Innocent children and adults murdered. The Newtown, Connecticut, tragedy reflected, as President Obama stated yesterday, and as any sane person knows, this sort of violence has been happening all too often in this country. When I was even a pre-schooler, in the late 1930s, my late mother used to talk about man's inhumanity to man. She said it existed from the time Cain slew Abel. I always wanted to believe those sorts of people were the exception, rather than the rule. Indeed, they still are, but their deranged acts obviously impact each of us. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to know that without "bad", we might not know what "good" is.
The bad acts sadly serve to illustrate there are some in the world whose minds wander into mental minefields into which most of us would never meander, or even wish to. Does that make the "good" people "perfect"? Hardly, in my opinion. Any "good" person who doesn't have thoughts of wishing ill or retribution to bullies, tormenters or those who deserve to not get away with ego-or-power-driven-acts against other people, probably doesn't exist, except for a very few who have taken vows to not think in that manner.
Regarding those who take those sorts of vows, in my late teens, between TV and off-Broadway acting jobs, I was also a "chartist" for A.C. Nielsen's New York office. One of those with whom I worked there was named Donald Nielsen, no relation to A.C. Donald was from Brooklyn, but the antithesis of what anyone would consider a Brooklyn stereotype. Donald had a presence about him that suggested his mind was far from Brooklyn or even Manhattan, where our offices were (The Nelson Tower, 42nd Street and Fifth Avenue, just north of the iconic New York Public Library). One day Donald announced he was quitting his charting job to become a Trappist Monk in the hills of Kentucky. He told us his work would be to grow vegetables on the farm at the Abbey, as well as taking a vow of silence. His primary mission would be to pray for the world, and especially people whose deranged minds were bent on destroying others. People like Donald, in my opinion, are more than special, especially when they unselfishly devote their lives to "good".
In this country, in recent memory, from Columbine, to Virginia Tech to Aurora to yesterday at Newtown, we're reminded, much too often, that almost no place is "safe" these days. Following 9/11, we "knew" who the people were who would wish to harm us with extreme violence, from that day forward. I think those sorts still exist and will never go away, but the recent tragedies and senseless killings have been "home grown", as the saying goes, spawned by delusions-turned-real acts of fantasy-driven power, greed and ego, three of the most powerful, potentially damaging and damnable words in our lexicon.
Ours is a primarily live-and-let-live nation, but even as far back as the early 1970s, a British citizen one proclaimed to one of my close friends, "The United States is the most violent country on Earth". When my friend told me what Michael had said, it was the first time I'd ever heard anyone state something like that, and I brushed it aside as just another comment from a disgruntled Brit , even though I'm an Anglophile at heart.
What can be done to reduce the ranks of those who commit horrific acts against innocent people, especially very young children, as was the case yesterday? I think it all begins from the time we learn how to speak and comprehend the language, then nurtured at home. When we're taught "good" values and thinking by our parents, grandparents or guardians from "day one", it at least buffers any desire to go to extremes to prove a point, or satisfy an ego or hidden hatred. I'm not naieve enough to think our country will ever become "Father Knows Best" or "Leave It To Beaver" scripts personnified, but I do feel, from home nurturing to school teachings to everyday interaction, more consicientious efforts to educate and instill positives rather than negatives in the minds of our youth would be a good start. I'm proud my two daughters, four grandchildren and six great-grandchildren, after surmounting more than one challenge in their lives, have emerged as more exemplary than not, and in my opinion, stemming from the fact they were taught from the "get-go" the basics of right versus wrong. It's truly not that difficult, but it also doesn't put wings and a halo on MY head! We're all just human, but the extremists among us take that reality to levels that need not exist. One of my late mother's favorite sayings was, "Let your conscience be your guide". Amen to that.
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