Unnatural Disasters are the Worst

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TOGETHER, WE CAN CHANGE THE FACE OF OUR CULTURE What a struggle to write this column about the 20 first-grade children and six women educators shot to death by a 20-year-old male assailant, in a true safe haven-an elementary school in the low-crime town of Newtown, Conn. The Daily News' front-page headline "The World Weeps" said it all. Yes, the world weeps and now must work to prevent these unnatural, heinous and heartbreaking disasters where even young children and their teachers are shot to death by weapons which enable such cataclysmic acts of violence. Something must be done-whatever it takes to control and strictly limit their use-and we have to be willing to try the solutions. Indeed, it would help if the world wept a little over every taking of innocent life, whatever the victim's age-and if we heeded the research that finds that the violence so appallingly rife in today's entertainment and arts does affect real-life behavior and attitudes. Lamentably unheeded was how murder rates surged a generation after television was introduced. An American Medical Association report appeared in the July 27, 1992, New York Times Editorial Notebook piece, "The Television Time Bomb: Violence on the Tube, a Public Health Issue." And murder and other fictional mayhem then were relatively mild compared to today's standards. Standards? Yes, prevention means real concern about standards. So let's stop watching those low-standard programs, stop listening to low-standard music, too. Although it could use some Chanukah songs, 106.7 FM's all-Christmas-music programming gets high ratings and is singable and peaceable. And something comparable is surely a year-round need. And oh-so-critically needed is the heeding of experts such as former New York Medical Examiner Dr. Michael Baden, who warned that "everywhere medical examiners look-whether it's automobile accidents, drownings, homicides, suicides, falls and fires-alcohol consumption is in the picture." And on the evening of Saturday, Dec. 15, was it suicide that ended a woman's life when she was struck by a car after falling from John Finley Walk onto the FDR Drive? I learned about this very nearby tragic event from an apartment house staff member. Radio traffic news only said, "Avoid the impassable FDR Drive"-and neither NY1 nor the papers has reported this violent death. To "stop the madness"-and, in suicides, often great sadness-every act of violence should be reported, preferably in the paper of record. And reporters, editors and columnists must always note whether alcohol or other mind-altering drugs were involved. The 19th Precinct Community Relations Officers haven't yet gotten back to me on this case, but preventing such tragedies means knowing what caused them and, as a general warning to the public, making it known whether alcohol use on a holiday-season Saturday evening made this woman's problems seem insurmountable. Alcohol overuse can indeed cause temporary insanity, and a recent Times op-ed piece was right to say that Alcoholics Anonymous should not be so anonymous, because it can prevent so many human disasters. So the number to call is 212-406-0749-and you policy makers, especially, you must attend "open meetings" to learn how the sober life is infinitely saner, safer and, yes, even joyful. And in working to overcome the madness that has the whole world weeping, we do not forget to help overcome the unprecedented and continuing hardships and losses inflicted by that natural disaster, Hurricane Sandy. 'Tis the season to be especially caring-and let's take that care forward into the new year.

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