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We are Adam Lanza

A blog entry that I posted three months ago, titled The Illusion of Control, received an unusual number of hits this past week. Curious as to why, I reread the entry.

The post began with a brief summary of the tragedy that occurred in the Washington metropolitan area back in October, 2002, when ten people were killed and three others were seriously wounded by two snipers randomly shooting people in shopping center parking lots and gas stations. Reflecting on that tragedy, I wrote:

“Horrific stories like this one are disturbing. Somewhere deep within our beings, maybe in our souls, we feel a most unsettling angst—one that tends to linger. Death can have this effect on us, particularly in situations where it could have been avoided, or in this case when it is a random, senseless act of violence. It just feels wrong.”

Somewhere in the middle of reading that paragraph I felt a cold chill as my mind migrated north from a parking lot in Washington DC to an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut. For weeks now I have been wondering whether I should write something about the massacre that occurred in Sandy Hook on that cold December morning, but honestly, I have been at a loss for words, trying to make sense of yet another “random, senseless act of violence.

With Sandy Hook Elementary School on my mind, I continued reading my post from three months ago:

Beyond the tragic loss of life, there’s something else about an event like this that disturbs us—the jarring realization that we’re not in control of our lives as much as we’d like to think. The idea that I could be shot while loading groceries into my car reminds me that I do not sustain my own life. Sure, we can avoid dangerous situations and take meticulous care of our bodies, but ultimately we’re not in control. There are countless internal and external variables that could end our lives in an instant. A blood vessel could burst in my brain as I type these words and there would be nothing I could do about it; a drunk driver could hit me head-on before I have a second to react; a tidal wave could wash over my family as we stand helplessly on the beach; and a giant asteroid could be hurling toward Earth, and the only thing we could do would be to count down the seconds until impact. We are at the mercy of the world around us, and we need our bodies to perform countless involuntary functions to keep us alive. That’s part of why hearing a story about madmen randomly shooting people is so troublesome; it’s a shocking reminder that life is fragile and that we do not have ultimate control over our lives. Death, without warning, can visit any one of us at any time.

Reading that paragraph, I realized what it was that I wanted, needed, to write about.

This post is not a commentary on what happened the morning of December 14th, in Newtown, Connecticut; it’s about what’s happening all across the country now. Gun control has taken center stage in public and political discourse. Those in favor of greater gun restrictions have proclaimed the need to prevent such a tragedy from ever happening again, while those against changing the gun laws have insisted on the need to defend the Constitution and our Second Amendment right to bear arms.

Seriously? Do those trying to take the moral high ground of defending the Constitution seriously believe this is a Second Amendment issue? And do those fighting for increased gun control seriously think that they can prevent this kind of tragedy from happening again?

Folks, let’s be honest with ourselves; this frenzy over gun control is largely a reaction to our illusion of control being shattered.

In the days after Sandy Hook, social media channels were flooded with concerned parents panicking over whether or not they should send their children back to school (as if the world had just become a dangerous place). And once the issue of gun control was raised, gun advocates started to lose their minds, sensing that their control was being threatened because “Big Brother” might take away their guns and their God-given right to buy and sell semi-automatic weapons.

So, what’s my point?

My point is that we as a society are obsessed with the illusion of control, and when tragedy strikes, we’re more interested in trying to restore that illusion than in honestly assessing and dealing with the problem.

Let’s take the shooting at Sandy Hook for example. We want to believe that access to guns is the problem, and we want to read a moving article like I am Adam Lanza’s Mother and think that addressing mental illness is the solution. Gun control and mental illness may be issues that we need to address, but they are not the foundational problem that’s killing our nation.

The foundational problem in America is that we believe that we are each entitled to control our own destiny and that “nobody has the right to tell me what to do.” In the case of Adam Lanza, we don’t know what motivated him to do what he did on the morning of December 14th, but I am convinced that beneath his motivation was the belief that his actions would somehow place him in a position of power and give him the control that he thought he was entitled to have. I further believe the same is true for the majority of people who have taken matters into their own hands over the past few decades, opening fire in their high schools, places of work, and public venues. The difference between those individual and the rest of society is that they were each detached from their conscience and unable to comprehend the gravity of their actions.

But are we as society any different than Adam Lanza? Have we as a society detached ourselves from our collective conscience and can no longer comprehend the gravity of our actions?

While the rich continue to insist that they’re entitled to keep more of their money, and the poor believe they’re entitled to more public assistance, and the sick feel entitled to unlimited health-care coverage, and the aging expect social security to support them until they die (even if modern technology allows them to live for another 100 years), our nation has dropped off a “fiscal cliff.” We are spending trillions of dollars that we don’t have, and while this is all happening, Republican and Democrats are fighting for control of Congress and the country, more interested in supporting the causes of their campaign donors and getting re-elected than in representing their constituents.

We have lost our collective conscience!

Just think for a moment about what we do on the day after Thanksgiving—the day after giving thanks for all the blessings that we have. On that day—Black Friday—we spend more money than any other day of the year, and we literally trample over each other buying stuff we really don’t need because we think we’re entitled to it. It’s insane! We have become so obsessed with our individual right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness that we are unable to comprehend the gravity—the insanity—of our actions. So instead of looking the problem in the face when a massacre like Sandy Hook occurs, we kid ourselves into thinking the solution to the problem is as easy as gun control and a national campaign to address mental illness.

Seriously, is that what we really believe?

When will we be honest with ourselves? When will we stop chasing the illusion of control? When will we stop indulging our entitlements at the cost of bankrupting our nation and killing the next generation? And when will we stop trampling and shooting anyone who stands in the way of our controlling our own destiny?

We might not like it, and we might not want to admit it, but we are Adam Lanza.

And we need to get help before it’s too late.

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About Leon Hayduchok


  1. […] my last post—We are Adam Lanza—I made the point that “we as a society are obsessed with the illusion of control, and when […]

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