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The Connecticut elementary school shooting: a reflection

upadhyayI must write this text with a heavy heart.

I awoke today and traveled through the day’s routines with a lethargic ease. Life has slowed down a little as the semester comes to a close. Silent solitude has welcomed me in its rarely appearing embrace.


I casually opened up my Facebook account to aimlessly catch up on the whereabouts of friends. Like numerous others, I viewed reports of a shooting which took place at an elementary school in Connecticut.

Understandably, people were praying and grieving over the loss of innocent lives, angered at the actions of the perpetrator, and arguing about gun control. But those topics do not worry or stir within me as much as something else, something much broader.

I want to discuss the matter of first impulses.

Beyond the matter of condemning the shooter for his actions is the need for us to investigate the case soberly and patiently before we fall prey to the passions of debate.

It takes time and the luxury of introspection to decide that investigation produces more valuable results than immediate condemnations (or even justifications) for violence.

It’s not easy, but it is worthy to cultivate a first impulse to investigate violence’s origins rather than merely to condemn violence, the easy way out of dealing with this tragedy.

Some judgments might instantly come in mind. Words like “heartless,” “unjust,” “monstrous” and other such expressions. They’re not wildly unpredictable or difficult to grasp.

But to suspend one’s understanding of the recent tragedy to a moralizing judgment is to sacrifice the priceless opportunity to learn more information about the perpetrator’s personal life, upbringing, social influences and family history.

Such an analysis, critical and patient, may reward us with a better understanding of human violence on a broader scale, as well as provide strategies for preventing it.


I, too, feel intense compassion for the friends, family and acquaintances of those in intense bereavement.

I, too, would like to see the gunman’s brand of violence curtailed and extinguished.

But I desire to know more about this situation than what sudden emotional judgments permit.

In no way do I seek to trivialize the importance of emotional judgments in such wretched times. I simply want us to do more, both for the sake of our collective protection and enlightenment.

As Spinoza so concisely put it, “Do not weep; do not wax indignant. Understand.”

Conflict in its many forms can birth invaluable opportunities. One can reach deeply into the mind and extract new insights and newfound resilience. These gifts are absent in the presence of comfort.

I want to be responsible enough to transcend repetitive emotional narratives about this and other disasters. I want to learn about their origins in order to prevent them and educate others. The effort required in this task is irrelevant.

I must write this text with a heavy heart — but my mind is active. I search for answers inside the nuances of incoming news reports. I inform myself with a benevolent purpose.

For your sake, and for the sake of those you care about, take up the same responsibility.

Vivek Upadhyay is a freshman education major. Letters and feedback can be sent to

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