“…they would never set them up that way,” gravely insists a tearful millennial and spoken word poet, Jasmine Mans, in a visceral performance of the seemingly biographical poem, “I Know You Didn’t Mean To Kill Him.” This is a dissection of America’s frustration, madness, trauma, heartbreak, and injustice in the wake of gun violence, and the sharing of empathy for the sake of sympathy needed to humanize the monsters as America’s youth has taken to the task of canonizing the martyrs of the most recent tragedy.
Authored by Rebecca Harris, Chief Editor of The Existential Millennial
With conviction in every gesture, Mans arms extend like a preacher’s at the pulpit, using her hands as rhythmically as her words to expand the boldness and emphasize the power of each line.
“This world has given them nothing at all to lose and everything to prove, so they stand on the frontlines, naked, ready to make a man of themselves with the only tools *click-clack* this world has ever given [them] to use.“
Earnestly written, passionately performed, and emotionally gripping, Mans’ poem expresses a frustration regarding the madness of gun cculture and trauma caused by the the heartbreak of gun violence that’s currently plaguing communities across the country many Americans can relate to, especially after the latest mass shooting of a Parkland, Florida High School that’s left 17 dead.
However, despite the disdain she spits, by the end of Mans’ tirade against the injustice – both cultural and systematic – she makes amends with the suffering through finding empathy for the sake of sympathy, because as bitter a pill it is to swallow, sharing awareness and giving forgiveness is perhaps the only cure to the disease of gun violence where prevention falls short.
While Mans is speaking directly to her community —specifically, young men of color, entangled in their plight and mindlessly seeking redemption, perpetuating the violence and death on scales higher than any other ethnic community—it cannot be ignored that the epidemic has become pandemic, spreading throughout the country, regardless of region, race, or socioeconomic class.
“Someone’s baby became a murderer last night, and none of us remembered to cry for him – to pray for him; to ask God to take the hate and malice out of his heart; to ask him: “Boy where’d you get all that hate from, all that culture, all those God damn guns – those damn GUNS from?!”
2018 Gun Violence As of February 18, 2018
In fact, according to studies gun violence seems to be in a tragic disposition on an international scale or as Vox reports states it, “In the developed world, these levels of gun violence are a uniquely American problem.”
[an incomplete list of Vox report]
- America has six times as many firearm homicides as Canada, and nearly 16 times as many as Germany
- America has 4.4 percent of the world’s population, but almost half of the civilian-owned guns around the world
- There have been more than 1,500 mass shootings since Sandy Hook (2012)
- On average, there is more than one mass shooting for each day in America
- States with more guns have more gun deaths
- In states with more guns, more police officers are also killed on duty
MOST Gun deaths are suicides
“I wanted to know how his sucicidal thinking became homocidal.”
The states with the most guns report the most suicides
Guns allow people to kill themselves much more easily
The New York Times: “They want to die, but to bring many others down with them…”
Research on the trauma caused — or PTSD — to those who have survived a shooting, experienced one as an eyewitness, or vicariously experienced one through knowing someone who has experienced a mass shooting “is not extensive,” according to The National Center for Post-traumatic Stress Disorder in a 2017 study published in 2017 on the IMPACT OF MASS SHOOTINGS ON SURVIVORS, FAMILIES, AND COMMUNITIES; however, despite that the research is slim, what has been conducted “is sufficient to allow preliminary conclusions about (1) the prevalence, persistence, and predictors of post-shooting PTSD; (2) the nature of survivor and community concerns; and (3) lessons learned for response.”
Highlights from the PTSD RESEARCH QUARTERLY article :
- Cafeteria Shootings | On October 16, 1991: North et al. (1994) described the initial results for 136 persons, including cafeteria employees, customers, and first responders. On the basis of the Diagnostic Interview Schedule (DIS) for DSMIII-R, 28% met criteria for current PTSD, which was the most prevalent disorder. Few had no symptoms of posttraumatic stress. Most of those suffering from PTSD related to the shooting had no prior history of psychiatric illness… Depression was often co-morbid with PTSD… The prevalence of current PTSD did not change significantly between one and three years (North et al., 2002).
- School Sniper Attack | February 24, 1984: Acquaintance with the girl who was killed was predictive of symptoms primarily among students who were not on the playground. Many students reported that the incident interfered with their learning.
- Thurston High School Shooting | May 21, 1998: Respondents who were physically closer to the shooting reported higher peritraumatic dissociation, posttraumatic stress, and alexithymia (difficulty expressing emotion) than graduates or controls. Among participants who were not on campus that day, emotional proximity was related to outcomes
- Brooklyn Bridge Shooting | March 1, 1994: Eleven of the 15 boys were evaluated by Trappler and Friedman (1996) two months post-shooting. Four of the eleven were diagnosed with PTSD and major depression. Compared to an age-matched group of 11 students from the same yeshiva, the attacked students also scored more highly on several self-report scales of depression, anxiety, and posttraumatic stress.
- The authors noted that the cohesiveness of the group (often considered a protective factor) may have heightened their vulnerability, because students’ grief was intense.
- East County School Shootings | March 5, 2001: Of the 85 people interviewed, substantial percentages provided personal and community-wide evidence of intrusive, avoidance, and arousal symptoms. Distress at exposure to media was very common and accompanied by considerable resentment of the media for uncritically assuming that bullying led to the shooters’ behavior and for intruding into their lives. Many informants expressed the desire to forget about the event, to return to a normal life.
- Interest in school activities diminished, and absenteeism rose. There was widespread reluctance to discuss the shootings and guilt over this very reluctance.
- Feelings of helplessness with regard to prevention were also widespread. Anger was common, although not usually directed at the shooters themselves, who sometimes were viewed with some sympathy. Many students were unusually irritable with one another, and parents sometimes expressed anger at the school district for failing to prevent the incident. Faculty were fragmented over the issue.
Lori Alhadeff, Mother of 14-year-old Alyssa Alhadeff
- Palinkas and colleagues noted that these community reactions might hinder implementation of effective prevention and treatment strategies
- Columbine High School Shootings | April 20, 1999: Almost all participants reported feeling numb immediately after the shootings, but negative feelings (nervousness, guilt, irritability) arose strongly over the next two weeks. Ruminations were troubling and often focused on what they could have done to prevent the attack.
- The media were seen as intrusive and a source of further distress.
- Summary and Conclusion:
- The psychological consequences of directly experiencing or witnessing a mass shooting are often serious. Prevalence of postdisaster diagnoses (predominantly PTSD) in these studies ranged from 10% to 36%. Much higher percentages reported subthreshold PTSD, and very few participants reported no symptoms.
- At less severe levels of exposure, the impacts of mass shootings extend far beyond the primary victims to encompass the community, whether that is a workplace, neighborhood, school, or campus. Community members resent the media intrusion, the sense that they are being blamed for the violence, and the convergence of outsiders. The reluctance of some members to focus on the event, while others need to, is consistent with community dynamics observed after other types of disasters
“I Know You Didn’t Mean To Kill Him” was uploaded to Youtube in 2012 by The Strivers Row; the video has received over 550k views with top comments quoting some of the most impactful lines of Mans’ poem, like:
“Can never tell the difference between the mother of the murdered and the mother of the murderer. Both are shook and solemn. Both eyes and memory blue in tint. Both lost their grips when they lost their sons. Developed a stutter in their palms One became scared of her shadow. While the other just became one.”
The Mothers of The Murdered
Mother of Ben Wheeler
one of 28 murdered
Sandy Hook Elementary School | 6 years old
Shooter: Adam Lanza, 20
“Ben’s love of fun and his excitement at the wonders of life were unmatched. His boundless energy kept him running across the soccer field long after the game was over. And he couldn’t wait to get to school every morning. He sang with perfect pitch, and just played at his 3rd piano recital. Irrepressibly bright and spirited, Ben experienced life at full tilt – until that morning, 20 of our children and 6 of our educators gone… out of the blue…” – Francine Wheeler
Mother of Bailey Holt
one of two killed
Marshall County High School | 15 years old
Shooter: Gabe Parker, 15
“He took our baby from us. She made me a mama for the first time. I’ll never be able to get that back. She called me and all I could hear was voices and chaos in the background and she didn’t say anything… Even though she was 15, she had already decided her career was going to be a labor and delivery nurse… She helped others… She was just so kindhearted and the most amazing kid anybody could ever ask for. Her smile could light up the room…” – Secret Holt
Mother of Alyssa Alhadeff
one of 17 murdered
Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School | 14 years old
Shooter: Nikolas Cruz, 19
“How? How do we allow a gunman to come into our children’s school? How do they get through security? What security is there? There’s no metal detectors. The gunman, a crazy person, just walks right into the school, knocks down the window of my child’s door and starts shooting. Shooting her. Killing her. President Trump! You say what can you do? You can stop the guns from getting into these children’s hands?” – Lori Alhadeff | CNN
The Mothers of the Murderers
Mother of Dylan Kelbold
Columbine High School
34 total shot | 21 injured | 13 killed
“I felt that I was a good mom. Part of the shock of this was that learning that what I believed, how I lived, and how I parented was an invention in my own mind. That he could talk to me about anything. He went out and got me a gift… I thought everything was fine, because he was so sweet.” – Sue Klebold
“Sometimes he would seem distant or quiet… He seemed so tired… And I let it go… If it were me today, I would dig and dig and dig. I mean I had all those illusions that everything was okay, because, more than else, my love for him was so strong. I don’t ever for a moment mean to imply that I am not conscious of the fact that he was a killer, because I am.” – Sue Klebold
Mother of Charlie Roberts
West Nickel Mines School
10 total shot | 5 injured | 5 killed
“The Amish School shooting was the darkest day of my life. I know when I went to bed that first night, I cried out to God and said, ‘This is awful.’ Anytime before in my life I could alway think whatever happened to me at least it’s not as bad as so-and-so. This is as bad as it gets. I had never heard of a crime worse than what my son had done this day…” – Terri Roberts
Grieving is an injustice in itself, but it is a pain that is universal to all, even the most “wicked” among us. What a cold and lonely existence, regardless of the duration, to live outside of human morality…
Nikolas Cruz, nine-teen and motherless, mentally ill and emotionally void, looking like a pale target in his bright orange jumpsuit against the discerning sea of blue with ears almost comically similar to those of Disney’s Pinocchio, with all the meek shyness of the fictional character yet none of the mirth.
“Nikolas Cruz,” asked the Honorable Kim Theresa Mollica.
“Yes, ma’am,” Cruz replies respectfully with an ease that lends an impression that the response was not coached but automatic, more the tone of a well-mannered young man who was raised properly.
“Okay, sir. You are charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder. I have something very important to tell you. You’re charged with some very serious crimes…”
“And all— all we gave him was his Miranda Rights and a couple of seconds left to plead for his life in front of a God and a world he never thought loved him in the first place… Gotta ask us to have mercy on his soul when we never even taught him how to pray before.”
… and how isolating it must be to struggle to grow seeds of ethics in a barren conscience that a mother’s love couldn’t even sow. Would it be so unreasonable to consider how this emptiness could breed more emptiness or how such emptiness might seek company?
From the previously stated PTSD RESEARCH QUARTERLY publication:
“Feelings of helplessness with regard to prevention were also widespread.” – PTSD Research Quarterly
An interview conducted by Oprah Winfrey with Francine Wheeler and David Wheeler, the parents of 6-year-old Ben Wheeler who was shot by Adam Lanza December 14th, 2012:
Commercial Break/ Casting Call
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Empathy For The Sake Of Sympathy
“To the boys—the boys who’ve made chalk outlines of so many of my childhood friends… I know, I know you didn’t mean to kill… And I love you… And I forgive you because I know a God whose mercy has already made room in his Kingdom for even sinners like you.”
Hannah Dysinger, fellow class mate of Bailey Holt, one of twenty people shot by Gabe Parker in the mass shooting of Marshall County High School in Kentucky January 24th, 2018…
From the previously cited PTSD RESEARCH QUARTERLY publication:
Anger was common, although not usually directed at the shooters themselves, who sometimes were viewed with some sympathy. – PTSD Research Quarterly
Secret Holt, Mother of Bailey Holt:
“I want him to pay for what he’s done, but I also want to pray for him, too, because I know he’s probably having a hard time too…”
Tori Roberts, Mother of Charlie Roberts, from her CBS interview:
Authored by Rebecca Harris of B_History or Bxhistory.com, the captain of The Existential Millennial and your future bestie!
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1 ” If a white man dies from gunfire, the odds are that he pulled the trigger himself. If a black man dies from gunfire, the odds are that someone else pulled the trigger, usually another black man.” Read more at: https://www.nationalreview.com/magazine/2017-02-20-0000/gun-violence-and-race-conservatives-gun-owners