My Son’s Reaction To The Sandy Hook Shootings

Several readers have asked me what my son, Kevin Michael, has to say about the horrible shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Here is his response.

It seems there have been an abundance of shootings in America this past year. Instead of looking for a scapegoat, or a solution, I say we look at ourselves. Do we mock others who are not like us? Is the behavior we exhibit kind and generous and encouraging? Do the interactions we have with others lead to them feeling isolated, dejected and depressed, or …do our interactions lead them to feeling warm, appreciated and included? Do we celebrate violence, whether through our entertainment, music, video games or movies? Do we judge those who don’t have materials we have? Do we socially ostracize those who don’t meet whatever criteria of “success” we hold of them?

It is easy to call for gun control, but how do we address the problem of widespread societal fear that leads people to guns as a way to assert power? What good is taking away the guns when the initial fear still exists? Why is violence acceptable in some arenas of our society, but disgraceful in others? All violence should be condemned. Why are we so afraid of each other and our neighbors?

It is easy to diagnose someone as “mentally ill” but how do we include and heal those among us who have experienced trauma and feel detached and excluded from society at large?

Let’s not paint a picture of our society as innocent, either. We are living in an age of terror, but this age of terror is not a new age for Americans, it is as old as America is.

Let’s not let our definition of “terror” be limited to only those who perpetrated the horrors of 9/11. Drones are terror too, no matter what “side” they fight for.

America has been documented as violent since Columbus and his men first ravaged the natives when they arrived on shore. Any attempt to sugarcoat our past, a past that includes racial lynchings, wild west outlaws, trails of tears, civil war bloodshed and tommy gun toting gangsters from chicago to bloods and crips in los angeles is naive. We have been and always will be a violent society. Well, if things don’t change we will always be one. I for one, hope for the future, but I imagine the seeds of fear and hate will blossom into more shootings if not tended too. How do we tend to them though? It starts with each individual’s own personal output. Choose love over fear, peace over hate.

There is a lot going on in our world. A lot of the systems we have previously relied upon for our luxuries are failing. The reasons they are failing are multifaceted and complex, there is no easy solution or answer or scapegoat we can blame or punish or attend to.

I think about how every day is a precious gift and you never know when you are going to die. Like Al Pacino said in “Heat”, “You can get killed walking your doggie”.

No one is safe, no one is beyond another tragedy that could occur at anytime. We may claim to be fighting a war on terror, but as a whole, our society at large has created a world of terror. We don’t know our neighbors, we can’t speak at political rallies without yelling and our social interactions take place through computers.

So what do we do? Think before you speak. Is what you said something that someone else will resent or hurt? Are you kind and benevolent and do your actions reflect this? Do you act in such a way that you are helping the problem or do you just add fuel to the fire with your behavior? Some claim that it is “human nature” for us to be violent, but I disagree. Our natural state, our birthright is peace and love. Violence is learned. It is normalized, it is then internalized as an appropriate way to behave. It is reinforced by our society. Images and movies depict violence as entertaining. Armed forces depict violence as heroic and necessary. Wars indoctrinate people into the cult of violence that is perpetrated by creating barriers between us. We no longer are people of differences, but it becomes “us” versus “them” and that moment when we cease to understand that all of us are connected is the moment it becomes “okay” for us to do this to each other.

Love > Fear


About the author:

Pete Earley is the bestselling author of such books as The Hot House and Crazy. When he is not spending time with his family, he tours the globe advocating for mental health reform.

Learn more about Pete.


  1. Beautifully said Kevin Michael.  I think you are an amazing person and all my best to you and your family!  I wish everyone could read this.  My son Connor has schizophrenia and is age 20 and feels a lot like you do and has stated a lot of the same feelings to me.  I think you are a brave and wonderful young man and continue your good work with everything!  

  2. Beautiful.  I wish this article could go national.  I wish it could be read on the TV talk shows, news shows and all the newspapers.  Your voice needs to be heard in this country right now.  This is the wisdom and insight that everyone desperately needs to hear.  These are the words of truth that can unite, instead of divide. The truth lights the candle that lights the pathway… Thank you.

  3. Upbeat4life says

    Thank you for providing a rich and concise perspective to certain aspects of these complex problems and some great suggestions for hopeful, achievable solutions.  I plan to share this with others and I know they’ll be grateful too –