A Moment Of Silence

Today’s Courier Herald Column:

I attended Sunday’s Falcons game at the Georgia Dome.  In addition to the usual presentation of our nation’s flag and the singing of The National Anthem, there was a moment of silence.  In days gone by, it would have been a public prayer.  Instead, we were instructed to be quiet for a moment of reflection on the lives lost last Friday in Newtown, Connecticut.  It was brief, but lasted long enough to make me wonder if we didn’t need a longer one, not just at football games, but across the whole country.

I became consciously aware of the shooting just after 1:00 pm Friday, not from the breathless news reports, but while reading Twitter and Facebook.  I made the decision not to turn on the television right away.  Unfortunately, this has become too familiar that I knew what to expect by doing that.  There would be pictures and stories of unimaginable tragedy, told with incomplete and often incorrect information for the first few hours.  I decided I could actually postpone reality for a bit, though I pieced together enough thoughts to post a request for “prayers for Connecticut” on my blog at Peach Pundit.

Then I checked out for a couple of hours.  It was time for a moment of silence.

Facebook and Twitter are now the rapid response sites for citizen-based commentary during all events.  When observing initial reactions there is a one general rule of thumb: You will lose faith in humanity reading knee-jerk responses and political solutions from instant experts while first responders are still trying to treat the wounded and remove bodies.

Whether those who were assessing blame for an Arizona shooting before Congresswoman Gabby Giffords could be loaded into an ambulance, or those linking a disturbed Colorado grad student to a political group he didn’t belong to while bodies were still inside a movie theater, or those demanding we begin confiscating guns while the media were incorrectly reporting which Lanza brother was Friday’s killer, opinions race ahead of facts. Even without the basic facts known in each of the above cases, there were plenty of people willing to both assess blame and demand remedies before the bodies were even counted, much less identified.

It’s clear we’re now going to have a national debate about guns, and that’s fine.  When raw emotion subsides the cold facts of the situation generally reveal that most of the solutions suggested would have done little or nothing to stop the tragedies of yesterday nor prevent the ones of tomorrow.

Those yelling the loudest – on both sides of the gun debate – are blocking the discussion that needs to happen, and that must happen, based on the history of the cases above and so many others.  The problem at hand is not about weapons and their accessibility, but rather the horrible state of mental health care in our nation and its lack of accessibility.

Jared Loughner, James Holmes, and Adam Lanza have much more in common than guns.  They each struggled with some form of mental health issue as a precursor to their horrific acts.

Much of the political class seems content to yell past each other about guns in the aftermath of these all too often occurrences.  We’re quite used to the arguments, so it gives each side an opportunity to roll out their talking points, demonize others while creating a smug sense of self-righteousness, and generally assuring no intellectual effort or deep introspection will occur to figure out if we’re even addressing the right root cause.

We’re good at making noise at times like this.  We’re horrible at reaching consensus as to what would actually change public behavior.  That isn’t an easy answer as it is complex, multifaceted, and may ultimately make us remember that there are sometimes events in life which no system can be designed that will give us peace, security, or control.

Understanding won’t come from us shouting past each other in demands for quick fixes.  “Doing something” because it appears easy doesn’t mean the problems go away or that threats diminish.  Taking a real moment of silent reflection will help us come to grips with these items as fact.

And if, perhaps, we were silent long enough, we could actually spend some time summoning the inner courage to address the much more complicated, much less sound bite-oriented problem of mental health in this country.



  1. Mike Dudgeon says:

    Great post Charlie. I did not look at any TV/video on this until Sunday afternoon, and enforced my own moment of silence until a great discussion at Sunday School and after service. With various family members I have seen many sides of the mental health system and even lost an adult cousin to suicide after years of his battle with severe depression. Policy around mental health needs to get better and more realistic.

  2. NoTeabagging says:

    Nicely put Charlie. In America our zeal to defend freedom of speech, expression and right to arm ourselves to the teeth overshadow the fact that these rights come with responsibility and a duty to use them with civility toward others. Instead we defend the right to be loud, obnoxious and dangerous without a second thought for manners, common sense and the ‘do unto others’ rules.

  3. bullFrog says:

    How about instead of silence, which probably has little meaning to most in the crowd, someone starts saying this:

    “Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name,
    Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.

    Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts,
    as we forgive our debtors.

    And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil:
    For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever.”

    Or maybe this:

    “The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want.
    He maketh me to lie down in green pastures:
    He leadeth me beside the still waters.
    He restoreth my soul:
    He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for His name’ sake.

    Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
    I will fear no evil: For thou art with me;
    Thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me.
    Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies;
    Thou annointest my head with oil; My cup runneth over.

    Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life,
    and I will dwell in the House of the Lord forever.”

    Just a thought.

    • Rick Day says:

      because those words mean nothing to the unbeliever, the Muslim, Hindu or the Jew. Because tragedy is not ‘worthy of exclusive mourning’ by the “Superior Christian Faith” in dwelling in lordly houses forever, whatever that means.

      The rest of us, literally in figuratively in your mind can “go to hell”.

      As hard as I tried, I could not keep my eyes dry during the moment of silence yesterday, therefore your comment was rather condescending. Comments like you renew my faith that Christians are a self-centered lot, oblivious to the variety of belief around them. And the added affirmation none of you have any right to ‘speak for god’.


      Just a thought.

  4. Three Jack says:

    Nice Charlie!

    The media could help itself if collectively they would stop wall-to-wall coverage of these type events. As the faux Morgan Freeman column states, we remember the names of the guys who commit these heinous acts, but seldom if ever could name one of the many innocent victims. It’s become a game of one upsmanship for the demented crowd.

  5. WesleyC says:

    Nice piece Charlie. Kudos for raising the mental health issue, but I’d contend that it doesn’t need to be the either/or framework you propose. The problem is BOTH guns and mental health – probably not to mention some additional things that really aren’t solvable through policy, like family breakdown. I think the answer is for all of us from both sides to be willing to put everything on the table and talk toward some common sense reforms (such as banning high-capacity magazines).

  6. Max Lehmann says:

    Thank you, Charlie.

    What will become of these thoughts? Probably not a durn thing, unless people like Lea Thrace stay indignant, use advocacy, courage, and determination to make a difference.

    I know from Buzz’s post, he is all ears. Clearly many others feel the same way.

    What if Georgia went from ‘worst to first’ in compassionate, effective, mental health care? What if we did it without a massive Federal or State financial commitment?

    Government can and should establish pathways to create an environment for change. Those pathways can consist of a combination of incentives and directives to promote improvement in mental health delivery options.

    Jail is a lousy option. Juvenile detention may cost as much as $90K per year.

    The Governor is looking into this and I applaud that effort.

  7. Three Jack says:

    A friend posted his thoughts about Sandy Creek on FB, couldn’t agree more:

    Like many of us, I’ve given a lot of thought to the Connecticut school shootings. I’ve heard the various positions and posturings, but I’m not sure anyone has formulated a realistic plan (we aren’t going to disarm America, video game violence didn’t do this, Obamacare isn’t going to institutionalize all nutjobs, making boys play with dolls won’t work and frankly I don’t trust most school administrators with guns). I do think we can do three practical things.
    1. Allow (but do not require) school officials to train and designate armed personnel. If nutjobs THINK the school MAY be armed, that may help the process…even if they aren’t. If the nutjob happens to hit the wrong (for him) school…all the better.
    2. Match prescription psychotropics to gun ownership addresses and allow gun ownership at those addresses, but require extra training (insuring locking, etc).
    3. De-glorify the shooter. There is no reason that our society knows who these people are…just what they did is enough. We protect the names of rape victims and shield information of sex crimes…shield the antagonist from any notoriety. The fact is, he isn’t evil…he is pathetic. Quit raising his stature in loserdom.
    We are a nation of +300m people with a tiny fraction of dangerous nuts. You cannot build the system sufficient to defeat the statistical outliers but you can use human engineering to reduce the possibilities and consequences.
    Just my $.02.

  8. Bluegoose says:

    The teachers and staff at Sandy Hook Elementary who confronted true evil on their own are heroes beyond reproach.

    As with any school being a weapon free zone, evil truly holds the advantage.   It could have been another town or another time – the result would have been the same.

    How long must we deny those with who we entrust our most precious children a most modicum of defense.

    Would pepper spray or key chain mace  in a teacher’s purse or a taser gun in the principal’s office been too much of a threat to the safety of our school ?

    Had a hero been able to impede the shooter for a mere 10 seconds, a swarm of teachers would have certainly overwhelmed him. 

    Leaving our heroes unprotected tomorrow only leaves the doors open for another tragic visit from the evil that exists in all corners, all communities and to a degree in each of us. 

    School security can begin with the simplest item purchased at the local hardware store. 

  9. saltycracker says:

    Aggressively pursuing a sound mental health program in Georgia, including consequences for criminal complicity, while gleaning the resources from available funds is a matter of priorities and will.

  10. Rick Day says:

    We are not going to be allowed to have a frank discussion on mental health and well being. There is too much money to be made within Big Pharma. Too many people are silently addicted to their ‘perfectly legal’ prescribed drugs.

    We will get the same exact treatment on the issue that the T-PLOST supporters gave us: bias. “It’s OK, we know what we are doing, we are smarter, richer and we have YOUR best interests at heart. Trust us on this, it is not about the person it is about the object”.

    Object, in this case, being guns. However, we can dream.

    My neighborhood is currently over run with mental cases because jail lets them out on the 15th. Most head to the liquor store or street dealer (although procuring drugs in jail is rather easy, what I hear). You can’t walk in front of Varsity without some aggressive bad-doer accosting business people from the globe who stay at Tech Hotel and want to get out and see a bit of Atlanta.

    They sit in restaurants and businesses all day, snoozing, sipping a tiny cup of water, raising all kinds of hell if they don’t get what they want (coupled with “community enablement” from “community employees”) or ‘living’ in the restrooms.

    Reckon if the Lib’rels take our guns we can always carry a ball bat. Sometimes its the quickest way to get through a think and addled skull. At least we know that laws will magically protect us from criminals obtaining guns, yo?

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