We ended 2012 with a tragedy that befell 20 members of a group we hold especially close to our hearts, i.e. children. What happened at Sandy Hook rocked our collective sensibility, forcing us to take a look at how our society could create such an individual who was capable of such horror.
While the loss of young life was unprecedented, the type of violence we witnessed at Sandy Hook is not uncommon. Whether it is Aurora, Colorado or Oak Creek, Wisconsin, Columbine HS or Virginia Tech University, the specter of a “lone gunman” has come with a tremendous loss of life and trauma to countless individuals and communities.
In each situation, other than Columbine, the damage was done by a single individual. In these instances and in many others, the perpetrator is painted as someone who did not fit in, was a loner, maybe was bullied. Questions about how these events could be prevented are met with the realization that these individuals were acting alone and not collaborating with a group or team of people. We could not learn from others the pending disaster that was to come because there was no one else.
Most of us cannot comprehend such terrible acts in part because we can’t understand such isolation and callousness. For these perpetrators and many others, where is the joy in life, the wonder of love and friendship, the connectedness that instills in us energy and reason for living?
Thankfully our society is not devoid of such joy and interplay between individuals and groups. We have a multitude of opportunities to experience life together. And one of the most common, and compelling, areas of interaction is the field of sports.
It is well-documented that sports – whether we are participating or taking it in as fans – creates great bonds between individuals and between family members and friends. That sports does not only contribute to our physical well-being, it can directly impact our mental and emotional health as well. We extract from sports that which those aforementioned perpetrators lacked, a respect for ourselves and each other. In life, we strive for excellence not only because it will benefit us but because we know that others will likely benefit as well. That also is a key motivator seen in sports.
There has been and will continue to be much consternation over how we rid ourselves of violent crimes in society. Despite much evidence to the contrary, some continue to hold that guns are not the real problem or even part of the problem. The 2nd amendment is sacred in and of itself and in the context of individual rights versus “big government.” Be that as it may, one thing we do know is that evolving into a society that isolates people is not good for us as individuals nor as a collective.Sports helps us avoid going too far down that path. But maybe we need more. Maybe we need to stand up and demand a right to play, making that an equally sacred right.