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Many of you already know that I am a former juvenile corrections officer. “Youth counselor” was my official term because the state where I worked wanted to soften the blow and image of children being in prison. Sadly, it was a prison. There was a razor wire fence and half way through my tenure there, an electric fence was added. I can’t imagine calling it anything less than a prison.
I bring that up now because, like many of you, I am disturbed by the mass shooting in Tucson, AZ this weekend. My work in the prison allowed me to see differences in human behaviors and become interested in possible “causes”. That incident, like many violent outbursts seen across the United States, and rarely, elsewhere have seem to have one thing in common. Each of the alleged assailants seem to live in isolation. Whether self-imposed, imagined, or socially isolated they all appear to be on the fringe. As they live on the fringe they seek acceptance wherever they can get it. Nowadays, that is likely the internet where similarly isolated people can join and share their ideas. Ideas, that often are more and more radical, more and more isolatory in nature, more and more oppositional to what they see as they problems with the culture they may have been rejected from.
Why do I write about this here? On a blog for bullying, particularly as it exists in early childhood?
I write about here because I notice similarities in the victims of bullying and the eventual perpetrators to these crimes. I am not making excuses for them, mind you. I just notice that both suffer from the same sort of isolation, and need to find acceptance. The difference is that young children are not always able to seek out acceptance in the radical fringes of the internet.
I bring it up because I feel it is even more important to be aware when our children are facing isolation, or perhaps encouraging it among their peers. If conditions are right, isolation from the group can cause adverse reactions and can potentially exacerbate already stressful mental health conditions.
Perhaps, we can reach out to people who may not fit within our little groups and as we do so we set an example for our children that everyone is deserving of acceptance.
Perhaps, as we seek out people who may not fit our little molds or cliques we may find that someone needs us more than we know.
Perhaps, we will be rewarded in ways we can not imagine as that person brings a new perspective to our lives.
Perhaps, we can seek out help for those that need it around us. Perhaps, we can eliminate a tragedy now, or twenty years down the road, as we offer a safety net or encourage acceptance and healthy self-esteem among those in our community.
Perhaps, I am way off base but I see a lot of parallels between bullying and the isolation it causes and the isolation that seems to be present in most, if not all, of the shooters lives. Perhaps.
My heart goes out to ALL involved in the shooting incident in Tucson, AZ. It is my sincere hope that all with be met with healing and peace. I hope that those victims still in the hospital, and Gabrielle Giffords, continue to heal physically and will heal emotionally from this tragic, life changing event.