The Orlando Massacre: How Books & Tech-Era Empathy Building Might Have Saved 49 Lives
The Donald was predictable in the wake of the Orlando horrors, when 49 people died and 53 were wounded in the worst mass shooting in U.S. history. He tweeted:
Donald J. Trump
Appreciate the congrats for being right on radical Islamic terrorism, I don't want congrats, I want toughness & vigilance. We must be smart!
Do we really need Trump-style “toughness,” however, against Muslims, complete with a ban on their coming here?
Instead we need stricter laws against powerful weapons, more money for mental health counseling, faster identification of potential beneficiaries of therapy, and smarter homeland security in general. (The killer was even able to work for a private security firm.) Yes, those should be the main precautions.
But how about something else—a concerted effort to use libraries and schools to promote empathy in American society, including empathy toward people with different religious, political or sexual preferences? That, in turn, should mean more encouragement of reading, especially of certain books. Check out The K-12 and economic cases for a national digital library endowment on the LibraryCity site, and you’ll find detailed references to the powers of the right kind of books as empathy builders. Also of interest might be Cell phone book clubs: A new way for libraries to promote literacy, technology and community.
I’m not saying that this particular killer, Omar Mateen, 29, a gay-hater born to Muslim immigrants, would have joined such a club on his own and turned into a law-abiding, community-minded soul. But given his love of technology, think about a different scenario. What if Mateen had undergone mental health counseling soon enough, including bibliotherapy (here and here), perhaps along with others in a cell phone book club targeted at individuals with similar problems?
Mateen did not just venerate radical Islam. He also loved his cell phone and social media, probably far more important to him than the Koran. What if society had reached out to him in a tech-savvy way, with bibliotherapy as part of this? It isn’t enough just to wage propaganda wars against ISIS online. Rather we also need to consider why maladjusted people like Mateen are susceptible in the first place to radical Islam (quite different from the peaceful mainstream version) and act accordingly.
Bibliotherapy, cell phone book clubs and the rest would hardly be definite preventatives. But perhaps this hate-filled bigot would have been less likely to go on to kill 49 gay people. He may not have stopped being a hater; but if nothing else, he might not have been so eager to listen to ISIS or the blood-thirsty demons inside him.