She said no.

I just read a news story about an 11-year-old boy who killed an eight-year-old neighbor girl because she said no.

She didn’t say no about sex. It wasn’t over something so charged with emotion as sex.

It was over a puppy.

He wanted to see her new puppy and she refused. So he went inside his house and picked up a gun and shot her.

It is so easy to say that this is a matter of a parent not locking up their guns. He was easily able to open up the closet door, pull out a shotgun and shoot this girl in the chest, killing her instantly. That is certainly an issue. But more than gun-control, we need to have people control. How have we gotten to the point where young boys feel that the way to deal with rejection is to kill? How have we gotten to the point where being told “no” means someone has to die?

It is to the point where we really shouldn’t be afraid of Muslim men with guns. What we need to be afraid of are young white boys with guns. They are responsible for far more murders in America these days than anyone else.

This has nothing to do with “America being a Godless nation” as some commentators say. You don’t need religion to know you should not kill someone.

Perhaps violent videogames are to blame. Perhaps neglectful parenting is to blame. Perhaps this kid (and all the other ones, too many to name) were left alone for too long, ignored, left to fend for themselves, unguided, unwanted. Perhaps it is all of this, and more. Whatever the reason(s), we as a nation need to figure it out soon, because too many deaths have already occurred.

I feel the root of this particular murder is the word “no” – and how he handled it.

If he didn’t kill her over this, it is entirely possible that he would grow up to assault or rape a different woman who told him “no”. Is this what our society has come to, where women cannot say “no” for fear of being harmed? Is this what our society has come to, where men can’t hear the word “no” without causing harm?

There was no way to predict that this would have happened. He asked to see her puppy. She said no. So he killed her. Something doesn’t add up. This equation does not lead logically from one step to another. And that is the problem. We say we want to stop gun violence, but deep down if we are being honest we really just want to not be the victim of gun violence. It has become random, uncertain, chaotic. Anyone can be a victim.

Long gone are the days where attacks follow a logical pattern. Someone was abused for years and kills his abuser. Someone was in a “bad” part of town and got mugged. Someone got into a fight and got shot.

These days, just going to school can be dangerous. Just going to the movies can get you murdered. There is no logic to it. All the victims are innocent. Often they aren’t even known by their murderer.

Why are there too many guns and not enough parents teaching their children right from wrong? Sometimes it isn’t even as easy or simple as that. Sometimes the parents need a few lessons themselves. Often the parents are less than stable. Giving birth does not suddenly improve intelligence or aptitude. It isn’t a surprise when their kids go off the deep end.

Stronger gun laws will only result in a greater imbalance. More “bad” people will have guns. They don’t obey laws anyway, so gun laws will benefit them and harm everyone else. It is too late to regulate guns – there are too many out there. What we need is to regulate people.

We need to teach our children from an early age how to handle loss, rejection, and pain. We need to teach them how to deal with their feelings, good and bad. We need to teach them how to be with other people in healthy ways, ways that are life-affirming. We need to teach people how to have dialogue versus having debate. We need to teach people about many other cultures and ways of thinking, so they learn there are many ways of seeing and understanding.

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Cure for violence

We’ve had too many examples of people becoming violent and randomly killing people. This isn’t something that is going to go away unless we make it go away. It is a weed that takes many years to grow. We have the ability to eradicate it in the future. Here are some of my ideas about a cure for violence. Some of this I wrote a few years ago, after a rash of these occurrences.

Just like with treating toddlers -ignore the bad behavior and reward the good. Don’t publicize the name of the criminal, the perpetrator. Lets’ not have a payoff.

Notice and acknowledge people. Everybody needs to know that they count. When you see someone who is a loner, make contact with them. Befriend them. It isn’t easy. But it is essential. It is part of this “love your neighbor” thing we are supposed to do.

Remove, discourage violence in the media. Games and movies that depict violence should not be bought. They should not be made, but we can’t control that. Take away the demand, then the supply will go away. I’m not about making laws for these things. Make it illegal and you’ve made it taboo. Make it taboo and you’ve made it desirable. Kids want what they can’t have. Rather, we need to watch what we consume.

We need to make it socially unacceptable for people to play war in their spare time. Especially kids, who don’t have the maturity to understand reality from unreality. How can you know what is real when you never see it? “Reality TV” isn’t. It is over the top, scripted, and fake, much like our celebrities. We have created a society of artifice, where we celebrate the un-real.

We need healthy outlets for emotions. We bottle them up and suppress our real emotions. Everything is supposed to be fine in our society, and this just isn’t normal. We don’t have a way to process pain. We need that. It has to get out.

I’m not advocating gun control. I’m advocating people control.

Is it that we have more violence these days, or that we are just so connected that we can’t help but see it? And why don’t we see a balance of “good” stories? Surely just as much good is happening.

People control – on school violence and gender roles

We don’t need gun control, so much as people control.

If you ban guns, then only the people who obey laws will not have guns. The people who don’t obey laws will have as many as they want. They are the ones who kill people anyway.

We need to address why people, especially young boys, are killing other people.

We need to address the rage and powerlessness that young boys are feeling and counter that. They kill to make themselves seen and heard. Address that in a healthy way, early on, and they won’t feel a need to kill.

We have to address the sense of hopelessness and alienation they feel.

When boys are told to not cry, to “be a man”, they are not allowed to be in touch with their softer sides. They are molded into an unnatural shape, like a bonsai tree. But unlike a bonsai tree, they aren’t shaped into anything beautiful, but warped.

If a boy acts in any way other than the traditionally masculine role he is seen as either gay or a girl. He is emasculated by his peers. He is a “pussy” or a “fag” or “has no balls”. A guy who is caring, who is considerate, who is loving, is seen as not a guy. This is unhealthy and damaging to him as a person.

The only way that guys are allowed to express themselves is through being physically aggressive. So is it any surprise that they become violent, and the only way they feel that they can be seen and heard is to use violence? Gun violence is the most extreme form of “acting out,” but it is still in line with being a guy.

First, we must drop all the “rules” about what it means to be male.

Our society has really started to raise its collective consciousness about women’s rights and roles, but we’ve failed the boys. We tell women that they can be anything they want to be but we don’t say the same thing to boys. We tell women that they can be doctors or lawyers or mechanics, but we don’t support boys who want to be dancers or artists or stay-at-home-Dads.

Sure, they can be, but at a loss to their masculinity. Sure, they can be, but they run the risk of being seen as not male. In American society, that is the same as not being a person.

When a woman has a job that is seen as being traditionally “male”, she is a groundbreaker. When a man has a job that is seen as traditionally “female”, he is seen as not being a man. For a woman, it is a step up. For a man, it is a step down.

Let’s drop the “rules” for what defines someone as “male” or “female” and start thinking about what it means to be a person. Let’s focus on character and compassion instead. Let us let people be people, and not gender.

Let us also teach everybody – boys and girls together, as many ways to express their emotions and needs. Humans need connection. We are not solitary beings. We have to communicate with each other. But not all of us are good at communicating with words. We all need to learn different “languages” – of art, of dance, of music. We all need to learn as many ways as possible to “get it out” of ourselves. Bottled up feelings tend to bubble over in unpleasant ways.

Remember how frustrated a small child gets when something isn’t right? He wails and whines and fusses. He’s hungry, or tired, or something hurts, or he needs something that isn’t there. His frustration grows and grows until someone figures out what is wrong and fixes it. Sometimes a parent will say “Use your words” to remind him that he has to communicate his needs. Then he has to slow down and think about what it is that he needs so he can express it. Then the parent can help.

But what if he doesn’t know what is wrong? Or what if he hasn’t been taught the words?

There is a trend these days to teach sign language to infants. They are taught a gestural language because it is easier for them than speech at that point. The frustration level is reduced dramatically. Instead of guessing what is wrong, the parent knows because the child has said it with gestures.

But what if you are older? What if you know a lot of words? And what if they still aren’t enough?

I believe that this, along with the rigidity of the masculine gender role, is the heart of the problem. I believe that everybody needs to learn how to express themselves in multiple “languages”. Bring back art programs. Bring back music in the school. Let everybody take a turn at theatre. Or gardening. Or cooking, or sewing, for instance. Everybody needs to learn the skills necessary for life, for being an independent person, anyway.

I also believe that everybody needs to get moving. Lack of physical exercise results in too much pent up energy.

We can turn this around. We can’t wait for the government to do it, or the school systems. It will take too long for the committees to study it. Every person who cares for a young person is responsible for this change. Anything counts. We can’t do it all, and we certainly can’t do it all at once. But we have to start.

Go to the library for ideas. Check with the Y, or the community center. Get moving, get creating on your own. Think it costs too much? It is cheaper than a coffin.

The life you save will be that of your young friend and twenty random strangers.