should go into class rooms 'armed'. The perversion of an original thought keeps on just pushing in the wrong direction. Many fear the worst if things continue in that direction for should it come to a break down of any civility in the United States, then a bloody shot-out would erupt. That scenario is in the minds of many and instead of confronting their fears in an open way, they simply go to the next shop and buy up more guns with more ammunition rounds than what sometimes soldiers have available when fighting in Afghanistan or Iraq.

One conclusion can be drawn already out of this, namely to show all the more that the conviction in life cannot be thwarted by an event like this and that the gun culture can be halted from expanding any further. Out of this conviction, a belief in life can be regained.

These are but initial thoughts. In the meantime, there is the immediate need to console the parents, brothers and sisters, immediate family relatives but also friends and neighbours who knew those children who died in the shut-out. Mourning has to be made possible. It goes without saying that this grief shall be shared with everyone. It is a loss of life felt not only in Newtown or in America, but around the entire world.

At risk is that the parents of these dead children feel not only a vacuum when no longer that special voice is heard, but that they are left completely alone, once interest by the media has receded and things are meant to go back to normal. That is impossible. Such loss of life by especially young children leaves a sad mark forever.

Overt reasons

Given the depth of such a tragic event, there is at risk that many different reasons are given why it could happen. Some may interpret it as a kind of rage against the school, then again a first rumour spread by the media was that he had shot first the children and then wanted to kill his father, but in not finding him, turned the gun instead against his own mother. Later this was corrected and the sequences of events drawn differently. He shot first his mother, and then went to the school with loaded guns. He forced his entry into the school and then started to proceed as if he wanted to kill all children in the school. For he went ahead systematically, insofar after the first class room he tried to go to the next. In the meantime, the police arrived. Apparently he killed himself before the police could get to him.

All this may be just an indication of what took place in reality, and more importantly what was simmering already for a long time below the surface. There is the special category of premeditated murder which takes into account the vulnerability of the victims. As anyone knows six and seven year old children at school are easy targets. They don't wear guns, and lest of all do they expect someone to walk in with a gun. Nevertheless the school had just gone recently through a drill and had altered the entry points. Once the children were in the school, the doors were locked and no one could get in without giving recognition. As said, the shooter forced his way in by blasting the security doors open with his own guns.

One important difference about the shooter was that he left apparently no traces. Once the police had searched his house, they found a wrecked computer. He had destroyed any possible evidence. Curious is as well the fact that he had withdrawn from life. No one had really seen him or spoken with him for some time. They remembered him only from earlier school days, that is when he still attended school. In the last year he had been withdrawn from school and given instead home schooling – a special arrangement. It was not explained why.

Once further bits and pieces sicker out, and still it should be remembered anyone outside the situation depends upon what journalists convey and experts interpret, these 'overt reasons' can be substantiated a bit more, but only a bit. A common feeling prevails nevertheless: as horrible as the incidence is, that it could happen again points to how the American society has been formed.

As for the immediate temporal context, there had just been held the presidential elections in November with Barack Obama winning re-election over Mitt Romney. Gun control was never really mentioned during the election campaign, although it was remembered that Obama did not manage to tackle that problem during his first four years. As for the election result, namely the re-election of Barack Obama, it revealed the demographic and multi-cultural composition of the United States. While white voters in the suburbs and rural areas flocked to Mitt Romney and the Republican Party, the Rainbow coalition in the urban centres voted for Obama. That is significant insofar as Newtown considers itself to be a very rich community with predominantly only white residents and therefore more likely to have voted for the Republican candidate. Without wishing to imply anything, Newtown was presented to the outside viewer as a place which contains some of the best things America promises and does have. All the more a puzzle that of all places it could take place there.

Naturally a boy taking up suddenly guns and going on a shooting spree, that can happen anywhere. Most of the times these potentialities for gun related violence to erupt, they prevail underneath the surface in all places. No one thought, for instance, it could happen in Finland or in Norway, and then the tragic suddenly hit home. One answer can be given insofar as the thesis of Enzensberger about the 'radical loser' holds almost everywhere. It begins with the usual story: a man who had lived amongst the neighbours peacefully for 25 years turns suddenly the gun first against his wife and children, and then kills himself. And everyone is astonished. They had no inkling and testify into the running cameras when asked by the journalists who have converged suddenly onto the place, that he seemed to be such a decent guy. That says something about social perception, or, if taken deeper, in relation to what Germans claimed after the war, namely not to have seen the deportation of the Jews, about a non existing 'ethics of seeing.'

On the other hand, there can be many, too many who are unable to cope with the demands of their parents, teachers, friends and generally of the system, and this for many reasons. They will suffer under a series of failures and consequently isolate themselves ever more. Most of the time is spend in front of video or computer screens. However, not all of them become violent. Rather they will merely withdraw and tend to be almost unnoticeable. They live under a blanket of silence. The exception is the one who will suddenly burst into the open and transform that day into a tragic one.

This withdrawal symptom has to be recognized in time. It is often because their link to life has been growing more frail by the day. Various set backs, like criticism by the teacher, the mocking of fellow class mates, the loss of a girlfriend etc. can contribute to feeling just far worse than being a mere social failure. Rather the internalized voices of the parents will echo and be amplified as being a good for nothing person who has no value in life whatsoever.

Something similar must have happened to that boy. There did emerge one interesting detail. Apparently he encountered difficulties with learning at school. In the end, the school authorities allowed him to have home schooling. It seems that he did not go to school during the last two years at high school. Whether or not it was prompted by the mother, or the outcome of a mutual decision by mother and school authorities, that is not really a well established fact. There are school records which can be consulted. Whatever the case, in the final end it meant that he had no longer daily contact with other school children and, thereby, missed out on an important aspect of life, namely socializing and communicating with others. Presumably he had lost all skills to express himself openly, to talk about his problems with others, and not to feel to be a complete failure.

Conviction in life

Only when conviction in life can be conveyed by a compassion for life, and this free from any ideology, including religion, then stark human reality can be faced despite all set-backs and shortcomings suffered so far. What then did reduce 'conviction and life' to nothing, as must have been the case of that young man, may never be found out. Certainly his version of the story shall never be heard since he killed himself before the police could get to him. And it is almost certain they would have shot him dead rather than trying to render him otherwise to become helpless to kill anyone else and still keep him alive to ask these questions.

It is well known that some go on a shooting spree once they have been turned down once too many a times either when seeking a job or a relationship to the other sex. Still, there must be a pre-history of even abuse and which would explain the growing tendency towards self-isolation. And always some odd correlation appear to have existed in the life of such a perpetrator. For instance, a boy who went on a shooting spree outside of Stuttgart, Germany, it was later revealed not only was he withdrawn, but a member of table tennis training centre. Who knows what took place there? And there does not need to be abuse necessarily in play. It suffices if life is replaced completely by the goal to succeed in a tournament, and then the obvious can happen, namely a failure to make the team or not to succeed with all the risks to be shouted at by the trainer as a complete failure, a good for nothing etc. It is known to what means and ends trainers and fellows on the tame can go while all stand under pressure due to highly competitive circumstances. Once that chance to gain recognition by winning is gone, and after having given up already so much to serve that purpose, the conviction in life will surely not be strong enough any longer to sustain him not merely as physical existence, but as a moral impulse for his conscious existence. Hence some explanation is needed why often highly intelligent, equally sensitive boys end up in such sad state of mind? Maybe it is that they have been hurt too often that they cannot take it any more, and then they hit back frightened as they are and ever closer to panic.

Freud described how important is the libido. This is not a particular love to one other individual, but a general love for people and in an extended sense to life. Once that libido is torn, there are very few forms which can keep things together. Freud mentions this is especially the case with churches or armies since both are artificially held together, the one by inner fear linked to an omnipotent God who loves but can also punish if you deviate, or an army which is only strong as long as the enemy does not turn out to be much stronger. In either cases once the tables of fortune turn, they flee in panic as does an army once the inner cohesion is gone. It suffices to say in society with all its emphasis upon moral and decent relationships on the one hand, and wild life, red districts with prostitution, extra affairs although married etc. poses quite a contradictory and confusing picture for any young person growing up under these often nebulous circumstances. The libido is at risk once love is exploited if not for business, then other reasons e.g. sacrificing everything for the team, school or nation. That is a form of Patriotism without any regard how perverse it is when a love for ones country becomes paramount to being accepted as a good citizen. If not care is taken, then this perversion of love will destroy any social cohesion as it depends upon this libido, or a free love for all human beings and therefore the real potentiality to be in love with someone concrete. If that takes place, it means the person moves in the human stream and feels secure as any friendly gesture is responded to immediately with forthcoming gestures that can make all the difference when seeking a path through life. Again it means conviction in life needs the libido to strengthen this resolve not to give up on oneself nor on other human beings. That translates into confidence, in the other as much as in the self. The expression, 'he will come through in the end', says it all for what such self confidence stands for. Taken a step further, it means as well when things count the most to be present, on the side of humanity, that person will be there for he or she is reliable, and this despite all human weaknesses.

Strangely enough human weakness can play only a limited role, if looked upon as something negative and not as source of real human strength. Such a positive recognition would depend mainly upon understanding that the very vulnerability of oneself is what makes one really be human. A denial thereof is highly misleading but this is usually the case. Already in the first chapter of any training manual for either a sportsman or a heroic soldier, vulnerability is frowned upon. The key advise is never to give anyone any exposure as that shall be taken advantage of. Consequently self protective measures lead not only to being unapproachable i.e. not open, but to a fatal self denial insofar of the showing of any human emotions is categorized negatively as showing weakness. Here then ends solidarity with others while to be convinced shall mean from then on to gain the upper hand, indeed a victory over the other.

The negation comes in many variations. Veterans who have gone through that awful experience warn recruits not to give up this positive relationship to the self. By so doing, the soldier becomes less and less convinced of himself and adopts instead pseudo-forms of recognition, in order to survive amongst rank and file i.e. within a strict hierarchy. Pseudo-feelings are created to uphold the illusion of holding up together the entire unit. It runs most of the time under the umbrella of 'comradeship' while being eager to show hero-- and leadership in combat. Practically most of the American culture, whether the upper or lower one, gives a great emphasis upon leadership. Deep down it gives recognition that those who have to follow and obey orders have only a few chances in life. It is much more preferred to stay on top of the game.

Precisely all of this can translate itself into a fatal mixture of loss of confidence and seeing no more chances for a positive recognition. It can let have this young shooter of Newtown gone not crazy but completely desperate. Not only will he have set out on what can be called 'final' mission' in full determination but the style of execution as if according to a pre-plan is one of cold blooded rationality. All his intelligence must have been made function for such a purpose. Hence involvement of others who used him cannot be ruled out. But whatever triggered off his action so that an extremely reserved and shy boy could suddenly kill innocent children, there must have been reached a point when all positive perspectives for a life ahead were completely blended out, and on top of it he saw no way out of this self denial. By the time he shot first his mother, and then went to the school to continue the shooting, any human self esteem must have all but vanished completely by then.

Mourning the loss

Church bells did not stay silent. They mixed in with the sirens, or with the noise of many cars arriving and leaving. Here and there voices could be heard. Journalist stuttered even out of disbelief. They became more personal, less professionally brazen as otherwise the case. More often people would not simply pass by, but fell into each other arms as if they wanted to dispel for a moment with such an embrace the disbelief that it could happen again not anywhere in America, but now here, in the very own community thought till then to be safe.

It is impossible to describe the many phases of emotions parents go through. Alone what they must have gone through when asked to assemble in a hall opposite to the school. There they had to wait in order to receive their children. What difference must have been between parents who saw a child freeing itself from the rest of children and starting to run towards them, in recognition there where the parents waiting, all while next to them stood parents who looked in vain and yet no child came towards them. Very soon they began to fear the worst. Most likely till the very end many of them did not give up hope. They longed, indeed prayed for a miracle to happen and that the smiling face they knew so well would suddenly reappear in front of them, cheer them up. For these parents that moment of relief never came. Anxiety and fear tumbled into the darkness of endless grief. Terrible is what happened, more horrible how tormented the souls of those who are left behind. They will scratch that wound many a times when picking up a toy or hearing a tune the child loved, or just when memories would float in through the window while watching other children build a snowman and seeing the own child no longer among them. For it happened during pre-Christmas time, that is when family come together more closely than throughout the entire year, for it is a deeply sentimental time. All the children had just done some special preparations at school. That all these happy memories cannot live on any longer, be renewed by new discoveries when the child comes home from school, that is an incredible pain, an anguish more than what anyone can take.

Mourning begins once the reality sinks in and it is finally admitted nothing can be done to turn around the news, and more specifically the concrete information that the own child is among the ones who have been killed. Given police checks and security measures, there are agonizing moments of delay, but everything seems to have been done with the utmost of care. The police knew the parents and they in turn realized the six teachers had died because they tried to save the children. And some of the children were saved because a teacher hid them inside a cupboard. Another bright moment was the fact that the information system was left on so that everyone could hear over the intra-com system what was going on. Mourning begins when seeing the broken glass at the entrance and realizing this is when it began to turn negative.

The built-up of various forms of remembrance to those who died is a part of the public mourning. Also the fact that one CNN reporter came from a nearby town and knew the area well conveyed more than just a personal touch. Likewise some reporters became very personal when speaking about the need for gun control. That meant mourning had already switched into high gear to prepare the ground for a 'never again' will we allow this issue to be passed over. It said as much as 'we owe it to these children!' Mourning as commitment to save future lives is what can transform the negative into positive energy. People need that, in order to fight against resignation, against the simple giving up, prompted by the conclusion that everything has been in vain because what was thought to be impossible happened again.

Conviction comes across as well in how mourning is entered. Death needs to be confronted and dealt with. It is best to shed all the tears. Many did it even in public. An enormous example was set already by the parents who had no longer their children come home from school. They showed more than a brave face. Interestingly enough, they also asked the media not to come to their house for an interview, not yet. They did not wish that out of their sadness and grief sensational news would be created nor did they wish false rumours to be spread around.

But mourning does not stop there with the parents and a closely knit community. This time there were not mere ripple effects which gripped the nation alone, but the whole world. For this time the shock went much deeper. Partially it might be explained that over the past few months events in America had been followed very closely due to the Presidential election, its importance underlined all the more so by the saying 'America votes, but the impact will be upon the whole world!'

The event has and shall affect for a long time children, parents, community and beyond that how people shall relate to one another. Indeed, it does make a difference that grief is shared not only by the whole American nation, but as well by the world. That was also the case when 911 happened. For such a tragic event touches upon a pain which is not confined to any locality or nation, but truly universal. When young children die, it touches all human beings around the globe.

From tragic moments to trivial elements - some first clues

By emphasizing mourning, it suggests already that there has been put at risk children when at school? The fact that the public trust the authorities when they send their children to school, means standards of safety procedures have not been observed or else breached. Most serious is that such an incidence can shake the social trust not only in whatever institutions and the authorities – police, teachers, etc. - can provide, but it can also affect the relationship to one another. All that taken together along with the terrible loss of lives makes it into something more than simply tragic.

The psychoanalyst Mitscherlich said that mourning is a prerequisite to regain trust. Only once aware of what has been lost, then something can be regained. Yet learning from losses alone is not enough. Everyone knows it but rarely says it. For if the event just contributes to a still greater loss of conviction in life, then apparently no one can stop this negative trend. As anyone knows, being without a strong conviction, means coming ever closer to the abyss. For to be without conviction can easily translate itself into someone who is ready to give up not merely out of despair, but due to being convinced everything is in vain. Nothing works any more! If there is no purpose in life itself, then all the more estranged can parents and people feel if innocent children can be taken so easily from life, away from them, and that within seconds after the shooting has started. Here tragedy becomes a shock like awareness of the finality of life.

Resignation has deep roots. It comes in many forms. One of them is when parents give up raising their child with love. Interestingly enough Barack Obama said at this moment, and especially this evening, we should all hug our children extra to give them assurance they are loved. Thus once parents do not simply retire from active parenthood but withdraw also their love, then something begins to go deeply wrong. Something like that may have started much earlier, like not carrying how a child falls asleep – with or without a good night story! Instead of learning to understand why a child does not wish to go to bed right away, but has something to tell even though often unable or afraid to do so, parents with patience will invest in the years ahead by staying by the bedside rather than just ordering the child to go to bed and to stop crying. Of course, creative solutions are not easy to find or self understood; yet it makes all the difference if parents try rather than give up.

Relationships become tragic once misunderstanding leads to misgivings. It shall prompt a change of attitude towards the child. Suddenly the parents stop investing and instead start to demand at first quietly, but then ever more forcefully things they know a child cannot give easily, if at all. A child needs to resist the command of the persons for the sake of self respect, and no child cannot restore a lost love if the parents had entered in the first place a fake love relationship. Who knows how they conceived the child in the first place. And although it is very easy to conceive a child, it is much harder to nourish a child throughout its complete life with love. Yet especially when it comes to a divorce between the parents, as was the case with the shooter of Newtown, a child feels more often not only responsible, but guilty as if it was the cause. This is because children have no filter to protect themselves from being over demanded. They simply take on their shoulders all responsibilities and try to resolve what is not really their problem but that of the parents. Terrible is then when they think not to succeed in keeping the parents together and blame themselves for that failure. Such internalised guilt feelings can go a long way to explain why a child becomes an introvert and an unknown stranger to many as time passes on. Due the quietness or withdrawn character no one will really notice what is going on inside such a child till often too late.

So it is better not to depart only from the tragic event itself, but to pick up some threads made visible at the trivial level of daily life. Anything unusual can be of interest and prompt some further going analysis as to what really took place in the life of that young man. It may not be an accident that the shooter in this case came from a family where the parents had divorced. The young man Adam Lanza – he was twenty at the time when he shoot the children on Dec. 14, 2012 - lived alone with a mother who had presumably lost control over her life. 1

As a matter of fact, she was in search of a possibility to vent her fear as to what lies ahead. This raises already a serious question for as mother she drove her son to the shooting range for training lessons, while at home she kept her own guns. Moreover it has been revealed that he watched many violent video games although experts dismiss the often readily drawn linkage between such kind of games and mass killing. Tragic is nevertheless that Adam Lanza killed first his mother by shooting her four times before going to school to wreck there havoc. Apparently only when the police arrived, and that was immediate once the alarm was set off, did he kill himself. That can be taken as a sign of panic rather than desperation. Meant by this is all along the entire action, even when well executed, underlines the possibility of a panic stricken young man.

When listening to the interviews journalists made of neighbours or others of this closely knit community of Newtown, then strangely enough everyone drew a similar impression of a mother who was friendly and kind. Only one or two persons mentioned some nuances like her effort to invite other children to the house, so that they could not play so much with her son, but watch together with him videos. Another detail was that she received from her husband after the divorce quite a high alimony. As this reflects in turn what a wealthy community Newtown is, it can be imagined that between real and imagined problems when it comes to cope with life, that there was quite a gap. Basically she had been taken care of, financially speaking, due to a good divorce settlement, and lived in a huge house. Someone did mention that she had plans to move away.

One thing did stand out in one account given about Lanza's mother. Apparently she belonged to a movement convinced that the American economy would soon break down and then violence would erupt due to only chaos and violence reigning. That was a kind of doomsday or apocalyptic orientation which would make her fears more concrete, but in a completely wrong and distorted way. Rather than learning to go out to make different experiences, she was driven by a refined cultivation of fear towards use of gun for purpose of self protection.

If that becomes a general phenomenon within a wide spread movement called 'prepper' 2 , then this 'survivalist' irrationality will fed on any bad news. Anything will be picked up, if only it confirms the theory being propagated, namely that society will soon crash once the economy breaks down and, therefore, one has to be prepared for the worst possible scenario. How likely such beliefs can become a part of popular culture or main stream thinking, here one needs only to be reminded of the campaign speeches by Mitt Romney. The Republican candidate would constantly paint the economy in the darkest possible colours, in order to give Barack Obama all the blame for lack of leadership. What saved Barack Obama and secured his re-election was in fact that contrary to the negative projections by Romney, the figures for employment kept on improving.

What this possible link by Nancy Lanza to the 'prepper' movement may tell, is that she felt as a single mother and maybe even lonely woman to be most vulnerable. She could easily fall victim to a more subtle form of rumour, especially if propagated by a movement. The link has not been substantiated so far, but if she had joined it actively out of belief doomsday lies ahead, then she would be keen and willing to learn how best to prepare herself when judgement day comes. That can be highly misleading and equally dangerous for a feeble mind. There is no telling what discussions took place between her and her son, especially once he was removed from school and only subject to what he heard at home. Also it has been learned that Nancy Lanza, the mother, undertook many trips to leave him completely alone in the big house. The reason she gave, was that he should become more independent. Apparently she did talk about ideas of the prepper movement with her sister who had asked her if she is prepared.

Of interest will be in the aftermath to the tragic event in Newtown, if anything like a critical reflection of 'false prophets' shall be made, and whether or not the background of both her connection to the movement and of the 'preppers' shall be scrutinized? It is well known what risks are entailed once people belong to cult movements. Usually they end up replacing culture based on critical reflection with something often stronger than a religious belief, and thereby able to blend out a vast portion of reality. If on top of it conviction in life is perceived by the movement as main obstacle for people to see reality in the movement's terms, then everything will work against that conviction. Instead followers will be influenced by highly suggestive theories which advocate that they take certain measures, in order to face the stark reality lying ahead. That can change dispositions dramatically, while any positive development shall be ruled out. Things will head definitely for a crisis i.e. like judgement day, only Nancy will not have observed most likely what impact this had on her son whom she sought to become more independent.

It can happen that once people on a certain course, in order to alter their lives, they do not realize this fixation upon one kind of interpretation will endanger them more than what they can anticipate. For it shall leave out any real alternative to the one prediction, namely that everything will soon end end in a catastrophe. Apocalyptical thinking comes precisely then into play when people are dispirited and prone to give in to a doomsday scenario. This tendency has become quite far spread in the United States.

It is, therefore, crucial how these events are perceived, described and narrated. It should be done to facilitate an exchange opinions, so that people can relate to such a tragic happening. Of interest was a man who came with dogs to give comfort to the grieving children and adults. He does that every time something like the shooting in Newtown happens. The moment he arrived with the dogs and went to the park in Newtown where the vigilance was held due to many having created semi altars with flowers, candles and teddy bears, the attention and focus shifted immediately from a fixation upon the grief over the loss with blankness in the eyes of many standing for sudden disbelief, to a wish to pat these dogs. They were just sitting there and looking at the people with their all trusting eyes. A small but important contribution to the mourning process insofar it helped to ease the pain.

The general picture

We are at a loss precisely because this event in Newtown reminds us of how many other onslaughts we have also failed to stop! There is all the killing going on alone in Afghanistan and in Baghdad once the invasions had started after 911. By the same token, it is impossible to forget what happened in Chile 1973 when Allende and everyone else standing for a human society were killed or put into jail. There exists this poem by Michael D. Higgins about the singer Victor Jara whose hands were smashed first so that he could no longer play his guitar and only later was he killed in that football stadium transformed into a concentration camp. Yes, that needs to be reminded since to a large extent people feel America is also responsible for that.

When raising the question but how could such a shooting spree be prevented, then it is a question which has a definite link to what happened in Germany during Holocaust. That question has to go deep before understanding what is all about. At one level, it means that only few find the courage to speak out when there is a threat of new atrocities about to be committed. Yet rarely are spoken words of wisdom and seldom the voice of reason listened to. Instead another fateful decision is taken. Repeatedly soldiers are sent off to go to war instead of those making these kinds of decisions entering a critical but worthwhile dialogue with the other side. Learning out of these past mistakes is only possible when tragic events like Second World War are followed by words of redemption. Such readiness to forgive expresses a true compassion for life. This was done by Jean Amery, himself a survivor of Auschwitz, when he quoted in the title of his book Dostoevsky and called it likewise 'Beyond Crime and Punishment'.

Likewise the question can be asked if the American society continues in this spiral of violence because the dimension of redemption has been left out so far? There cannot be a conveyed compassion for life in a convincing way if a society accepts a justice system which wishes merely to punish and never gives thoughts to re-integration of the 'criminal', even if he had killed someone. Instead the advocates of the death penalty have the say. The same applies to soldiers returning from war. They had to use weapons made to kill, in order to force their way. There is, however, no punishment conceived to be possible for such killing. Here the state acts like a God and sanctions wrongly such killing. In reality, it will throw these soldiers into all sorts of struggles with their own conscience but in America no consideration has been really given to that. After all, it would mean questioning the war effort altogether. Yet without a dimension of re-integration work on redemption makes no sense.

Frazer, in his book "The Golden Bough" describes how primitive societies would make the warrior who returned to the village after he had completed his mission and killed someone, live at the outskirts in a lonely hut. He was treated as a sick person who needed time to recover. If this is deemed impossible or unrealistic, re-integration would never take place in earnest. Also those who dispute that possibility, they need only to be reminded that this is practiced every day in Belfast where those who have killed, live and work amongst the others. The have difficulties to cope but are helped in their search to regain a sense of life by being accepted who they are and what they had done in the past. Conditional for re-integration to work is that a true narrative needs to be told. Only then can memory work become a part of the redemption process. Although a woman from Belfast works together with someone who had actually planted a bomb for the IRA and killed her father when Prime Minister Thatcher was the target, insofar as they go on speaking tours together, she says that is still impossible for two words to cross her lips. These two words would be: “I forgive”. In that sense, closure of the wound is never completely possible, but there is a need to reconcile with the 'self' and to learn to forgive.

Adorno called the work of redemption an ability to tell the story in such a way that things were not beautified but told how things really were, that is without any additional fabrication (Günter Grass mentioned that after Second World War writers started to invent all sorts of resistance figures which never existed under Hitler's regime). Such narratives would give future generations a chance to learn from the past and avoid making the same mistakes.

Another way to put the same thing is to see it under the aspect of having to reconcile oneself with the difference between the real and the hoped-for. While the discrepancy between outcome in terms of the expected should not be taken as such a disappointment, that it could be only translated into a bitter negation of the other, it does touch upon a crucial aspect insofar love can make possible to forgive. That depends, however, on the possibility to reconcile within oneself the difference between an imperfect world and people unable to fulfil all demands, never mind ideals. Once reconciliation can be taken to the level of active redemption, then it would allow seeing people with realistic eyes but at the same time not denying them.

Redemption is needed especially in a world which has hardened in positions ranging from 'never forgetting' to wishing only revenge. The Belfast peace process shows that the hard work of redemption has only started when both sides are ready to forgive but without forgetting what each side has done.

Moreover redemption is not possible, if we do not understand our losses. A prime one amongst all the losses, and especially when terrible things happened, is a loss of trust. Mitscherlich said in Germany this trust is missing due to many not having gone through a phase of mourning. He meant that they hardly have realized what losses are affecting them. Above all there is the loss of conviction in life, for if Jewish people are left to perish in concentration camps, then life altogether has been abandoned. That means the loss to stay human leaves the person without human self consciousness. It goes hand in hand with allowing the system to harden, and even to brutalize the 'self' so far the person begins to betray own dreams about a human life made possible on earth.

When Horkheimer spoke about the Right to mistrust, he was referring as well to the danger of trusting the wrong political forces as if they can fix the problem e.g. Germans trusting Hitler to make the German state strong again or Greeks supporting the Neo-Fascist party Chrysi Avgi propagating only if Greece is freed from foreigners, then a solution shall be found. When Germans voted for Hitler, they never asked under what conditions jobs shall be created, but it turned out by preparing for war. There are many other mistrusts replaced by a false trust in institutions rather than in people, the endorsement of military campaigns after 911 a clear example. For it meant waging a war for the false reason. Often this kind of trust is given out of a mixture of insecurity and eagerness to appear patriotic. It has also to do with a wish to take pride in something larger than oneself. It is thought by belonging to such a larger entity something can be gained e.g. what esteem others convey to oneself for being American.

Education of children

All that perversion of trust – trust in other human beings being driven out as naïve and replaced by the need to trust both state and the authorities - becomes explicit when instead of protecting the innocence of children, everything is done to corrupt them from an early stage on. All kinds of values linked to a sign of Patriotism are pressed upon them from day one, that is when they start to attend Kindergarten or at the latest go to school.

Presumably the purpose behind such an 'attack' upon the integrity of a child is a wish not to be challenged by a child. For that would amount to admitting that society and the state have lost this quality of moral integrity. By no longer upholding the 'free conscience' of the individual, freedom is reduced to freedom of choice when a mere consumer. It matters that education no longer entails an informal learning process so as to stay in touch with the reality in the street. Instead the opinions conveyed by the teachers has prompted already a long time ago Marx to ask but who educates the educators?

Education has, so it seems in the United States, gone quite astray. If compassion for life would be the guide, then education should not work against the child by pulling it over to the wrong side. Instead 'childhood' should be taken as a critical term to appraise if living really in the presence is possible. Instead the American system is future orientated. In order to have success in the system, hard work is praised. By that is meant in reality bending oneself till a proper fit into the system is possible. Besides having to be malleable, anyone supposed to be well educated can serve the system well by making it more innovative than ever before. Although the illusion is propagated everything is done so that people can live more freely and enjoy i.e. consume life, in reality everything is pressed into a well functioning system. In the end, it means education leads to suppression of the real dreams one had when a child. By the time adulthood is reached, everything true to life has been driven out. That might be an exaggeration, but people are forced to learn by 'trial and error'. The system responds only positively if the individual goes conform with all its rules and still succeeds to be exceptional when compared to others. That is why not so much real sensibilities based on good work being paid well is distributed, as a chance is given merely to those who make the system function well.

Barack Obama is himself a product of such a strive to achieve the top and he verifies in turn this experience by stating repeatedly during the re-election campaign that every child should have 'a shoot at the opportunities he had when growing up'. This meant his mother woke him up at four o'clock in the morning, so that he could study and learn for school, while Barack Obama's own children have to write reports whenever they had been on an outing or did something outside the normal and daily school life. Not that hard work should be questioned, but it should include work on oneself since a part of personal development. Besides growing up is learning to mature around experiences made in due course. Instead the American system demands to study hard, in order to make sure that one finds a slot in the system to fit into. That is certainly not the same as putting the question of the entire system on the table or to be able to put in between the 'self' and the system an own process of mediation. Someone like Susan Buck Morss would call it 'dialectical thinking' based on letting the practical judgement speak. 3

The real problem for any formal education system begins with that. For a philosophy of life based on 'practical judgement' cannot be taught. It has to be learned through practical experiences and especially by having good friends who are not afraid to tell one straight in the face, if one is about to make a mistake. Aristotle said good friends see ahead what consequences a certain action will have even if the result becomes only visible two hundred years from now. Practical wisdom entails that other time dimension and is linked to a dialogue but not identification with the past.

Loss of the imagination and of a free conscience – the pre-dominance of violent solutions

The loss of life is so terrible because a young child represents in all innocence a free spirit and a rich imagination. Parent after parent of the killed children would indicate what richness they had brought into their lives until that day.

Picasso pointed out what is the difference between adults and children. While the latter are rich in imagination, the former have all but lost it. For Picasso it meant, and he included himself, if they wish to draw and paint again, they must learn to be again as free as any child can draw from day one it is born. As this presupposes stepping outside the system, it requires quite some courage to do so. For often the philosophical back-up for such a step is missing and, therefore, many no longer know how to face doubt and open questions. Rather they cling to answers given by ideologies, parties, religion. Arthur Koestler describes this well in his 'Darkness at Noon'. The communist becomes useless for the party machine once he realizes that the party has not answered as he originally thought when he joined all of his pertinent questions. Following blindly some credo has far reaching consequences, while getting out of this false belief system is not at all that easy. Children have a different chance as long as they have not been victimized as of yet by the educational and political system.

There is something more to this quest for truth or loss thereof. In face of a child demanding to know the full truth, parents succumb like politicians very often to convenient lies. It may not be the full practice of 'mendacity' but often it is excused by saying a child cannot understand as of yet the bitter or the whole truth. Meant by that is a hard reality which leaves apparently no choice if the job is to be kept, namely to shut one's eyes and not to intervene when the boss dismisses a colleague for wrong or unjust reasons. Even when highly unjust, most adults decide to stay silent. They do not wish to get involved out of a fear to risk their own job. Therefore, they refuse to be even a witness and therefore let things just happen. It may be over extending it a bit but how different is it to Germans who did not undertake anything once the Gestapo started to round up Jewish people? Over time such compromises accrue and become the hard core of characters adapted to how the system works. Without noticing it, they need to wear masks, in order to hide their loss of humanity.

And when it comes to tell to children stories, too often the world is transformed into a kind of horrid tale filled with monsters and threatening forces who will punish everyone for going astray. Later on all that is replaced by the various kinds of videos put onto the market. Children learn such horrific things as betrayal of a friend, since the game is constructed in such a way, that they can enter only the next room if they shot their best friend. The subtle message of sacrifices being in need of if to survive does not go unnoticed.

All of these various influences represent the best way the system can come up with, in order to drive out of any child a sense for justice and for humanity. Rarely do children hear stories of true courage by which they can take heart that a truly spoken word does make a difference. Philosophically said, a true word can sober down the aggressor and therefore by talking about the problems can help to resolve the situation. It would mean placing value in dialogue rather than letting things escalate still further till violence becomes the only option.

Once violence is portrayed as necessary outcome of any sequences of events, it means almost automatically everything is put on the same level as revenge and counter revenge. Driven by this one sided fixation upon solutions only to be found by entering the field of violence with full determination to excel more than anyone else, reconciliation is put aside for the sake of hitting even harder the next time. If that is the case with children driven literally to seek only solutions with violence, then such a society has not learned to resolve conflicts with both passion and compassion while making sure such justice prevails. The latter would mean to be free of the urge to revenge.

Interestingly enough, Albert Camus and Arthur Koestler identified already in the 1950's the death penalty as 'revenge'. No wonder that the American society with its almost fanatical belief in the death penalty cannot come to any real reconciliation. As long as the belief is upheld that the death penalty is the best deterrence against potential murders, then this threat extends itself over the whole life in that society. Likewise the belief that the best self protection is to possess a gun, excludes the possibility to admit the death penalty may be wrong while all human beings are subject to err, all the more so juries and police investigators, when it comes to pass judgement. Besides this not being an expression of 'practical judgement', it is also subject to deception, often prompted by a skilful lawyer or prosecutor against which the defendant has often no or hardly any words.

One needs only to think about the thesis of Camus in 'L'Etranger' about the risks of a wrong perception i.e. being blinded by the sun just when the man coming on the beach towards one and lifts his arm. It can easily be misinterpreted as a threatening gesture and before anything else can be said or done, a shot is fired. What makes it so counter productive to discuss the death penalty in the United States is that no one seems to connect it to revenge. Instead the argument goes always in the direction of needing to be ready to shot first, and therefore by definition to kill even though that is not often said, and only then ask questions! All what it does, is to create a vicious cycle of killings being followed simply by more killings. It follows the law of revenge even if only by imitation or used as excuse to justify the shooting afterwards.

With such ready made possibilities to kill, and possessing a gun is such an indication that the value of life has been lost, the system lived in seems no longer to be able to make a strong case what is meant by a wish to support life. If it is that much easier to take away life at any given notice, the one-sided approach can play havoc in a sensitive young man completely deranged by all these weird thoughts and speculations about a horrid future. If the latter becomes a constant threat in the form of an all pervasive violence, it shall heighten the fear that it is a matter of an arbitrary choice as to who shall be next to be shot. There have been reported incidences when a mere conflict which broke out between two drivers as to has the Right of way, that one guy got out of the car to settle the argument simply by pulling his gun and shooting the other dead. The existence of such possibilities will only intensify the fears against which all want to protect themselves. Instead of diminishing that fear, the system - mind sets included - only intensifies the demand to have a gun.

Fear of others can only be reduced by living openly and not denouncing human vulnerability as sign of weakness. If people arm themselves to the teeth, they will naturally expect any stranger to be at best a thief and in reality be someone who is a far more dangerous foe than what films or videos can conjure up. They do so in a bid to outdo even the wildest possible dreams. Only these are not dreams but fantasies. Easily they can become projections of highly distorted exaggerations of fears and therefore shall distort the relationship to the world so as to leave no other choice but to shoot first. It means the system tests daily the will to survive by asking for this readiness to defend oneself, and if need to be, then with a gun.

Alternative to violent solutions

There are other means to resolve dangerous situations than pulling a gun. A woman in the Middle East re-accounted how five men, all Salafists, came one day to her house. Without any hesitation they entered and threatened her. They said that if she would continue to write critically about them, they would kill her and her children. She looked them into the eyes and then extended her hand to the main spokesman of this group of men all feeling brave together. He was astonished. She explained that people cannot be separated by religion, for all of us are human beings. That offer of friendliness on the basis of some common value is important, if a way out of an immanent threat is to be found by different i.e. non violent means.

Basically alternative solutions rest on a conviction in both life and in a goodness inherent in every human being. More of such conviction is needed, if some sober truths are to prevail. Even in the most precarious and dangerous situations the potential perpetrator has to be addressed in a way so that his or her human self consciousness is touched upon. Clearly it is crucial not to assert oneself as if threatened, but to be convincing when approaching the other with open eyes and open heart. Naturally this is not self understood. It is an art to respond in such a humane way to any threat of aggression, but it does make all the difference if done by not being aggressive oneself. Having a gun in the hand would make that impossible right away.

Relevant to this is what Klaus Heinrich, the philosopher of religion in Berlin, wrote about the difficulty to say 'no' against all forms of aggression. He recommends to see this readiness to kill someone as being equally a sign of self destruction, and this is what often leads to the destruction of others. Crucial in such a case is the ability to say 'no' to the action, but not totally to the person. Instead some partnership with the better half of that person has to be sought, in order to work together against this force of destruction which seems to have gripped the person.

Since destruction and violence is virulent in all countries, including the Philippines just emerging out of post-colonialism, people have to cope around the globe with more or less the same contradictions. The question is how to recognize positive developments which can lead out of this mess?

For many the USA is a prime source of aggression and violence but appears at the same time to be a nation which has something the Philippine people have not, namely 'pride'. Much is implied with such a projection upon the United States. Definitely it is true that in America prevails a strong sense of Patriotism and that American life is upheld very high, in particular internationally. All the more is it a contradiction when innocent lives can be taken away so easily by someone just imitating some guy gone wild and thus rushes into a school to start a shooting spree. How is that possible?

Barack Obama at the prayer vigil in Newtown

Barack Obama came to Newtown on Dec. 16th with the aim to console first of all the parents, and then he attended the prayer vigil given in honour of those children and six adults who had lost their lives. Interestingly enough he spend more time with the parents than what had been originally scheduled. After his brief speech, he left again by the back since in his position, he had a heavy schedule. Also weather conditions did not allow him to fly in. Instead he had to be driven.

He spoke there as President of that Nation but reminded emphatically the audience that he wishes to speak primarily as a father and parent. It touched something when he said having children is like having from day one, that is when they are born, an external heart. He meant the moment they are born, they exist independently from oneself as parent, so while they go through a world filled with dangers and risks, one frets as a parent for their safety even though it is impossible to keep them safe all the time. That is a dilemma every parent has to face. Basically it means entrusting the own child to society and life in general. By the same token, and here he started to extend his thought as a politician and President of the United States, there is a need of keeping them safe within the community, for their lives are sacred to us all. It was meant as an appeal to common responsibilities for the way children are brought up and learn to live within society at large. 4

Unfortunately he stopped short of declaring human life as being everywhere sacred, not only in America! As eloquently as he could only, he did elevate the task of keeping the children safe inside the community as a nation to be the key evaluation of the American society. Does it live up to that task or not? So while everything seems to be done to secure the nation, it appears as if what happens outside the own political jurisdiction is treated differently. It can amount to being indifferent by not really heeding what takes place in this so-called outside or international world. Yet admittedly this other world is really not so far removed from the home land, especially not if American troops are deployed around the globe to keep that home land safe. Moreover security needs have been extended ever since American business has gone global. By not addressing this difference in order to declare no matter what society they belong to, the life of children is sacred everywhere, Barack Obama accepted the limits of national politics and therefore demonstrated through his speech once again that a President of the United States cares apparently only about the welfare of the people belonging to that nation. Interestingly enough but also tragically, the delineation thereof is like a larger replica in the very community of Newtown. Till that incidence happened, it was a community sought to be safe and sound, well protected, with everyone being friendly to the others. How can then any safety measures be improved upon when such a community seems to have fulfilled already most of the prerequisites for being a peaceful town? And on top of it Barack Obama was full of praise for the teachers who did more than what could be expected of them under such horrific circumstances, insofar as they gave their lives in order to protect the lives of the children.

Repeatedly journalists, who covered for CNN or other agencies the breaking news, portrayed Newtown as a tightly knitted community with everyone friendly and people forthcoming. Many said in interviews that they had moved to Newtown precisely for this reason, namely that it seemed till then well protected. And the school teachers and above all the director of the school were exceptional. Everyone interviewed left no doubt that no hard feelings existed in the community or something else was going on underneath the surface, and which might explain such a violent eruption by a young man. Although Adam Lanza had attended Sandy Hook school to which he returned to shoot those children, no one sought that there he had made any negative experiences which might have triggered off such a wish to return out of reasons of revenge.Indeed all the parents who were asked, they deemed Newtown to be a very safe place for children to grow up in. Then why the general need for guns, or in particular why the mother of the shooter had four different weapons at home? Did she really need them, in order to feel save, given the fact that she lived in such a community?

Barack Obama left out something that puzzling question. Instead he was full of praise for the community, its teachers and the rescuers who all did in his words 'their job', and therefore putting their own traumas and pain second to the need to get the children to safety. Inherent in that description is that overall contradiction he seems to face as President, namely how to keep the nation safe in such a hostile world? By extension, it means the others are not seen as people to share with such a deep grief. Rather they belong to an unknown world and which is known to be quite often hostile to the values America stands for.

Still, with regards to the international world, Barack Obama as a politician needs to resolve the ethical question about the extensive use of drones to kill others in far away lands like Pakistan. If that contradiction is not resolved, there cannot be expected that America will be able to safeguard indefinitely the future of the children. Since the drones violate every justice principle, the issue of Human Rights at world level has to be raised. By any standard of justice being served, a person needs to be duly charged and made to stand trial. As long as the process and hearings continues, the one standing trial has to be considered as being not guilty. Credible evidence has to be brought forth to substantiate the charge, and not till found guilty beyond reasonable doubt for having committed a crime for which is foreseen a corresponding penalty or punishment, the human dignity of that person cannot be touched. Moreover such a justice entails the Right for self defence. The moment a strike by a drone is ordered, although the respective person has never been charged or stood trial, it cannot be claimed that justice has been served.

Instead of superseding revenge by letting the rule of law do the work, injustice is done. It is an extreme violation of Human Rights based on the need to keep human dignity untouched. Consequently retaliation can be expected. Just as the United States hit back out of a wish to revenge once it had been attacked as in 911, and it did so with its mighty force, others will seek revenge, in order to regain some balance. That would be in the nature of things as long as combatants square off with one another. This is, however, not the case with drones.

The drone system works differently. It follows an identification process for targest which is linked to the gathering of intelligence information. Once a person or group of persons sought to be dangerous, have been made out at a certain location, and even if they have not done anything so far, but are considered to be a potential threat to the security of the United States, a strike by a drone can be ordered at any given moment. Given the precise nature of these drones, they are killed instantly since a drone is usually on target. However, most of the time it means killed are not only the perpetrators or suspected terrorists, but as well anyone standing in the vicinity or being in the same room. That means innocent by-standers, including women and children can and have been killed repeatedly.

Drones represents a new type of warfare made possible due to advancements in technology. Yet as long as America keeps up this kind of war fare, just in order to feel safe at home, there will be no reduction of violence in the world. Or for that matter at home, in America, for a violation of human ethics has consequences. It sets bad examples and finds very quickly imitators, insofar as the rationalisation can go what the government allows itself, this can legitimize an individual also to himself. That says treatment of others forms the ethical basis of any political system designed to cover the home ground, but not only. For use of drones sets as well a bad example abroad, just as has the use of torture of prisoners in Guantanamo Bay. Both cases are a clear violation of Human Rights and can never be justified on the basis of one sided formulated security needs. 5

How American troops behave abroad, has also many repercussions. The behaviour by the military is too often safeguard by being outside the jurisdiction of the nation where the troops are stationed, whether now in Japan or Germany. Consequently soldiers can except to receive a milder treatment even if they have committed rape. And still it is clear that any military send abroad shall be difficult to control, never mind there will be any objection as long as the main mission is being fulfilled, namely to occupy and to control the land by submitting it to the rules imposed by the American military.

All this can be reflected on hand of a single story as to what happened on a lonely island in the Philippines. It is about American forces which returned to revenge themselves after they had been driven of the island by one successful uprising by people of that island. Although without arms and no training, the uprising managed to surprise the American soldiers who were stationed on that island. For the men of the island dressed up as women and therefore could overrun the garrison of American soldiers who had come to occupy that island. The uprising had a concrete reason. Once the American soldiers had arrived, they started to impose immediately upon the people of the island demands to follow strictly speaking new standards. For instance, the American soldiers sought these people of the island were just lazy and enjoying life by lying around in the sun. Hence they demanded that they work hard, to become thrifty and industrious. Naturally this imposition of a new life style was not at all suited for a life on such a tropical island. No wonder none of the native inhabitants liked what was attempted at the cost of their way of life. It came to a revolt. Once the Americans were taken back by this surprise attack, they were either killed or those who managed to escape fled by boat the island. The account of that story continues for later the Americans returned but now reinforced with more soldiers on gun boats. They turned their military superior power upon those simple people who had just wanted to be free to live their own way of life.

Armies have that in them, namely to seek revenge if someone dares to inflict upon them some defeat. They live by the myth to be always victorious and never like any resistance. Instead they demand complete compliance and full co-operation. Who does not obey, gets shot on the spot or is taken prisoner. For instance, when resistance in Crete during the German occupation in Second World War captured a German general, the German army was transformed by rage and went on a rampage. In every village they rounded up young men and just shoot them. Elytis describes such a scene in his great poem 'Axion Esti' - life be praised. Since army acts out of pure impulse to revenge whatever damage it has suffered, the punitive law remains primitive and obstructs any peace effort based on a sense of justice.

By the same token, it means if someone takes a life away, then in the American context it means that the death penalty is invoked out of a belief that death itself is the best deterrence of any possible crime in future. In other words, the death penalty at home is what the army does abroad, namely to kill. To this is linked the brazen American myth, that it is much better to shoot first and to ask questions only later.

If Barack Obama spoke in Newtown about a need to change something, then the American culture has to be altered in how life of others is being regarded. It should not be out of the Hollywood perspective. Moreover this change has to go hand in hand with a rejection of the false notion of what constitutes a convincing deterrence. Even what followed 911 by starting war first in Afghanistan, then in Iraq, it was not deterrence for the sake of future security, but an act of pure revenge for what happened to the Twin Towers in New York. It was not a compassionate reaching out to ensure not permanent war, but permanent peace would have a chance in this world. And it did not take serious that the rest of the world was also in grief as to what had happened on 911 and which stunned everyone. Moreover there were not only American lives lost that day. Many of those 3000 persons who lost their lives in the four planes and due to the collapse of the Twin Towers – who does not remember people jumping out of the upper floors into their certain death – came from all over the world and some of them happened to be just there, that is at the wrong place at the wrong time. So compared to pulling American troops out of Iraq, this task of overcoming the primitive impulse to seek revenge shall prove to be a much more difficult task, but which must be taken on board and made into a prime point on the agenda with regards to a needed reform of the justice system.

Barack Obama did succeed in what Bush had pronounced as being the main mission, namely to track down Bin Laden and then kill him. Yet that crude justice is being continued nowadays by a ready use of drone strikes. It is an immediate punishment at the push of the button. All what it needs is to be identified to be a 'terrorist'. Since it depends upon what information the 'intelligence community' can gather, what matters most is how the profile is drawn up since then a suspected terrorist becomes a real one in need to be killed by definition of this kind of system. How it works is linked in turn to Homeland Security. It is the combination of the two that allows an information gathering process to define who is both an inner and outer enemy. Once that has been established, the profile created is used to justify the extraordinary killing.

Overcoming the need for revenge

Unfortunately so far it seems as if no one in America has realized that this system works only along the line of revenge, and thereby brings onto this nation only further revenge. The real question is if this not too high price to be paid but it does come at the heels of a complete disregard of the need for justice at world level. The latter would mean the United States cannot decide all by itself who is to be killed, who not. Given the need to uphold human dignity of everyone, it would mean governance has to be structured according to the main moral impulse, namely that all people wish to be respected in their human dignity. It cannot be that the United States claims the single Right to kill as it choses to do right now all alone.

What has all this to do with the recent tragic event in Newtown? If a young man at the age of twenty shoots down innocent children, what was his motive, if not taking revenge for something which had hurt him perhaps a long time ago, and which was allowed to grow into a complete hatred of everything connected with school. It is known that especially sensitive boys but with obvious social difficulties of adaptation can easily be hurt or offended so that they develop a special kind of hatred. To label that as a mental disarrangement, as is commonly referred to in order to explain the unexplainable, is misleading. But it shows that the phenomenon of revenge has not been understood as prime principle of how the system in the United States works.

Revenge was considered by Hegel called a sign of uncivilized behaviour. Consequently the creation of a state and of the rule by law would mean revenge is superseded. Not the victim's family would take revenge on some member of the perpetrator's family, but the state would step in to mediate between both sides, come to a sentence and pass if found guilty an appropriate form of punishment. That is, however, not the case once the death penalty is invoked as that embodies once again the principle of revenge i.e. the murderer took a life, hence he must die. That is an 'eye for an eye', and has no perspective for stepping ever out of this vicious cycle. If that is already a worrying sign that the state furthers rather than ends uncivilised behaviour, all the more so when the state as was the case after 911 steps in to take revenge for what was inflicted, but in going to war in first Afghanistan, than in Iraq, that revenge is inflicted militarily speaking on countless of innocent civilians. Where is there any justice? Rather the opposite is the case, and thus injustice becomes the only adequate form in which to perpetuate the feeling of having been treated unjustly.

Naturally it is risky to draw parallels between a state lashing out for an attack on the Twin Towers, and a single boy entering a school building in Newtown to kill innocent children. Robert Musil in 'Man without Attributes' preferred to speak about parallel actions happening all the time i.e. what takes place at a large scale can be reproduced at a very minor, indeed micro level with apparently no significance at all, unless, and here comes the special condition and connection, the media steps in and focuses on the horrible deed with the entire world watching. That then goes beyond the mere media is the message, and drives home a definite message, namely how even a single action can become a horrific blow to the 'balance' people need for the sake of upholding this conviction in life. They need to feel that things are at least moving in the direction of a decent and respected life. There is something even sacred with regards to children. They entail the promise of the future, and indeed continuity of life. Without that certainty in that sense, any public trust shall be relinquished and people may end up in just utter despair. For the killing of innocent children can unbalance anyone. The only question in need to be added is why does the world not respond likewise when drones hit a house in Pakistan and kills seven members, among them four innocent children?

Yet ever since Germany committed the Holocaust, the question persists what happens if the state does not step in-between to end the vicious cycle of revenge, and instead is seized upon to become a vicious entity seeking revenge? This Hitler did when he seized state power and made it into a totalitarian method to underscore that he is a 'radical loser' as defined by Enzensberger. Enzensberger's thesis about the 'radical loser' needs to be reminded here as it can apply equally to that young man who went on a shooting spree in the school of Newtown. For while knowing he is going down, he takes so many others down with him as well, in order to prove not he but this society he hates is the real loser. The consequence is that this young man who shot first his mother took with him then twenty children and six teachers at that school in Newtown.

Everywhere life is sacred

You speak only with the other, when there is no victory necessary!” - Michel Foucault

Too often we experience that American life matters, but not what the collateral damage of drone attacks do to others. This includes mothers and children of the 'terrorist' who the drone supposed to kill as if those surgical attacks are always precise i.e. on target? But what happens to other children, women and men, and therefore to humanity, that will affect us all. There is no difference between an American and a non-American life.

While the news about what happened in Newtown came in, we also learned at the same time that 20 bodies of migrants had been washed ashore after their boat capsized. These migrants had paid 2000 dollars each for a journey in an over crowded boat and they never made it. They must have been so desperate to flee Iraq and other places like Syria, all filled with unrest and violent killings, that they took upon themselves this risk to save their lives, but as it turned out in vain.

In the USA one rule applies. It is called 'the winner takes all'. It leaves the loser or the unsuccessful one if not behind, then stranded. More so the necessity to win implies one does not talk to the other, but seeks to gain always the upper hand. This makes for crude relationships.

Equally politics shows no compassion. Instead Congress gives the impression of a grid lock while not public interests count as much as the influence of the lobbies representing interests of the corporations. It seems politicians like McCain make it impossible that an open society, accessible to all, does exist. And constant reference to the American dream does not really help alter and improve the lives of those who are poor and without a chance to fulfil any promise. Their children are without that bright future. As if truth does not count even though impartial judgements ought to guide decisions by those administrations dealing with those who have no independent base of existence. And yet repeatedly it is said especially in churches and other temples of worship that life ought to be considered as sacred.

Why then this huge discrepancy between the rich and the poor. Especially in many urban areas can be seen such devastation of life. And all what the weary and tired eyes of the poor can do, is to follow out of the corner of their blank eyes the black limousines passing by. These long cars have their windows darkened so that no one in the streets can recognize who is sitting inside.

If life is sacred, then such justice must prevail as described already by the Ancient Greek poets . They used man himself as measure of all things and wrote ethical rules about how to treat the neighbour. Moreover they stressed equal justice for everyone must prevail. Every judge must preside fairly in court whether now a citizen or a stranger was standing before him. There should be no discrimination. The same law has to apply to everyone. Indeed, all human beings are equal. If that is not the case in society, then the worst kinds of developments can be expected. The centrifuge of all subsequent turbulences shall be violence.

During that prayer vigil in Newtown, in the presence of the President of the United States, the representatives of different religious congregations spoke not about the measure of man, but repeatedly about the need to serve God. What exactly that means, was never explained, but every indication has it that this has to be an unquestioned 'serving'. However, it is but the first step to serve the nation when going to war. Such servitude excludes the notion of resistance. Any person unwilling to serve would be branded immediately as traitor. Yet who can really judge what is in the best interest of not the nation, but of the people who wish to live in peace and get along with one another? Instead the nation goes to war while life supposed to continue as if normal. That then helps to reproduce a 'schizophrenia of peace'. Psychologists know schizophrenia or a split personality is the source of violent behaviour. What can be done about it? Certainly religion serves to solidify the social norms over and above the individual and focuses most of all upon something unseen.

Interestingly enough Barack Obama started his speech in Newtown with some peculiar quotes to underline this transcendence of life.

It starts with a realistic confession about 'wasting away', although only outwardly, in the physical presence, while inwardly, hence spiritually, renewal takes place every day. That is a clear message of hope such renewal does take place. However, it is static time concept used when meant to reassure that while we are growing old and shall one day die, there is besides this something unflinching or as the second quote says, something eternal which far outweighs all these temporary matters. The second quote goes then on to suggest not to follow what the eyes can see, but what is unseen. It puts the seen into a lower value insofar as it is merely temporary, and only the unseen is eternal. What such an attitude, once adopted, leads to is to negate the only moment of life human beings have and can experience, namely the present. It can explain a lot why definite things are not seen or readily disregarded since it does not have eternal value. Here such a religious attitude would contribute to neglecting life for the sake of the eternal. And the anti human attitude becomes even more clear in the third quote, when it is said only to be trusted is something not build by human hands but there is the eternal house in heaven: the building from God. To this can be fled once everything is destroyed on earth. All three quotes taken together can explain already why it is so frightening once it is realized here the President of the United States uses such quotes to address a congregation of people who have come together to grief about loss of life. Pain is an earthly matter and shall not go away, and it is renewed every day, but in a different way to what is implied by the renewal thought in those quotes. Strange that Barack Obama should use them to enter his speech.

As one Japanese woman wrote after Fukushima, it is impossible to love the corporations, only other people can be loved and happiness shared with them. So why transcribe this human quality upon a nation in need to be loved? Barack Obama gave some reason for this when ended his speech this time not as he did when on the campaign trail with 'God bless America'. Rather he ended with a kind of admonishment packed into a self critical question, that is when realizing the following:

It comes as a shock at a certain point where you realize no matter how much you love these kids, you can’t do it by yourself, that this job of keeping our children safe and teaching them well is something we can only do together, with the help of friends and neighbors, the help of a community and the help of a nation.

And in that way we come to realize that we bear responsibility for every child, because we’re counting on everybody else to help look after ours, that we’re all parents, that they are all our children.

This is our first task, caring for our children. It’s our first job. If we don’t get that right, we don’t get anything right. That’s how, as a society, we will be judged.

And by that measure, can we truly say, as a nation, that we’re meeting our obligations?“

He sets a measure for the nation: how children are cared for. The more problematic side of such an orientation becomes only apparent when success or failure is linked to the nation. It reminds of the folly of man trying to claim victory in the name of the nation, in order to feel secure. Repeatedly nations go to war, in order to reaffirm its own myth of being invincible, of being able to take care of its children. Maybe Barack Obama did not want to link security with the care for children in that specific way, but it has been the history of the USA to go to war whenever it felt insecure, and thus made not safer, but less peaceful society.

America was deeply shaken by Viet Nam. There the Vietnamese stood up against even napalm bombs. And the student movement of 1958 started to shake the convictions of those flying the planes which dropped those bombs. How could they do it if they knew it would kill innocent people, and in particular children on the ground? Today that has been replaced by remote control made possible by modern technology, but it only seems to have eased the ethical tension. This system works insofar as lawyers stand beside the young person trained at the computer in a bunker in Nevada when setting sights on a target in Pakistan. He makes sure the decision cannot be contested on legal grounds but it leaves out the human compassion. At the same time that person, a computer whiz at the age of 24, can come so close in age to Adam Lanza, that young man who did the shooting in Newtown and who had been absorbed by the abstraction from life entailed by these video games. It leaves the capacity to judge what is real life rather frail, if not non existent. Still that absurd connection between a lonely shooter and a nation made to feel safe and secure by use of similar remote gadgets to kill someone in a far away place has not been examined in terms of the impact that method has upon the basic morality, or indeed upon the readiness to kill!

National assumptions about securing the homeland are based on claiming to be weak alone but together we are strong. Thus the 'we' ends up in to a blind belief in the nation, and therefore follows the logic that everything is justified which gives the feeling of being safe. Not seen is that such a 'we' cannot fulfil this feeling, since it does no embrace everyone. Rather it means a closed society. Like a club only its members are allowed to enter. For that nations have invented passports and border controls. Through that system national identities are defined by some characteristics and then to be accepted as member or citizen thereof certain proofs need to be given. It becomes, therefore, a highly selective process as to whose life is sacred, compared to secondary ones.

For instance, when the neo Fascists in Greece, the Chrysi Avgi gave out food for those in need, they had not only to show their identity cards as being Greek, but also provide the party workers with all personal data. They are driven by a hatred against all foreigners and strangers. Their slogan is Greece for only the Greeks! That means even for a taxi driver that everyone has to become a Racist!

The main contradiction in the United States is that America was born out of a desire to be free. The Canadian writer Atwood describes it as being a main characteristic of Canadians as well. It means a wish not to be determined by anything; they have fled Europe and its imposing, equally stifling institutions and yet they still have not come around to allow themselves to be determined by something positive. Despite this similarity, Michael Moore in his film 'Bowling for Columbine' reflects upon this difference between Canada and USA: why is there not nearly so much gun related violence in Canada, when compared with the USA? That is even more puzzling since it is said that Canadians are in more possessions of fire arms than Americans!

In the USA, the determining factor has been the great nation. Barack Obama stated after reflecting what has happened that Friday, December 12th 2012 in Newtown, that now things have to change. Asking if the prime job has been done up to now, namely to protect the lives of children, then in view of six and seven year old children having been killed, the answer is definitely 'no'. But what has to change to prevent such killing? It seems that the focus is only on gun control, as if this matter of violence is a single issue linked to the easy access to fire arms. That reflects in turn a lack of understanding that such a problem is multi-facet and would require far reaching inquiries before reaching any conclusion. After all, it involves among other things the entire education system and how the prime goal of politics has become to make business appear even then successful, when more and more people end up in poverty or near to that bare existential minimum. If only that could be included in the equation. It might help to notice that such a society produces too many losers, losers who end up becoming radical not in the sense of wishing to change something but in despair and the ability to stay alive with some dignity. Unfortunately this social phenomenon goes unnoticed for too long, even though the radical losers are amidst others and live in a society based on denial that something is amiss. And then everyone is shocked and surprised when suddenly on one bright day another tragic event like that of Newtown happens. That was as well the tragic case in Norway.

Questions about socialization

When you follow up all the news coming out of USA, then it is strange that no one presents this simple case of contradiction: why the mother of that young man who did the killing took him to the shooting range to train him in the use of the gun? Or why had she so many guns herself? Everyone who was asked about her, said that she was such a wonderful, lovely woman! Still, some bits and pieces of odd details emerge. For instance, it is said that she was so over protective of her child that she told the babysitter never to leave him alone for one moment, even when he goes to the bathroom. That anxiety suggests a lack of trust and says a lot as to what must have been a deeply disturbed child. Adam Lanza, when still a child, was said to have as well such a temper which could suddenly flare up. That boy ended up killing first his own mother, then all those innocent children. And yet everyone seems surprised that it could happen in such a community.

It is said that Newtown, where the mother and that young man lived, is a community tightly knit, but by what is revealed in terms of reflection, it seems much more to be ruled by silence. It is a peculiar kind of silence since based on denial of reality. This silence is uphold by real objects of great wealth. For instance, it is said the mother and Adam lived in a huge house worth 500 000 Dollars but hardly anyone went in and out of that house. It was surrounded by silence and hardly anyone knew what was going on inside. By the same token, the mother went apparently deliberately on trips and left Adam alone in the house. She claimed to have done this with the purpose to make him become more independent, but that sounds more like a remote educational approach which works with silence in absence of any signs of life to coerce him into such an independence. There is even violence in this act to leave Adam virtually alone. It also does not explain why she went to expensive hotels and stayed there for several days. Did she meet someone while there, and had this to do with the 'Prepper' movement? All that and more strange patterns of behaviour emerge only when the fog of silence lifts and some other things can be seen as to what took place prior to the shooting. It is this strange silence based on leaving the other alone which symbolizes the key problem of the American society! It shows a failure to realize that all children feel terrible alone, isolated and tend to lose any empathy for others once no good discussions at home can be experienced and only the television or video the only companion. A report in London about why there is an increase in knife stabbing incidences with those involved being precisely youth which has not developed any empathy for the other due to eating alone in the room and just starring at the computer screen. It means they develop practically over time regressively more problems in terms of human communication. Over trivial things they can stumble and feel embarrassed, likewise over trivial things they can suddenly flare up and turn into vicious killers seeking revenge just as they have imagined when in front of the computer screen to watch another video game what needs to be done if to feel like an exceptional hero. They have not learned to ensure such reality check is in place that they can distinguish between fiction and reality. That check is best done by putting the problems on the table in order to discuss them openly with parents, brothers and sisters and friends for a part of growing up is to face them openly. Keeping the personal problems a secret is what drives them literally wild.

We need to reflect much more how we socialize each other. For what hurts every child very deeply is to be educated not only in a way till trapped in social isolation, but also into a sole national direction. Whether now asked and even forced to acquire a mentality which fits in with the rest of the nation, or in having to adopt a certain attitude as this is deemed to be the most practical (e.g. after the bombing in London in 2005 there was advocated immediately the British characteristic of defiance and thereby blended out a London which was multicultural, not a homogeneous city.), the loss of human reality can lead to loss of life.

Children are born free, but through schools they are made to be traitors of themselves. The universal human being they were as a child while still roaming freely in nature is left behind once they enter that class room with school prayer and singing the national anthem. The child left behind concerns clearly all children once at school. Instead of retaining a linkage to their former selves, they see at school only representatives of the official forces entering their world. It is a world made up of firemen, police, security officials, army officers etc. who all converge upon the school, in order to demonstrate their patriotism and to indoctrinate loyalty to the nation. It is done with the pretence that this is the only way to feel save.

In other words, once children are forced into fitting into a certain scheme, then they become with time over alienated, indeed strangers to their own soul. And if they learn to distrust the stranger - how often do they hear their parents say don't trust a stranger - how can they trust themselves? That they cannot deal with themselves as strangers they have become, is revealed by flare ups of temper, slamming of doors, being utterly frustrated by parents not understanding and having a stupid brother to top it all. They are for themselves the most difficult persons to deal with and realize that amidst the society they grow up in there are many more like themselves and equally disgusting!Moreover they learn at school all kinds of horrid tales about war which are transformed into freedom fights filled with those who have done heroic deeds. Everything is done to ensure no guilty conscience exists when claiming others were killed solely for the purpose to ensure this nation to be free. It is a black and white moral scheme with no tones of grey in between. This kind of ideology is pressed upon children who have still other dreams.

That becomes most explicit insofar as the national narrative is filled with the good and bad guys. Even Barack Obama polarised the world in his speech when he re-accounted what had taken place at Sandy Hook school the moment the teachers became aware that there is a shooter in the school building:

“We know that there were other teachers who barricaded themselves inside classrooms and kept steady through it all and reassured their students by saying, “Wait for the good guys, they are coming. Show me your smile.” And we know that good guys came, the first responders who raced to the scene helping to guide those in harm’s way to safety and comfort those in need, holding at bay their own shock and their own trauma, because they had a job to do and others needed them more.“ 7

The frightening aspect of such a tale is that no compassion or empathy is shown towards that young man. He is merely stamped as the incarnation of evil. There seems no need to see if there is any human trace in him. The negative perception of him is instead guided by this simple division between the good and bad guys. It helps to reproduce a simple morality, but it is based on a dangerous naivity with regards to what children are made to believe. This is entailed in the myth that the rescuers as part of the authorities are perfect angels when they are in fact real people with all possible faults themselves. A fireman who can rescue a child may at the same time be a vicious father at home and mistreat his own child. The schizophrenia in the American culture does not determine only the bad guys, for it does make halt when it comes to the supposing good guys. It is a mere facade which is bein constructed by such a narrative, and a most dangerous one as it does not allow to see behind even though there can loom quite another reality.


Indeed, how to educate children and criticize the youth when they test their independence by becoming fans of certain ideas? The art of education goes together with criticism since youth can catch very quickly fire for wrong ideas. This is due out of a desire to prove themselves over and again as in those tales with heroic deeds. It is like Hölderlin would write in his poem about 'fatherland': "an ordinary death will not do, it has to be a glorified one by doing a great deed for the fatherland, and it is best done by making sure one is free even if it means to sacrifice one's own life for such a cause."

That search for greatness is in need to be questioned for there are many forms of greatness, the human one most often at the end of the list. Given the need for illusions to make life at times bearable, Foucault would advise, that "we need to get rid of illusions which harm us, but keep those we need to live and to imagine life!" So how to make possible this transition from childhood into adulthood?

Children and youth have to avoid many things, in particular abuse by adults and the mobbing of their fellow school mates. But they also have to overcome the fear to speak out in public and learn to stand up in public to their own opinions, regardless whether or not the others laugh at the strange ideas offered for discussion in the class room. It is this lack of publicness, or rather courage to be both a private and public figure in one, that young people suffer under most both at school and at home. Instead of resolving it in time, they end up cloaking themselves dangerously so with silence. As a result too many explode when it is too late to say a simple 'no' to their imagined action designed to be at least for a short moment 'an illusionary greatness'. Usually the false is obtained b y transcending life before death, and therefore evoke the very meaning of death by taking lives of first others and then out of despair of themselves. Only complete estranged persons from life seek to achieve such a greatness! And yet it follows all the cults surrounding false hero-ship as if it is a great deed to have killed so many people in battle. The latter term seems to justify many things, and thus a youth deprived of human reality will enter many imagined battles, but never leave them unharmed. Still, most of the time the wounds they inflict upon themselves remain 'invisible', are not seen precisely because the eyes of the community are directed towards that eternal sphere rather than towards the others, the fellow citizens, the neighbours, the guy across the street. Instead the blanket of silence like snow covers everything, and keeps the place called home in the final end in the dark.

In the past Erickson wrote about a youth needing during that transition from childhood to adulthood a moratorium - a delay - before being pushed into reality. It is linked to the crucial question, but what job shall be taken up, in order to sustain live? That is as well an ethical concern, for does someone make a living by constructing weapons in the military-industrial complex? Only nowadays things have changed for it has become ever more difficult for the youth to find a job. Alone in Greece, it is said 60% of the youth is unemployed. In America many youth never make it past initial grades. They drop out of school before they have completed their education and therefore are without any chances to obtain jobs requiring good qualifications. Efforts are made to reverse that trend, but still the poverty class continues to exist.

Despite all of his compassion for the middle class, or rather because of it, Barack Obama tends to leave out the poor and the people in jails. America has one of the highest proportions of people in jail when compared to the rest of the world. A vast majority of the inmates are Blacks. Like everything else in the USA, running a jail has become a stunning business success.

But while some reforms and changes are attempted, one prime point is still in need to be tackled, and that is the fear of loss of self esteem due to the high risk of failure, and this in many ways. As mentioned already, the failure to speak up in class is just the beginning, the failure to speak up when injustice is inflicted upon another still another critical moment. There are always choices involved but once fear of consequences are instilled, many stay silent. Consequently brutality of the higher authority, and in turn of the supportive group of such measures is covered up. At superficial level in society the illusion of being a warm and loving community prevails. At the same time, very powerful rules reinforce strict punishment if someone goes against the spirit of both the community and the nation. That means only those who follow the code will survive in the system.

Crime and punishment was a motive by Dostoevsky to renew the contact between the good and the bad, but in the Christian mythology the bad guy is the 'evil' one about whom no one speaks any more. He is ousted even out of the 'kingdom in heaven'. This separation of good and evil is not merely a Christian idea; rather it is a mystification of the other as if evil exists while oneself has to make sure to be always on the right or good side. The comparison is slanted and one sided. For everything depends upon who sets the rule and who has the power to inflict punishments. Also it lacks the very compassion for the other that is needed if to be an open society. As exemplified by Barack Obama, it means imposing an oversimplified scheme of justice more powerful than anything else. For with this scheme goes the method of 'non recognition' that the other is a human being as well. Consequently many end up being stranded once found on the wrong side. They simply do not know what contributions they could make to be recognized by the others in the community.

Give that this community is related in religious terms to the 'kingdom in heaven', it means being fixated to an unseen but ever present powerful figure identified with the term 'God' and complemented on earth by reference to a figure like Jesus. It was interesting to see that all faiths were present at that prayer vigil in Newtown. It showed how important it was for them to be present in such a community, given all the wealth that exists there. Of interest is that they all presented a similar view and in so doing said a prayer which was linked to passages taken from sacred books. In citing them at such an occasion, they presume that these passages contain unchanging words of wisdom and hence can be applied to every occasion. Still, no one will ask if their unchanging, indeed ontological status has been created to be unmoved by what happens on earth? If so, then it explains why the enemy picture linked to evil can be upheld while all look in the same direction of the eternal, something not to be seen directly, but as the invisible something it leads to a lack of understanding what is going on in reality, here and now. The only response is a demand to be faithful.

In all religions, there prevail these anachronistic projection upon everything being safe once a kingdom in heaven has been established, and as a model thereof as well on earth! That myth is taught in school and in churches to children by taking recourse to various fables and other kinds of stories, and so they learn about kings and princesses and heroes. These kinds of narratives make all efforts needed to bring about a rational discourse and critical reflections redundant. Instead images and symbols count, not the substantial word felt and experienced. Hence no experience is made of speaking with the other in real terms.

Such a religious orientation becomes dangerous once a child learns to follow only the path of adults who hide their failures in life by learning to hate. All the more powerful is a self hatred which can distort the truth about the human being. Children seeing this, they learn very quickly what it means to hide failures. To them this has the significance of the unseen, or what adults try to hide from them. In the end, children will end up manipulating themselves and their stories, all in an effort to pretend to be lovely, when in fact they begin to hate themselves for giving in to such a fake world of success. Indeed, they learn from adults who do everything to pretend of having come clean and being successful. And yet adults are the first to be frightened when faced by the innocent eyes of children who just asking silently 'why' this disguise, why this lack of a humane language. Adam Lanza may have asked himself why stay silent any longer when such a fake reality exists?

hatto fischer

(first draft: 17.12.2013, revised 24.2.2013)


1SUSAN DONALDSON JAMES reports for ABC News on Feb. 20, 2013 that „Newtown Shooter Lanza had Sensorary Processing Disorder“. See http://abcnews.go.com/Health/newtown-shooter-adam-lanza-sensory-processing-disorder-controversial/story?id=18532645

2See Benjy Sarlin „Sand Hook shooting thrusts 'Preppers' into Spotlight“, Dec. 21, 2012. http://tpmdc.talkingpointsmemo.com/2012/12/sandy-hook-prepper-movement.php

3„Postcolonialism or postmodernism: an interview with Susan Buck Morss“ by Chris Mansour, Platypus Refiew 34, April 2nd, 2011 • http://platypus1917.org/2011/04/02/postcolonialism-or-postmodernism-an-interview-with-susan-buck-morss/

4For the full transcript of the speech by Barack Obama, see Washington Post, Dec. 12, 2012. http://articles.washingtonpost.com/2012-12-16/politics/35864241_1_prayer-vigil-first-responders-newtown

5See Ali H. Soufan, (2013) „Torture, lies and movies“ in: Paris: International Herald Tribune, p. 6

6op.cit. Washington Post, 14.12.2012 http://articles.washingtonpost.com/2012-12-16/politics/35864241_1_prayer-vigil-first-responders-newtown

7op. cit, Washington Post, 14.12.2012. http://articles.washingtonpost.com/2012-12-16/politics/35864241_1_prayer-vigil-first-responders-newtown

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