How did another one slip past us?


Since the Sandy Hook school shooting on Friday, December 14, 2012, there have been nearly 240 school shootings in the United States. In those events, 138 students, teachers and staff were killed among the 438 people who were shot. In the first 6 weeks of 2018, 17 school shootings put this year on target for nearly 10 times as many school shootings as in 2017.

Nobody knows why.

Many complex factors are apparently at play, so no single solution is likely to end the plague by itself.

This week the Jamestown Gazette will look at just two, in light of our cover story about Helping Hands.

It can be argued that two of the most destructive misunderstandings in American culture today are: Don’t judge and Don’t get involved…

In a day of fading cultural norms, anything goes and little stands out from the ordinary far enough to attract notice. Strange behavior and thoughts become invisible amid the amoral static. We’ve become too timid to judge right from wrong, as if we’re no longer supposed know the difference.

We mistakenly think it is too “judgmental” to recognize wrong thinking, so we just won’t get involved. It is, after all, more polite to look the other way.

Media reports on Florida’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting, for instance, tell of too many people who admitted afterwords, “we were not surprised,” or “I guess I saw it coming,” or just did not work hard enough to prevent the tragedy.

The much quoted warning, “If you see something, say something,” supposes we are willing to look and act on honest judgements.

“Don’t judge” is a dangerous mis-quote of the ancient wisdom. The truth is more like, “Judge the way you would want to be judged” and “First solve your own problem and then [you must] help somebody else solve theirs.” In other words, judging and getting involved is real problem solving.

Never fear judging in truth. It is not a new idea. Sixteenth century Italian author and playwright, Pietro Aretino, once explained to a friend, “I love you, and because I love you, I would sooner have you hate me for telling you the truth than adore me for telling you lies.”

Judging, when done right, heals the wrongdoer. Failure to judge and get involved makes us all accomplices. The curious reader is invited to consult the source document on this topic (see below*).

Consider Jamestown’s Helping Hands then. At Helping Hands, according to this week’s cover story contributor, Lisa Yaggie, those who work there have overcome and now serve those in need of a hand up. They are not there to condemn someone for their difficulties, but to share their own hard-won experience with helping hands for the good of those they serve.

It’s the kind of work that proves things can be better when someone cares.

So, how did another one slip past us this time? There are probably many reasons. Let’s just be sure it doesn’t happen again because we were unwilling to judge wrong thinking for what it is and unprepared to get involved, directly, personally and with helping hands and healing in mind.

Enjoy the read
Walt Pickut

* The message is in the context: First take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye…  For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged. (Bible: Matthew 7:2-5 and Luke 6:38)

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Walt Pickut
Walt Pickut’s writing career began with publishing medical research in1971 while working at the Jersey City Medical Center and the NYU Hospital and School of Medicine. Walt holds board registries in respiratory care and sleep technology as well as bachelor's degrees in biology and communication, and a master's degrees in physiology from Fairleigh-Dickinson University in New Jersey, with additional graduate work in mass communication completed at SUNY Amherst. He currently teaches Presentational Speaking in the Houghton College PACE program at JCC and holds memberships in the Society of Professional Journalists and the American Society of Business Publication Editors. He lives in Jamestown with his wife Nancy, an MSW social worker, and has three children: Dr. Cait Lamberton in Pittsburgh, Bill Pickut, a marketing executive in Chicago, and Rev. Matt Pickut in Plymouth, IN.