I coulda been a contender.
- Marlon Brando, On the Waterfront
We all need to walk in Adam Lanza’s shoes if we are to prevent another Sandy Hook massacre. This story hit me in the solar plexus.
He’s a kid who could have been Bill Gates. He never got that chance because his parents sent him to Sandy Hook rather than Lakeside here in Seattle. At Lakeside, Mr. Gates’ Asperger’s syndrome was a non-issue. He got to meet other brilliant, geeky kids like Paul Allen and learned how to effectively “play in the sandbox” with his peers. As you all know, the pair founded Microsoft and made a bunch of people billionaires.
We don’t know what happened at Sandy Hook, but it is clear that’s where Adam Lanza’s future was derailed. We don’t know whether this was due to callous indifference, incompetence, or a lack of resourcefulness. Why am I being so harsh? Bill Gates’ history was well-known at the time. The Lanzas certainly had the money and social connections to get little Adam into Lakeside. Instead, he was home-schooled which may have been a well-intentioned decision with disastrous consequences.
Bill Gates’ parents perceived their son as someone with special needs. It appears, by contrast, that the world viewed Adam Lanza as damaged goods. Same kid. Different perception. Dramatically different outcome.
Both families were abundantly blessed. Many parents of brilliant kids with Asperger’s, however, are stuck with school systems that don’t know have a clue how to diagnose Asperger’s much less assure the student’s special needs are met.
The mental health system is even worse.
The net result is that people with the kind of brilliance we need to resolve the world’s greatest challenges are tossed on the trash heap of life.
How livid would you be if you had the brilliance and talents of Bill Gates, but you never got to fully leverage your talents? Adam Lanza’s mother taught him to assert himself with her Bushmaster semi-automatic rifle. And, that’s exactly what he did. He shot the person who didn’t get him the help he needed, and then he shot up the place where his future was derailed.
There is no hell on earth worse than being warehoused by a system that is too callously indifferent, incompetent, and/or lazy to help inordinately brilliant people leverage their talents for the greater good. This isn’t just true of people with Asperger’s. It is equally true of kids born into poverty or abuse. Every child is a gift from God, and we need to do better so that each child can reach full potential. If we don’t, we will continue to pay the price.
Adam Lanza gave us one hell of a wake-up call, and I pray that those in positions of power to change the system hear him. We have too many kids like Adam Lanza, and the world needs their brilliance. We sure as hell don’t need for them to be so inordinately frustrated that they decide to exit the hell of their existence by engaging in mass murder or killing themselves in silent protest.
The part of this story that absolutely breaks my heart is that this story would have probably had a dramatically ending if Dawn Hochsprung had been principal when Adam Lanza was a Sandy Hook student. The two of them would have made a dent in the universe. Instead, they are both dead. Their amazing talents are no longer available to any of us.