April 15, 2009

Random Violence of Senseless Acts

Sometimes the world can be a big 'ol scary place. Not all of the time, but some of it. In the last month alone, there seems to have been a major breakout - Radford University; Binghamton, New York; and the community college shooting in Dearborn, Michigan to name a few. All this had me scared shitless until last week, when a very local incident went down which left two dead and a house burned to the ground. That scared me shitlesser.

There's a part of me - growing bigger each day - that wants to pick up Beth and the kids and run screaming to a small town though I know small towns are not immune from violence, crime or just general bad behavior of ignorant people. Plus it's hard to get good Indian food in small town America. So, scratching that option off the list, I feel the urge to move to a farm in the middle of nowhere, grown our own vegetables and homeschool the kids. Then I realize that I don't know dick about math so our kids would grow up unable to add and they'd potentially grow up socially inept due to the fact that they spent all that time on a farm with us and their best friends would be cows or something. As for the vegetable thing, I'm honestly fine buying those in a nice pretty grocery store though there is something to be said for putting food on your table that you've actually grown. But waking up at the ass-crack of dawn to plow or rake or hoe or whatever doesn't sound that appealing primarily because I doubt there's a nearby Starbucks. Then my mind wanders and eventually happens upon a small, sparsely populated tropical island. I'll admit that my overactive imagination has to work overtime to figure out the potential drawbacks to this scenario. School for the kids would be an issue, sure. And I guess there's always the whole hurricane/tsunami thing to worry about. That would suck. But overall, the tropical island life has a lot going for it.

Except for this - you can't run away.

Running away from society solves nothing. Or, rather, it takes you out of society and maybe gets you away from the violence but it doesn't solve the problem and it takes you away from the good stuff as well. It takes a village was a concept largely laughed at when it was introduced a few years back. But it's absolutely, one-hundred percent right. So here's my Massive 100% Un-Implementable Grand Plan To Save The World - we somehow arrange a way for the however many billion people on the planet to meet each other. I know it's tricky and I have no inkling how it could be done but think about it. You can get pissed, rant, rave and scream at perfect strangers when you will never have an opportunity to put a face with a name with an attitude. But can you do that to someone who's hand you shook, who you look in the eye and introduce yourself? Much less shoot them? I thought not. Of course, there are crazies out there who could. You can never get rid of all the crazies.

The world scares the shit out of me sometimes. How about you? And what should we do about it?

(Author's note: It's early and I didn't get home from work until precisely 10:53 last night. So if there are parts of this that don't make sense, well, it is what it is. At some point, when the dust settles from Big Work Thing, when I have time to eat a meal that isn't pizza at a table that isn't one of a conference variety and actually see my kids before they go to bed instead of visiting them once they're deep in slumber, I'll be back on my a-game. Until then, well, you're stuck with Less Interesting Slightly Distracted And Very Tired Cactus. For that I apologize. The typos are unintentional. The sentence fragments were unavoidable. I am uncaffeinated. I need coffee.)

Posted by Chris at April 15, 2009 6:26 AM

Lack of caffeine makes you paranoid.

Actually, I totally get you. I can't tell you how many times I have told the husband to gather the kids, we are moving to the country and growing our own food. Sometimes it feels like the world is just going to Hell. At least you have an idea.

Posted by: Debbie at April 15, 2009 7:08 AM

The scary thing is, the people who are shot often DO know the killer in those mass murders.

But I think a general sense of kindness to everyone you come in contact with would certainly help prevent people from getting to a point where they feel the need to shoot anything and everything.

Posted by: tutugirl1345 at April 15, 2009 7:13 AM

Facebook. The entire world can meet on Facebook, become fast, fast Facebook friends (is there any other kind?), and then really - who would want to shoot someone they are friends with on Facebook? I have always said that Facebook is either the greatest thing on Earth - or the start of the apocolypse. In this scenario - it's clearly the former.

As for life in a small town on a farm with livestock for friends (or in my case - children)...don't knock it til you try it! That said - I still don't grow my own vegetables...yet.

Posted by: Country Girl at April 15, 2009 7:14 AM

I've been lucky thus far to have the best of both worlds.

I live in what some would call the sticks. We have an acre of land, and we're surrounded by cows, corn fields and Christmas trees.

But the city where I work about 20 minutes away is one of the refugee capitals of the northeast. From a dining perspective, it's great. Indian, Greek, Bosnian, Jamaican, etc. However, there is crime there that I don't have to deal with at home. It's all a trade off.

I had to write about the Binghamton shooting - it sucked. But got to talk to an awesome FBI crisis trainer who shared many good pieces of advice.

P.S. We are growing our own vegetables this year.

Posted by: Traci at April 15, 2009 7:16 AM

In the past I have expressed a desire to move to a very remote area or island as well. My reason was prbably due to the jerk-off client of the week or something.
I don't know why people do the horrible things they do -- I wish they would save all the random people the pain and sorrow and just shoot themselves FIRST instead of shooting everyone else up. I know, I know so mean but don't try and tell me a gazillion other people haven't thought the same thing...
Anyway! I always say it takes a village to raise the young and care for the old (I'm a sandwich-er). I wish everyone would put aside first impressions, or stereotyping anyone and think about them as a PERSON and be kind to them. Then maybe in turn the kindness will pass on - like that Lincoln Mutual commercial!
I'm sorry you have to work so late -- I always hated when I had to work on the weekend and it took me away from my family. I hope those long hours end soon!

Posted by: NancyJak at April 15, 2009 7:27 AM

Oh, it makes perfect sense all right. And I've thought of the middle of nowhere, growing my own vegetables, too. Except my scenario usually has me somewhere in northern Canada - with a satellite link to the internet.

Do you remember all of the commenters from day to day, or are most people simply randoms to you?

Posted by: Hannah at April 15, 2009 8:10 AM

Oh, it makes perfect sense all right. And I've thought of the middle of nowhere, growing my own vegetables, too. Except my scenario usually has me somewhere in northern Canada - with a satellite link to the internet. I'd have to be a vegetarian, though - the idea of killing a cow really squicks me out.

Do you remember all of the commenters from day to day, or are most people simply randoms to you?

Posted by: Hannah at April 15, 2009 8:12 AM

I know we had one incident recently, but it's the only big thing in the almost 4 years I've lived here...and even then, it was really isolated.

Move to Germany, crime is REALLY low and people are great and the veggie markets are wonderful when the weather is nice (which is spring - fall)!!!

Posted by: Holly Reynolds at April 15, 2009 8:14 AM

I spent the first part of my childhood on a small island (in a village of about 2,000 people), I'd live there again but I'd be under no illusions about escaping problems. Although it was a much safer place to be, there were still plenty of drug and alcohol (especially alcohol) problems. There were many people who moved north from the big cities on the mainland to escape their problems but it just didn't work. You take your problems with you, and in a small place, gossip is much worse. Add to that terrible weather and it can all get quite depressing.

As I said, I'd happily move back, but I'd know what I was moving to.

Posted by: Katherine at April 15, 2009 8:39 AM

look at you, all busy with Big Work Thing and still have time to focus on saving the world.

Posted by: La Petite Belle at April 15, 2009 8:39 AM

look at you, all busy with Big Work Thing and still have time to focus on saving the world.

Posted by: La Petite Belle at April 15, 2009 8:41 AM

I live about 30 minutes outside of Philadelphia. Enough said. I love how people talk about the "bad parts" of Philly...In my mind, there are no good parts, it's all badlands considering someone gets killed in Philly everyday. Don't move there if you were thinking of it...

Posted by: Michelle aka Tortellina Temptress at April 15, 2009 8:57 AM

You know, if you run away to the country and homeschool your kids in the middle of nowhere, it doesn't really matter if they learn math or not. I mean, if they aren't going to interact with society, they don't have to learn any of the societal lessons, like the fruitlessness of learning calculus when only 3 people in the world actually use it. And that whole "you can be anything you want to be lesson," since they're just gonna be farmers.

I totally get you, though. There were times before I put jamie in public school that the thought of letting her out into the world with all those unknowns scared me so badly that I considered homeschooling her. Then I realized I don't have the knowledge, patience, or drive to do it right, and I'd probably be screwing her up worse than the girl who's teaching her about Hannah Montana.

So much of this parenting thing is having faith in the people your kids meet when they aren't with you, and as a person who values control, it's one of the hardest things about it.

Posted by: Becky at April 15, 2009 9:43 AM

I don't blame you for feeling this way. I've never lived in the US and I am so happy for it. Your society is very scary to me.

(PS: I type this from Vancouver, Canada, mind you - and we have our own, different, hell up here.)

Posted by: Jacqueline at April 15, 2009 10:11 AM

I spent four hours last night absorbing the wrath of The Public at a public meeting. While most had reasonable beefs, some were quite happy to use me & my collegues as whipping boys for whatever issues they had on the front burner. Some people there's just no getting through to. Some people will just not see any other view point. Ever. I think that if these people were the shooting variety, they could have shot any of us after looking us in the eye. They weren't even close to that variety, I'm just saying they weren't there to get their minds changed.

It takes a fucking big crowbar to open up some minds. But that might be taken in itself as an act of violence, if, say one doesn't WANT one's mind opened...

Posted by: harmzie at April 15, 2009 12:07 PM

You're talking right at me; I lived in a city, had a kid, left the city. It's hard not to write a tome of responses. That being said, here's my tome:

I love your proposal, and would throw in a few simple addendums I thunk up myself. Since the world is an increasingly small place, it seems reasonable that:

* from now on, we call countries and cities by the names they call themselves. Prague should be Praha, Denmark should be Danmark. Germany should be called whatever Germans call it.

* we should learn to say "hello," "thank you" and "goodbye" in as many languages as we can.

If you genuinely have a subtle pull toward escape from urban living, even if you never intend to pull the trigger, allow me to suggest further food for thought. I highly recommend the movie Garbage Warrior. (It's on netflix. http://www.garbagewarrior.com/) It's a nutty architect in Taos who builds sustainable communities in a very interesting way, and totally off the grid. I've stayed in one of them, and it's amazing. (I'll go back again this spring or summer if a 3-day weekend presents itself.)

What if something as simple as the style of housing you chose to live in helped eliminate the scarcity that causes so many of society's problems? Less scarcity, less survival pressure on people, less Going Postal. (Right? Maybe?) I mean, he's growing bananas indoors during the winter in Taos with 0 electricity at a locale that can be -20 degrees. It's not for everyone, but why should it be? In the same way that I wouldn't ever force everyone to drive electric cars, I also would not deny access to people who wanted them and could buy them. Same deal here; I wouldn't force anyone to live this way, but making it possible for people who wanted to do so would have some small impact. Small changes are not just important, they're the only ones that are likely to happen these days. They matter.

So, I don't think there's any escape from society or the problems that come with it, but moving away from the city doesn't necessarily or automatically equal escape; it could also represent an attempt to be part of the solution. (Or it could be an attempt to escape. People are people.) There's no compromise-free answer, so there's no reason to explore some of the alternatives if you wanted to.

I'm going to go hug a tree now.

Posted by: rpm at April 15, 2009 12:34 PM

Wayne Dyer talked about something similar to this in a speech once. He told a true story about a guy who was terrified of war and being bombed. So he did a bunch of statistics and moved his family to the one place on earth that was least likely to suffer such an attack...and this dude died from a bomb attack when war was declared on the Falklan Islands.

See, the thing is that nowhere is 100% safe. Never has been, never will be. That's why it's important to teach our kids safety and the skills to navigate their world. We do the best we can with our kids, with ourselves, and not worry too much about the what-coulds and the what-ifs because otherwise you'll go crazy and be unable to enjoy life.

I don't think the face to face meeting would make too much of a difference, to be honest. People meet each other face to face all the time and still don't give a shit.

Posted by: jessica at April 15, 2009 1:42 PM

Yeah, escaping to a soybean farm in Kansas has always been a fantasy for me ... wait - soybeans? And I already live in Kansas ... um, tropical island sounds better, I agree.

Posted by: Heather at April 15, 2009 1:52 PM

Oddly enough, I just put up my own 100% foolproof plan to save the world on my blog. It's called "We All Go Live in Separate Caves in the Desert." It could totally work.

Posted by: Gramps at April 16, 2009 7:26 PM

The world is a scary place, but I think if everyone tried we could make it better.

It is pretty scary where I live with so many gang shootings which almost always result in death. Every day you turn on the news to find out who/how many died that day.

Posted by: Adi at April 16, 2009 11:13 PM

The world is a scary place, but I think if everyone tried we could make it better.

It is pretty scary where I live with so many gang shootings which almost always result in death. Every day you turn on the news to find out who/how many died that day.

Posted by: Adi at April 16, 2009 11:13 PM

There's nothing like a young family to make a person want to change the world - or escape it completely. I hope your coffee supply stays constant and work stress eases!

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