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Oklahoma

Oklahoma. Enough said.
Or, not much else to say, I should say.

Watching the news yesterday as the tornado wreaked havoc and leveled a town to debris, I couldn’t even process in my head what was going on there.

I thought back to end of October, when Sandy — a minimal storm [not even categorized as an “official” hurricane] caused utter destruction in my town and in NJ/NY in general. I remember thinking in the aftermath of Sandy’s destruction that I can’t even fathom what the end result is of Category 4 or 5 hurricanes, if  “superstorm” Sandy left so much destruction.  If that little storm caused so much damage, I don’t even want to think of what this tornado did/was capable of doing.

Just this past Sunday, we finally got the last of the damaged items cleared away in our backyard [shed and other items completely destroyed by the two trees that fell on them]. Repairing and replacing the damaged fence, removing the fallen trees took so long. Driving through town, damage is still evident — missing sidings in houses, missing/broken fences being the most obvious ones.

It took weeks to get back to a “new normal” in the aftermath of Sandy — rationed gases, grocery essentials missing from grocery stories, etc. Even when our grocery store got power back, they couldn’t carry perishables because electricity was so unpredictable.

How do you rebuild a whole town in the aftermath of such tornadoes? Schools, hospitals, residential areas are gone. Where does one even start? I don’t even know how a town reels from something on such a larger scale, when a minimal storm changed so much for us.

Hearing about the missing school children has especially gotten to me. I can’t, and don’t even want to, imagine what the parents must be feeling/going through. Yet, the heroic stories emerging about teachers? Something to smile about, that’s for sure. Teachers don’t get the credit they deserve. Every time I hear a teacher say “they are just doing their job” in the aftermath of something like this — whether it be a man-made tragedy, acts of God, mother nature, whatever… I want to remind them that they do so much more than “their job”. For that, I thank them. Not many do.

It’s remarkable to think in the aftermath of Newtown and Oklahoma especially — so many stories of so many educators risking their own lives for their students. Each time, they say something to the likes of “these are OUR kids”. The roles they take on are many, and sometimes an educator falls quite low when you think of all that they do for so many children each and everyday.

On a side note, if you know me, you know I’ve always wanted to go to Oklahoma! Not even sure why, but it’s been on my to-do list for the longest time.

Pray for Humanity. Pray for Boston.

Imagine living in a world of peace and humanity.

One where kids can freely run around outside without their parents worrying.

One where you don’t have to think twice about whether that loved one of yours that just left home… whether they’ll make it home safe and sound.

One where you don’t get that feeling in the pit of your stomach when you are flying on an airplane. Or in a movie theater. Wait. Or at a school. A school?!

Apparently, add a public spectator event like a marathon to that list while you are at it.

Naive of me? Perhaps. Probably.

What’s next? Or should I say where?

How can anyone be so inhumane? What, psychologically, makes someone do such hideous acts? Who is responsible this time? Why do people deliberately cause other people harm? When will it stop?

Where are we safe?

Pray for Boston. Pray for Humanity.

No Place for Guns

I believe I was around the age of 6. I had to be younger than the age of seven because we moved by then.

We had just left a family party, when suddenly we had to turn around and go back because my grandfather had forgotten something. I guess now would be a good time to mention that this house? It was next to a police station.

While my father went inside to retrieve said item, we waited in the car outside their “compound”. I guess that is what you can call it? Houses in Pakistan are gated separately, and usually a guard… guards them.

Well, I am not sure what exactly happened next except to say that we found ourselves in a crossfire between “the bad guys” and “the police” I suppose. We were literally in the middle: one of the shooting parties directly in front of us, and the other right behind us.  The details are fuzzy, but the sounds of gunfire? That is not.

Did I mention that the van we were in… the door would only open from the outside? Wonderful.

I remember waiting until our dad came rushing out to open the door and taking my mom, brothers, and I back inside in the midst of the shooting.

Later we found out that the bad guys had tried to raid the police station in order to help one of their own escape that the police had imprisoned [or free him?]. There were causalities involved.

The details? What exactly happened or why it happened? They just don’t matter at the end of the day.

It haunted me so much in the immediate aftermath that I apparently stopped wanting to go out [especially at night] out of fear. One of my parents would stay home with me always. My parents say it’s one of the reasons we moved away [to Canada] in the first place. My teacher at the time told my parents that I’d blank out at any sudden or loud sounds.

That family’s house where this event transpired? Never went back there again.
My point, you ask?

Hearing the sound of gunfire as a child literally RIGHT THERE in front of you? I don’t think it ever leaves you. The surviving [and oh so young] victims of Newtown? It’s something that will remain in the back of their minds for a very long time, if not forever.

So when the NRA conjures up all these ideas about having armed officers at schools, like last week when it’s latest recommendation was for there to be guns in every school in America? I think seeing guns is the last thing these students would want.

Guns have no place in our society in the hands of an average citizen. If they weren’t so readily available, the wrong people wouldn’t have such easily access to it. Yes, I realize that the counter argument [over and over and over again] is that stricter gun laws just limit those who follow the laws anyways, and the “bad guys” always find a way around loopholes or whatnot. But if guns weren’t so widely available, that would, sort of, eliminate that problem, wouldn’t it?

I’ll be the first to admit: I, too, firmly believe that schools have to up their security system. How so? That is what we need to figure out as a community.

Back in 2009, I referenced in a post of the lack of school security and I’ll continue with that example. Walking into my former high school that day, without having to sign in as a visitor… without having to inform anyone who I was and what class I was visiting… without a name tag identifying me [as a visitor]:

I could have been anybody, and I could have done anything had I wanted to. It was a chilling thought to ponder over later how unsafe MY school was. This was MY former high school – and it needed better security.

Whether it be metal detectors, security checks, security guards. At the least, anyone going into the school should be identified and be easily identifiable [via a pass, visitor sticker, etc]. For goodness sake, we had to sign in and out AND take a visitor pass to use the restroom WHILE we wore school IDs as students.

But guns? Guns are not the answer. They never will be.

Too many possible. “what ifs”. Too many accidents waiting to happen. Preventable safety measures need to be addressed. Guns, however? Schools are no place for guns.

What would be next? Parks? Malls? Where do we draw the line?

P.S. This post is just one of a series of posts I’ve done in the aftermath of the Newtown tragedy. You can read the others by clicking here, here, and here.

God & Tragedies

In times of tragedy or hardship, non-believers/atheists always bring up the question “where was God in this?” or “how could God let this happen” or even more specifically “IF there is indeed a God, then WHY would He let this happen?”

All fair questions indeed. And ones to ponder. For many, hard times bring them closer to their faith (and therefore, the Creator). For others, if even for a moment, it makes them question and doubt.

Note: I started this post in the aftermath of Newtown… but lack of time got the better of me. I still think it applies, nonetheless, in general to many situations… regardless of what scale it is at.

A friend who I’ve know for many years, an atheist, in several different situations has brought up these questions directly to me. In the immediate aftermath of the Newtown tragedy, it was, of course, brought up again.

To begin, I would like to point out that I don’t like labeling this person as an atheist in the post. We don’t go around labeling people as “believers” or more specifically as a “Christian”, “Muslim”, “Jew”, etc. and I don’t think it is appropriate to do so in terms of atheists either.

I also don’t think that anyone, of any belief, can honestly say that at one point or another they didn’t question Him. If they did, they aren’t being honest.

While I firmly believe in (and always have) fate, and the fact that everything happens for a reason and that He knows and plans all, I can also understand why it’s hard for someone to not only question why, if there is indeed a God, would He let disastrous events occur BUT more importantly why it was destined to happen.

I get that. I just think there’s a bigger picture that is being missed. That, [verily] with every hardship, comes ease.

This world is, indeed, about tests, trials, and tribulations.

And why do we immediately blame God in the midst of tragedies, when we don’t autonomously turn to him in good times as well? It’s so easy to say “why me?!” in bad times, but how many of us say that in good times?

What do you say to someone with this argument? I’m not trying to win an argument, or to say I’m right and you are wrong… or anything of that nature. I value their opinion and point of view. I just want something substantive that highlights my point of view all at once.

Your thoughts?

Psychological Issues and the Blame Game

Additional/continuing thoughts after my post from Friday night:

I’m sick and tired of hearing about the psychological issues in the aftermath of a horrendous massacre like this. Why isn’t something done before? Why is it gone unnoticed? Psychological issues leave many hints of problems, why aren’t they caught earlier? It’s not like one day this it is developed, and the next something goes awry. If I’m not mistaken (and correct me if I’m wrong), most are born with it!

I’m not saying that every mentally ill individual will be a mass murderer or do something insane like this, but the bottom line is there needs to be better regulations to prevent tragedies like this. It is always better to be safe than sorry. The sick individual deserves that, and so does the potential public that could be caused harm as a result.

On a side note, as I was watching news coverage earlier this morning today, it was pointed out that there is no evidence that this murderer even had a psychological problem (although it’s hard to fathom how a sane person can do something so horrendous…). He was known to have autism and Asperger’s Syndrome, but both of these are personality disorders – NOT a mental illness. It is quite important to distinguish between the two! I’m not sure where that puts this scenario.

I’ve always firmly disagreed that committing a horrendous crime shouldn’t automatically classify someone as mentally ill, because they can just be an evil individual with evil motives… but something like THIS — I don’t know if a sane person can be blamed.

I shared this terrifyingly honest blog post (see UPDATE on this post down below) by a mother of a mentally ill child on Facebook and Twitter earlier. If you haven’t read it, read it now. It gave me the chills and I don’t think I’ll be able to forget the words. If enough people read this, maybe that will be a catalyst for change. A change in the stigma of the mentally ill in this country. A change in the healthcare provided for these individuals. A change in the regulations to protect the families involved. It broke my heart that the aforementioned blog post notes that she was advised to press charges against her son and send him to jail as that was the only option she had to have them be taken seriously and get help.

We need to stop playing the blame game. We can’t afford to make any more excuses. We can’t just say in the aftermath that so and so had this mental illness that caused them to explode and do this and leave it at that. Why wasn’t this disease caught on earlier? Why wasn’t it treated? WHY wasn’t this tragedy prevented?

This time must be different. This time MUST be the time that we say ENOUGH.

Why is the stigma so different for  mental illnesses in comparison to diseases like cancer? Each needs treatment, so why is one ignored and belittled? Especially considering how much damage mental illnesses can cause not only for the individual, but as a result to their family, and the larger public?!

If not now, when? We as a nation deserve better.

UPDATE: So my brother shared this link with me earlier that questions the validity of the first blog post. If it is indeed true that this mother is exploiting her child in such a sick manner, I don’t even know what to say about that. At the end of the day, I still do believe that the words written are still true for other families in this country, and should still highlight the changes we need in relation to mental illness (it’s stigma, regulations, etc).

Newtown, Connecticut School Massacre

Another horrific massacre.

My heart aches for the family and friends of the 27 deceased that were viciously murdered this morning. Especially the innocent 20 children who suffered and endured what no one should have to go through. Let alone at a school!

It sickens me how evil some people can be. The ache I feel inside of me is indescribable. I can’t even imagine what the families of the victims are feeling.

Theaters, malls, schools. Is any place considered a safe haven anymore? What kind of a society are we leaving for the children of the next generation?

Massacres like today’s are occurring not only more frequently, but they are also becoming more widespread. Tragedies like today are becoming way too common in our society, and it needs to change. It needs to change NOW!

There are too many evil people in this world. How many more innocent people must die at the hands of a tragedy like this before we stand up as a society and say enough is enough?! It seems like the only time we move one step forward in discussing gun control laws is in the aftermath of a situation like this when we are all emotionally charged. Days later, however, we seem to take two steps back as it seems to go right back to the back burner. The end result being yet another statistic and the tragedy forgotten until another disastrous event strikes.

It must not be forgotten because THEY the VICTIMS must not be forgotten. Don’t we owe them that much? We must stop making it about the perpetrator, and instead focus on the victims.

We need better gun control laws and we need them now. Why is it so damn easy to have access to guns in this country? Why in the world are people legally allowed to have access to guns? The murderer in this situation had easy access to FOUR guns because his mother legally owned them.

People always argue “guns don’t kill people, people kill people“. Well, you know what? Guns sure as hell make it a lot easier.

Those that make ridiculous arguments like “cars kill people so let’s ban cars too then“: cars are not designed/made to cause harm… or the purpose of a car is not to inflict harm upon others.

For those who say it’s too early to talk about gun control laws in the aftermath of a tragedy like this? I beg to differ. I think those directly effected by today’s massacre would say it’s actually too late.

Will better gun control laws solve everything? No. Will people still find loopholes? Don’t they always? Will it make a difference? Hell, yes it will.

We can’t feasibly stop everyone. Sick and evil people will always find a way, but we sure as hell shouldn’t make it easy for them. People will always find a way around it, but that doesn’t mean that as a society we stand by and let things happen. We’re better than that and we deserve better than that!

You know what else we need to do? We need to stop playing the blame game and making excuses. Every time something like this happens, we need to stop simply blaming it on a “mental health” issue. Sure, one must be mentally disturbed to do something so atrocious because no one in their right mind can do something so horrendous, but simply pinning the blame on a mental health disease isn’t getting us anywhere! It makes me cringe every time I hear “he committed [so and so crime] because he had [insert mental health disease of your choice here]”. Whether it is the institution that has failed them, or whatever it is… we can’t make excuses anymore. We need to work on solutions, not excuses. Better gun control laws are a part of that solution. Better screenings is a part of that. Changing the connotation of mental health disease and help for them is a part of that.

We need to stand up for what’s right. Stand up for each other. Our loved ones. The kids of the next generation. We need to stand up for what’s right so what happened today and what has happened way too many times lately doesn’t happen again. We need to stand up so another innocent life isn’t taken away prematurely.

Call your local politician. Make your voice be heard. Make a difference. Stand up for what’s right. You owe it to yourself. You owe it to the future.