Reflecting on Episode 1 of Kotoura-san and the Newtown School Shooting

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The mindset someone has while viewing a piece of media – book, art, movie, anime TV show – will, obviously, effect how that person will react to that piece of media. My mindset doesn’t often visibly bubble up when I want to talk about anime; though, I’m sure it subtly does all the time.

As the new season of anime starts and I’m watching the many anime series for the first time I was surprised when one, Kotoura-san, had a moment where it connected to and gave me an answer to a question I’d been pondering and reflecting on after the Newtown school shooting.

Before I get to the answer Kotoura-san provided I need to start with the question.

The question that I have been asking myself – why did this happen and what is the best way to make sure this doesn’t happen again? – is one most, if not all, of the people, after hearing about this event, asked themselves at least once.

Some rushed to answer this question with their personal biases and political causes even before the facts were clear; which annoyed me, though I was hardly surprised by it. What did surprise me was that once it became clear what happened that these “answers” were still being treated like actual answers.

I’m talking, obviously, of those that are pushing “gun control” measures in response to and as the answer to the Newtown school shooting. By nature, I’m leery of these measures because I know how important the Second Amendment is towards ensuring the federal government never becomes a tyrannical government. However, I am willing to consider them because I want to arrive at the correct answer.

Of the many ideas being put forth under the “gun control” umbrella I would ask myself – would X (where X is banning a certain type of gun, size of ammunition clip, etc.) have stopped/limited the Newtown school shooting or would X stop/limit a future massacre like the Newtown school shooting. The answer has been a big No in every case.  None of these measures come even close to helping stop or limit the chances of another shooting like the Newtown school shooting. So, it’s this disconnect between the desired result with the results if these “gun control” measures are enacted that makes it clear that the people pushing for them are either uninformed and detached from reality or only care about their political agendas, with the latter being the majority of those people.

I almost decided to write a post here on how infuriating it is to not only see these people attacking the Constitution like they are but to see them use a tragedy of this magnitude to do it; but, I convinced myself to stick to purpose of this blog – anime with a little SF thrown in – and I let it go. Which is why I’m going to move on before this becomes a rant.

If “gun control” isn’t the answer, I asked myself, what is.

One of the first things I thought of was my own high school. It was a good high school but it was an inner-city high school and even back in the mid to late 1990’s, when I attended, there was enough of a need that we had an armed security guard in the school at all times. My high school also had big thick metal doors with very little windows that would be exceedingly hard to break through and all these doors were kept locked to the outside at all times except the main door before classes started (and you can guess where the security guard stood in the morning).

Concurrent to that I thought that it was a shame that none of the staff had a gun.

I myself don’t own a gun but I did take a marksmanship class in college and that semester taught me, among other things, that you can’t just give teachers guns because something would go wrong. Any teacher would need extensive training to know what to do in a situation like the Newtown shooting without potentially harming innocent by-standers; but, even just allowing for the possibility that one teacher might have a gun in school without anyone knowing which teacher it is would provide a very strong deterring effect. A less lethal option I thought of is having trained teachers equipped with bullet-proof vests and tasers (without the students knowing the number and who is so armed).

All three of these answers – armed security guards, structural improvements, and some form of arming of the school staff – would definitely limit the severity of school shootings and probably reduce how many will occur but they aren’t the full answer I’m looking for since these address what happens after the shooting starts and does not address the issue before the shooting starts. (And the reduction might only come from the shooter deciding to go to a softer target then these improved schools.)

Almost all of these mass shooting seem to end with the shooters committing suicide which leads me to think that the shooters perform their terrible crimes knowing that hundreds of millions of people will be talking about them long after they kill themselves. If this is the case then maybe the media need to change how they cover mass shootings like this. Instead of plastering the shooter’s name, picture, and life story everywhere, I’m guessing there would be less of an incentive to commit such a crime if the potential shooters knew they would be referred to generically as “Shooter A” and no identifying personal information (including pictures) would be used.

Another near universal feature shared between these shooters is they have some form of psychological issue which makes the idea of making it more difficult for people like that to own firearms worth exploring. Though, anything done on this front needs to be carefully thought out and done sensitively because I’d be worried about over-zealous or ill-guided enforcement. And, the Newtown shooting shows that the person with the psychological issue can just steal what they want. (If the mother was that worried about her son, she should have been storing her firearms in such a way they couldn’t easily get stolen.)

Related to the previous issue, I also think comprehensive studies need to done to see if the medications used to treat these psychological issues might be contributing to these shooters going through with their mass killings. I know in recent years many anti-depressants have needed to add an additional warning that teens and young adults have an increased risk of suicide when using or just coming off the use of drugs. I also know many types of medications are proscribed “off-label” meaning the drug companies get their drug approved for some group, say “men 45-65 with a history of cancer”, and then push doctors to proscribe it all men and women over the age of 14. And it happens regularly; the article I remember reading said with some drugs 98% of their use are from groups of people not in the original studies. I wonder how many of these drugs that get proscribed to the teens and young adults that commit mass shooting are actually safe to give to the teenagers and young adults in question.

(I find it troubling that both the Newtown shooter and the Aurora theater shooter were taking something(s) at the time of their crimes but, while we know everything about the guns used, we’re told a couple times they were taking something but never anything more. Maybe these shooters are all taking the same or similar medications or maybe they’re not but, either way, it’s obvious some decision has been made to not let the public know.)

Once again all these answers – making it harder to gain fame from a mass shooting, making it harder for those with mental issues to own a gun, and looking if certain medications help push the shooters into committing their crimes – would almost assuredly help reduce the number school shootings but they’re not the full answer either.

Even combining both groups of three real answers, they would not eliminate school shootings from occurring and this is where I got stumped and where Kotoura-san comes in, unexpectedly.

Kotoura-san was advertised to be an anime comedy set in a high school paranormal club with the main character being a girl that can read minds. The first episode starts and, instead of the expected happy-go-lucky atmosphere, in 10 minutes the viewer watches as the girl’s ability to read minds slowly destroys her life.

Kotoura_san11545It begins by making her an outcast at school when the kids get old enough to have secrets they didn’t want accidentally exposed (which girl like what boy, etc.) and this leads the teacher to tell the mother that the main character is a compulsive liar and needs help. The doctors can’t help which leads to increasing levels of stress at home which pushes the mother to drinking and the father to having an affair (which the main character inadvertently exposes). Eventually, neither parent can stand the other or the main character so they divorce and dump her with the grandfather. The main character changes schools many times but each time, sooner or later, she responds to something she’s learned with her mind reading and her schoolmates turn on the creepy kid that invades people’s minds and she once again becomes an outcast.

As I’m watching this tale of despair, a thought popped into my mind – I wouldn’t be surprised if she decided to shoot up her school before killing herself. And then a second thought added – and afterwards everyone would talk about how weird she was and how she never made any friends.

I realized both thoughts were correct.

This is the type of mindset that is needed for someone to shoot up a school before committing suicide.

The mechanism that got her to that point was not the same (I don’t think any of these school shooters claimed to be mind readers) but I bet many of the same situations and feelings played out in the pasts of those that became school shooters. I then got curious to see how Kotoura-san was going to solve the problems of the main character because this anime was still supposed to be a comedy series. Their answer was so simple that I feel stupid in not figuring out it earlier. The main character in Kotoura-san met a guy who wanted to be her friend and didn’t mind the fact that she could read his mind.

This was the answer I was looking for to the question after the Newtown school shooting  – why did this happen and what is the best way to make sure this doesn’t happen again?

It happened because the shooter didn’t have at least one good and true friend. If all potential shooters could find one good and true friend then there wouldn’t be any more school shootings.

It’s a simple answer and a difficult one. Difficult because, instead, of merely having some nice speeches given and a law or two passed, it would require everyone to be a little slower in categorizing, dividing and excluding people; to be a little more understanding, open, and accepting; to not demean or bully people that fall outside one’s nicely constructed “tribe”; to try a bit more and maybe feel a touch inconvenienced by it all.

Difficult? – yes – the sexy, cool answer? – not really; but, it’s what we need to do to ensure another shooting like what happened in Newtown doesn’t happen again.

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16 thoughts on “Reflecting on Episode 1 of Kotoura-san and the Newtown School Shooting”

  1. This is a well though out, rational and reasonable train of though. I wish more people could reach this simple, yet incredibly involved conclusion. Many many things could be made better if people sought to be friends with others, without ulterior motives or condemning those who are outcast.

    But as you said, that would take effort, personal effort to do, It seems many people would rather trade some of their personal freedom for a false sense of security, because getting to know someone, and learning to be their friend is too much effort.

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  2. I live in a country which hasn’t had a school shooting in recent history. None of the schools I attended needed a bodyguard, and the idea of armed teachers makes my blood run cold.

    I’m quite sure we have our fair share of psychos. It’s just that those psychos can’t get their hands on a gun.

    Leaving politics aside, though, a separate effort to limit bullying and the like is very much in order. Not just as a genocide prevention measure, but also for the sake of those driven to such solutions in the first place.

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  3. I lived in a country where the official position was that we had no guns and there were no school shootings. Gunmaking and gun ownership were punished by strict prison sentences, and our prisons made American prisons look like resorts.

    And it was all a lie. There were shootings, but they were not reported. A kid from my class brought his gun to school and brandished it, trying to intimidate other kids. And so on. But officially nothing of it happened, and I’m sure many thought so.

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  4. Yeah, yeah. We have plenty of criminal incidents and free media to make a fuss about them all they want. When there was a stabbing incident in a school, the press and TV were all too happy to report it. They would be delighted to have school shootings to cover, too, except none happen…

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  5. Although the gun control measures obviously won’t stop all the shootings, it is true that they make them fewer.
    Sure, you might argue that people will just get knives or something else, but guns are what kill easiest.
    Like some above, I hate the idea of teachers or staff at school carrying guns. It honestly makes me sick. It just enforces the idea of fighting fire with fire, and we all know what that leads to. And of course it’s what major gun companies gain the most from.

    I don’t live in America, so it might be totally different, but in my country no one can get guns. You just can’t get them anywhere, no matter how much you wanted to (except for police…and mafia :P)
    Why? Because our country is so poor and defenseless, that if normal citizens got hold of guns, nobody would be able to stop them from rampaging around, killing everyone and everything. That might sound a bit harsh, but when dealing with especially dangerous things you have to think of the worst case scenario.

    So although you make a good point at the end, I believe that your thoughts at the beginning were a bit illogical, as gun control IS the right “answer”. It’s a good start, at least.

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  6. Gun control is the right answer for liberals who hate working women, elderly, gay and anyone who could be saved from the assault if only they were armed. More than a million of crimes are prevented in U.S. alone by armed citizens each year. A MILLION. Meanwhile, how many high profile shootings happen? Ten?

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  7. Oh, so you’re saying that the answer to stopping crime against the weak is having the weak become the assault-ant?
    The fact that citizens have to take their safety in their own hands to defend against other citizens is just unbelievable. It shows the incompetence of that country. Now I’m not saying that this happens in just America, but since this news about the shooting was spread out all over the world, it put it in the spotlight. In a very bad one.
    I don’t want to be “that person”, but if you’d just look at the stats of countries that restrict guns (ex. the rest of the world) you’ll see that there is probably not much more crime against those you mentioned.
    If you keep on teaching people that the answer to stopping violence is to respond to it with violence (having teachers carry guns at school does NOT set a good example for kids), then you create a whole country full of violent people. And of course, in those cases, gun control doesn’t change much.

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  8. I find it sad that people immediately latched onto the mention of ‘gun control’ like some starved, rabid badger, and completely missed the conclusion the original author was trying to make.

    ‘I fear for all humanity.’

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  9. @Coyote: Thanks for the comment

    @Cytrus and sushistushi: Thanks for comments.

    One of the problems with having a discussion about an issue like gun control is that the country of the speaker makes a difference.

    In the US, I am willing to bet that 90% of all homicides from guns are gang related or connected to drugs. Sushistushi you said that in your country only the police and mafia had guns but here our various mafias were torn apart to near nothingness by the gangs. In the early 1990′s a pair of gangs moved into my hometown and in that first year they were here the number of homicides in a year went from a steady under 10 a year to 60 homicides a year (and just about everyone was caused by a gun) and stayed at that rate for many years. It’s gotten a little better, most years the number is below 40.

    The guns these gangs use are all illegal for them to own but that does little to slow them down. Any attempts at gun control means that the law-abiding citizens have to give their guns up and no level of policing can keep people safe when a burglar can hit a house and be gone in under 5 minutes.

    Actually, Great Britain’s recent near total band on gun ownership shows the problem with gun control. The number of violent crimes drastically went up because criminals could rob, assault, etc. knowing that the victim was powerless to stop them and GB has also seen a raise in gun violence as gangs become more violent.

    Neither of you probably read the stories that happen in the US were someone like a 95 year old grandma stops a person from assaulting her by using her handgun or like the mother of two young kids that is able to protect them by using her rifle to injury the would-be assailants in a home invasion assault.

    Empowering the weak with fire arms deters crime because the chance that someone might have a gun is a powerful disincentive for that criminal, which is what Author was referring to.

    I do understand your dislike of the idea of teachers carrying guns. I think having 1 or 2 security guards would probably be enough to deter but I do think non-lethal means should be looked at like pepper spray and Tasers.

    The problem with gun control is the shooter at Newtown could have used basically any type of gun from the biggest assault rifle to a shotgun to a handgun and replicated the results which is why all these gun control measures being debated are useless.

    And don’t worry sushistushi, you can be “that person” if you want.

    @Author: Thanks for the comment. I always find it amazing that all the trouble that happens at the high school I attended never makes it on the local news or in the local newspaper.

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  10. “If this is the case then maybe the media need to change how they cover mass shootings like this.”

    But that would be censorship and many people value their 1st Amendment rights. It doesn’t matter to them that such rights lead to harm in the end, because they have a right to it, right?

    Of course, it never does seem to occur to people that if the 2nd Amendment is nullified through popular sentiment, why the 1st Amendment won’t get equal and fair treatment down the road. The 2nd Amendment exists to protect the First, not the other way around.

    As for solutions, many people talk about the mass stabbing in China, how they would prefer to be stabbed and survive, than shot and dead like at Newton. The idea that a citizen of a “Western world” thinks their only options are dumb and dumber, doesn’t seem to make much sense. I choose an option outside the box of the tyranny. I choose the option of protecting myself.

    Should a mass murder like shooter get within 21 feet of me, I will simply kill him, using nothing but bare hands if necessary. The shooter at Newton was trying to flush out targets, and ended up 3 feet away from the hiding spot of a teacher, who survived because the shooter didn’t look under the hiding spot. Of course, my training is specifically designed for such things, and other people’s training isn’t. But it isn’t a coincidence that these mass murderers always go after the weak, and often lack such motivation and tactical know how, that they kill themselves in the end. Going into a police station and shooting it up will make just as much of a point, but it would take better tactical skills and planning. Such energy, when you are a walking death ball that doesn’t even value your own life, is hard to come up with. Which is why all the gun free signs on schools might as well be welcome signs to mass murderers. I mean, do people who favor welcome signs for schools also favor the same signs for their homes? I doubt it. In fact, Project Veritas showed that not only was it in doubt it was certainly true.

    It’s basically true that the police confiscated guns in New Orleans before Katrina. That contributed to the lawlessness and looting afterwards. Because the police also bailed. The idea that we should trust foreigners to tell us the US government will not ban guns or confiscate them when convenient, is a little bit irrational. The US government doesn’t do what foreign nationals think or say. For one thing, the US government doesn’t do what Americans think or say either.

    The fact that citizens are willing to die or kill to save their fellow beloved countrymen is an example of Good Samaritan values. When people rely upon an all powerful state to do things for them, like security, they become slaves, not independent individuals. To love one’s country is similar to love of one’s family. When your family is dying and suffering, some people go to the neighbor’s house and tells them to help, then goes take a trip to the Bahamas. Other people will work on the problem personally, because they want it done right. The Japanese received international recognition, at least from many Americans I know, for the success of their earthquake disaster efforts, where supplies were given to the leader of a neighborhood and the supplies were distributed by the people there, without need for government theft or corruption stopping the goods from flowing. Whether gun control is good or bad doesn’t matter. In Japan, controlling guns didn’t get rid of people’s ability to help each other.

    In the US, what we are seeing is not gun control, but control of the people: tyranny essentially.

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  11. I am not particularly affected one way or another by people carrying guns. Guns are simply a tool. It isn’t particularly hard to deal lethal force without a gun or knife. It just takes more thought and training, more intent, more work. Mass murderers, surprisingly, really really hate work.

    The fear and distrust of fellow people around you, is one of the elements required for a tyranny to maintain power. Secret police, the ability to force people to fear each other and rely upon the all powerful state for succor, is necessary and good, as some judge it.

    People fear others because they feel they lack the power to take care of themselves. They lack the power to take care of themselves because the government has taken all of it upon themselves, so the government becomes the people’s only solution for security and safety.

    This isn’t exactly what people might consider good, all in all, when speaking of systems of governance. When you rely 100% on another person or group, you have no more rights or authority than a child does in his parent’s home. You do as they tell you, because if you want to do things your own way, move out and pay for yourself. But you can’t pay for your own living, so you stay with mom and dad because the outside world is more annoying than the parents. Is this good? Are citizens of first world countries supposed to emulate this kind of model for their future adult lives? Not something I would consider a good life.

    The thought of other people being armed around me, whether they are teachers or police, isn’t an issue to me because they aren’t threats to me. The idea that a fellow citizen, human, or countryman is a threat to me, either assumes my society has no trust of strangers or I as a person have deficiencies in defense. What’s the point of civilization if you don’t trust strangers to follow the same codes of behavior as yourself? What happens to a society that distrusts internal elements? Hunger Games anyone? Dog eat dog world, is that a good thing we should work for?

    Too much fear and you can get people to think things like “I have a gun, he has a gun, I don’t trust him, I fear he’ll shoot me, so I’ll just shoot him in the back now since it is safe”. The problem there isn’t the gun, the problem there is the total breakdown in civilizational trust, which used to be one of the selling points of Western society: trust. Paranoia won’t go away simply because people take the tools away. When there is a will, there is a way.

    In the world as I live in, my neighbor can kill me, I can kill my neighbor, and we both can kill everyone in the same room with us, including all the children, all the wives, all the women, all the girls, and all the pets too. Yet we choose not to do so, and we trust and believe that the other has made the same choice. We’re no longer living in the dark ages, where village superstitions exist about the ‘evil weapon’ that corrupts men’s souls, when villagers chase away or execute strangers simply because they are different. And I’m certainly not going back to those days either. Humans fear other humans because they think they will be attacked and killed. It’s harder to fear other humans when what you should fear is yourself since you’re the one that can kill everyone if you merely desired it enough. A human that is capable of lethal force with merely their own body, must have supreme self control and ethics. Fearing others in that sense is meaningless, for it is not others that will likely destroy you, but yourself. A society composed of lethal, yet polite and controlled men and women is what built America into what it is today. A society composed of fearful superstitious men and women, will create a utopia.

    “I would rather die having spoken in my manner, than speak in your manner and live. For neither in war nor yet in law ought any man use every way of escaping death. For often in battle there is no doubt that if a man will throw away his arms, and fall on his knees before his pursuers, he may escape death, if a man is willing to say or do anything. The difficulty, my friends, is not in avoiding death, but in avoiding unrighteousness; for that runs deeper than death.”-Socrates

    The Ancients knew what we are only puzzling out now.

    “Cause pain before you injure. Injure before you maim. Maim before you kill. And if you must kill, make it a clean kill. Squeeze every drop of life from the opponent. Because life is so precious, it cannot be wasted, even in death.”

    “Let him cut your skin, and you cut his flesh. Let him cut your flesh, and you cut his bones. Let him cut your bones, and you cut off his life.”

    ‘He either fears his fate too much,
    Or his desert is small,
    Who fears to put it to the touch,
    And win or lose it all.’

    “To be honest I do not think whether they live or die is the matter at hand. Life is not always better than death. It is not that simple. Living and being made to live are very different things. What matters is what the person chooses of their own free will. Whether or not it can be achieved or how difficult it is.

    I want you to think about this: imagine if what matters most to you was taken away against your will. If that is indeed worth less than your life”-Mitsurugi, Meiya

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  12. @ymarsakar: Sorry for taking so long to respond.

    Thanks for your comments.

    That’s a point I wanted to make after the fact, that America’s liberal gun laws show that we have a greater trust of one’s neighbors and fellow citizens then many other countries.

    “When you rely 100% on another person or group, you have no more rights or authority than a child does in his parent’s home.” – exactly

    “Mass murderers, surprisingly, really really hate work.” – :)

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  13. That trust has a cost, of course. Many people don’t like the cost, and want someone else to pay for their way. Yet in the US, many, still many surprisingly, will accept the cost. For all that it entails, to the end of eternity.

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2277126/I-miss-heart-The-heartbreaking-notes-written-Chris-Kyles-young-children-meet-thousands-gathered-remember-war-hero-Dallas-today.html

    To cut to the chase, he and his friend were executed via multiple rounds fired by a former Iraqi vet they brought to the shooting range as part of a program to help veterans with PTSD.

    Just because they are your countrymen, doesn’t mean you are safe. Yet people still do as they do, for the cause of love of humanity.

    That doesn’t mean people like me won’t terminate the evil when we see it. It just means that there are people who take risks, and don’t come out of it alive at the end. Maybe because they trusted too much. I think that is a greater virtue than those who are too afraid to take a single step on the true way.

    I have spent a decade or two of my life learning a single goal. How to kill everyone that is in a room with me, at a moment’s notice, with or without external tools. I don’t particularly like enemies of humanity, you see.

    There is evil around us all the time. Relying on someone else to get rid of it, is merely weakness and fear speaking. Those who serve as our protection against evil are disappearing every day, casualties of the war. Yet people attempt to claim that we should trust the police, that we should trust the state, to protect the dead.

    Those who are yet immature, will act as if this was unfair, not right, that people should be automatically protected and defended, that their rights should automatically be there forever more, their safety, their care free life, their standard of living. They wish to receive the benefits of the just and slain, without ever having to give a care that those with their own lives are being sacrificed for this “civilization”.

    In order to acquire the wisdom and knowledge that I have, I had to go through some interesting experiences, see some rare events. Events that would perhaps have sent a normal person into insanity and shooting up another school of kids. A normal person hiding in his shell of guaranteed safety, blissfully unaware of how much work it takes to keep the evil at bay.

    The parents pay for everything, seemingly without effort and with magic. It’s so nice, isn’t it.

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  14. On another topic, Kotoura san is a good person. She has self discipline. Even through tragic experiences, she focuses on self improvement and not attacking the world external to herself.

    There are plenty of people who would prefer death to suffering, but they just kill themselves. They don’t try to trouble the lives of others around them.

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