My friend on Facebook says: “This kid was a domestic abuser. His girlfriend had broken up with him, so he SHOT HER. This headline is BS.”
Boy, howdy, is it ever. Entitled asshole with access to deadly weapons. But this isn’t the first time I’ve had trouble with headlines. Continue reading “Language means something…”
Okay, so when I have to sit in traffic forEVER going from work to home, or vice versa, I often have NPR on the radio, which means I’m generally listening to Morning Edition or All Things Considered. Continue reading “St. Elizabeth’s, Mental Illness, and Greed…”
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Last night I had an extended conversation on Facebook (which I do quite often, because these posts don’t tend to happen anywhere near as much as they should).
The conversation started with this article:
I led with the phrase “Because guns fix everything, and there are no consequences, right?”
It didn’t take long to get the usual response.
“I wish they would focus on that, this was not a sane person. If it’s a mental hospital, or prison, she goes forever.”
In the following responses we saw laid bare the actual problem with this statement, and with
the NRA’s [oops! I mean] Texas Republican Senator John Cornyn’s newly proposed gun control bill.
It’s quite simple, really: If you have to be insane to shoot someone, then why are the prisons filled with insane people?
Mental illness isn’t a crime, is it? Well, yes, it is, apparently, or the prisons would be empty and there would be mental institutions everywhere.
There aren’t, are there? Why is that?
Well, the answer’s kinda complicated, see. It starts with the shutdown in the 1980s of mental facilities and President Reagan’s dismantling of a lot of the structure supporting those facilities.
But that’s not a complete answer, is it? No, because people fire guns for a whole bunch of reasons, including (but not limited to) in no particular order:
- racial profiling
You get the idea.
If you look at the prison system today, violent offenders make up only a portion of the population. And a majority of folks who are responsible for gun-related deaths aren’t remotely mentally ill. So where does the NRA come off with claiming this will fix the problem? It’s not a cure. It’s a Band-Aid, designed to draw attention away from the actual problem and place the blame on a population that is far more likely to do nothing at all, or to self-inflict.
Statistically speaking (if you can even call it that), the vast number of certifiably mentally ill shooters who see trial are white. Why is that? Because if it isn’t a murder/suicide, they are far more likely to survive encounters with police if they are white than if they’re not. No, race isn’t a guarantee of protection, but do you suppose the case in Aurora would have seen trial if Holmes had been black? I rather think not, especially in light of Ferguson, Cleveland, Baltimore and the rest.
We have a gun problem in this country and the NRA is pointing at a portion of the population who are under-served, blaming THEM because then we won’t actually address the problem. CDC Mental Healt FastStats show some of the picture, but not all of it.
Prisons are not remotely designed to handle the mentally ill. Rather, imprisonment is a contributing factor to mental illness.
So what’s the deal, NRA? And what makes you think you can just pass the buck?
Just remember, when you pay your dues to the NRA, what you’re supporting. And when you vote for an NRA-backed member of congress, don’t have any mental illness in your background, or you may find you’re on that list.
The law of unintended consequences works all the time.
In this world, too many people see discussions as only about one topic or another, and these folks shun the idea that topics have many subtopics and sources.
The world of Elliot Rodger is by no means exclusive, but if his actions bring these multiple threads of discussion to a head, perhaps we can have the discussions we need to that will help us get past what corporate interests prefer not to discuss for the sake of continuing to generate revenue at the cost of human lives.
In this discussion, but by no means an exhaustive list: Misogyny, misandry, gun control, mental illness, autism, entitlement, politics and more. Every single one of these topics has something to do with the murders and injuries in Santa Barbara, but not the way you might think. And for me, this post has been coming since Sandy Hook and Aurora, but until now I couldn’t wrap my mind around the pile of implications and threads without being afraid either of outing myself or offending someone else, so I’ll say this first and get it out of the way, because you need to know.
It all starts with
And it ends with
Now before you blow up all over me and say I’m interested in taking away ALL TEH GUNZ, as some now-unfriended people have done in the past, let me share some facts with you:
1. I have been in therapy on and off since I was a teenager. Losing a parent early is bad enough, but I also suffered bouts of depression and headaches and cramps that were bad enough to put me out of commission for a couple of days. Add to that being unable to get organized because I would start one process and then ten hours later find I’d gotten sidetracked and only partially finished the original goal, but forgot those 15 other things that also needed doing (along with the food I was supposed to eat regularly), well, that’s ADHD in a nutshell. Add to all this a separation from my husband and how to handle his behavior and the aftermath of the break-up, and death of a parent, and it’s not a surprise. I have been on medication but am not now and have not been for the better part of a year, and in that year I’ve accomplished Dean’s List two semesters running. My ability to cope has been tested sorely and I’ve come out okay on the other side.
Mental illness comes in all forms and so do other mental issues. I’ve never considered myself a danger to others. I used to think it was all on me, that I was broken, but no more. Having watched my ex-relationships and how they handle their current relationships, I’ve come to realize my biggest fault is in the relationship choices I’ve made and not so much with me. Some of the problems I’ve had could be chalked up to immaturity, narcissism flawed logic on the part of the opposite sex. I’m tired of playing romance roulette and I’m not looking anymore, mostly for this reason. And I’m mostly okay with that.
2. I grew up in a household with an NRA member who also smoked. I never picked up either habit, though I am a fair shot with a .22 rifle. I have spent time with people who were doing drugs, but never knowingly took drugs on my own or sought out more than alcohol and I don’t drink much now because I don’t like the effect or (in many cases) the taste.
3. I have suffered sexual abuse, above and including the “dirty phone call” variety. In more than one instance I was not a consenting adult. Only one time did someone of the opposite sex hit me, and he’s been out of my social circle for an extended period of time. No, I won’t go into details. The statute of limitations ran out a long time ago.
4. I like movies quite a bit, but am increasingly uncomfortable with what I see in them, especially when they revolve around relationships between men and women. The Bechdel Test is weighing particularly heavily on my mind just now.
So, when the news broke about Santa Barbara over the weekend, I had plenty of thoughts on the subject, but until I started seeing responses on my Facebook feed, I was willing to ignore them until I could get my thoughts to gel.
What follows are a number of articles and videos, in what I think are appropriate order. You can feel free to follow my path down through the material or just take my word for it: We have a major problem on our hands and we don’t even know how to talk about it because these issues are coming up and getting in the way of the conversation.
We can start with Ann Hornaday’s response (auto-launch video warning!) to the critical feedback she received on her scathing article published May 25, 2014, in which she indicts the Hollywood movie machine as a foundation for the problem of male entitlement.
What follows here are four reactions, every one of them written by men. I want you to read what these four men have to say on the subject. I am excluding from this conversation the father of one of the male victims in the Santa Barbara rampage because he’s addressing his questions to congress. In the end, this is what you must do, as well, or the conversation will not change.
First, regarding the shooter’s mental health condition, a subject that should really be investigated further because we do NOT treat mental illness the way we should and we never ever have. Worse, assumptions by the police that it isn’t as bad as observers have seen has much to do with lack of training, coupled with a lack of beds in hospitals and the lack of trained medical staff for dealing with violent mental illness.
That the pharmaceutical industry and health insurance companies restrict access to care and shunt everyone to drugs first is a failure to address the fundamental problem: We are not equipped to handle mental illness because it’s not in the interests of drug companies to fix a problem that nets them billions of dollars annually.
These situations exist because we have failed both the families of our most fragile citizens who know better and try to warn about the dangers and those victims who likely never knew what hit them or why. There is but one target for this: Our laws fail us and our lawmakers fail us because they answer to the industry and not the people.
But then, there are those in congress who prefer to blame the mentally ill and regulatory failures instead of looking at why those gaps exist:
Rep. King’s views aren’t new, but they are politically motivated, and it’s still easier to point a finger at background checks without recognizing that without a universal database to check, such a system will fail, and such infrastructure simply doesn’t exist because of the taboo discussion regarding mental illness in the first place. So sure, go ahead and talk as if a background check might have kept the violence from happening, but it’s a smokescreen on a much larger problem.
And on top of all this, there’s the dreaded “Autism = Murder” issue that came up with Sandy Hook. I read the article below when it came out, and I think it bears rereading. I know at least a dozen people in my social circle who fall somewhere on the spectrum. Everyone wants something to blame to try and explain the actions of murderers. Consider these words before you become part of the problem:
Two more articles, and I’m done for now. I’ve posted at least one of these on my Facebook feed already, but both bear reading and further reflection.
If you want to have the discussion here, you’d best spend the time and read these last two articles because I will boot you otherwise.
You can feel free to share this information. We can’t have the discussion if we don’t recognize the foundation for the problem.
At 11:58 pm on Monday, September 30, 2013.
Lest there be any question or confusion in anyone’s mind over who is directly responsible for the closure of our national parks, the sudden and explicable shutting down of services far and wide throughout the country, and the eternal brinkmanship of the Tea Party, this article sums it up for you:
That’s right, kids. The Hydra is just about ready to eat itself, and all because political theatre is more important than running the country.
But why? Why?
Here’s what’s been brewing in my head the last two weeks, thanks to yet another mass shooting, in my neck of the woods. Better buckle your seatbelts and hang on. It’s going to be a bumpy ride.
On September 16, 2013, something remarkable happened. Again.
13 people died, including a mentally ill man, aged 34. Those are the details you can gather from the article above. Additional details have surfaced about how Alexis’ behavior was cause for concern, but not sufficiently off to justify actual medical treatment. He was, as far as anyone knew, fit enough to hold a security clearance and to purchase guns and ammunition. And as soon as the act was over, and it was clear the shooter was dead, all we had left was a series of clues that added up to a head-scratchingly vague image of what drove this man to commit random murders that morning.
This time, the discussion of gun control ended before it even had a chance to start, because the timing was so close to the end of the government’s fiscal year, even this tremendous loss of life, just a short mile or so away from Capitol Hill, was insufficient to jumpstart the discussion of sane guidelines for owning and operating a firearm.
Stunning, really, because one short week later, all the news reports could talk about was whether there would be compromise.
I could have told them then that there wouldn’t be. There’s no reason for compromise. You can’t compromise with terrorists.
These senselessness acts of violence and mayhem are no less vile than the one perpetrated by the members of our House of Representatives against this country and our people. Republicants, Thuglicans, Tea Publicans – call them what you want, but whatever, you need to wake up and realize that the whole group is suffering from a case of paranoid schizophrenia, and we have left the disease untreated because we can’t seem to figure out what to do with the mentally ill.
These citizens, armed with hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of dollars are telling the rest of us that we’re to blame for the mess our country is in.
Why are we in this mess today?
Because people in Ohio (a state bought and sold by ALEC) elected John Boehner again in 2012.
Boehner has zero interest in working the differences out. It’s not why he was elected.
The extreme Right elected him and his ilk because they don’t WANT the rest of the country to know that the way to fix the problem is to reverse 30 years of Trickle Down Damage, brought on by people who believed the horse hockey Saint Reagan fed them when he said all we needed to do was make it easier for the rich to spend their money and everyone would win.
It took 30 years for us to get where we are today, and the plutocracy like what they have just fine. Keep the scum down and they can’t rise up like they did in France because they’re too busy chasing turban-wrapped shadows and uppity black Presidents.
When Mitt Romney made those ill-timed comments and the nice guy waiting tables caught him on camera, he wasn’t talking to the general voters. He was talking to his infernal brotherhood. And now, his puppet masters are mad because they didn’t get their way last November, so here we are, 45 minutes after midnight and not a budget in sight.
The only way this has to do with the Democrats is that they are not the Tea Party. Ergo, they are W.R.O.N.G.
And the worst thing is, every last one of the Tea Party’s supporters has swallowed the crap the Koch brothers have fed them through the last 30 years. Y’all should be ashamed of yourselves.
The only difference between what Aaron Alexis did and what the House Republicans are doing now is that he was shot for his crimes. Instant retribution. The House of Representatives is still getting a big, fat paycheck (more in a year than I’ve made in the last 10 years, combined). They’re not going to see anything happen – at least until November 2014. (See that countdown ticker to the right? That’s how long we have before we can fix this mess.)
The last time the government shut down, Newt Gingrich was in the driver seat. Even Newt has figured out this is wrong-headed.
Maybe the Affordable Care Act will do what we haven’t been able to accomplish since the GOP sucked the life out of the House in the 1990s – finally win the government back so that we can rise back up to our former glory as a compassionate country that takes care of its own. Instead of throwing our most vulnerable citizens under the bus, perhaps we can find a way to make it possible for us to enjoy life again. But first, the Tea Party has to go.
Someone needs to stop the insanity.
And the sooner, the better.
The holidays seemed to have brought about a suspension of sorts from all things political and gun control-related. It was dreadfully quiet. Even the terrible shooting in Webster, NY failed to make a serious dent in the calm before January’s Fiscal Cliff voting storm.
It took me over three weeks to publish my last post, and only a few hours to follow up.
Today’s gem, coming (as many of my articles seem to show) from Slate.com, illustrates just why the AR-15 rifle is not just the gun of choice for lone gunmen itching for a rampage, but why it’s so important to recognize whose rights are being infringed.
The article gets it right, here, with this money quote:
The lobby’s fervent defense of military-style semi-automatic weapons like the AR-15 seems motivated primarily by a desire to protect the profits in the rapidly growing “modern sporting rifle” segment of the industry.
Here’s the problem, and it’s a whopper. We are bent on locking up anyone who we feel might be a threat to our personal safety, instead of focusing on treatment and taking the time to find the underlying cause of the problem in the first place.
Another [Libertarian] article sums up the problem: Gun-Control, Mental-Health Laws won’t make us safer
And another [on mental health]: Gun control and preventive mental health care to honor the lost children of Newtown
It’s insidious, really.
We have companies trying to keep their bottom lines from collapsing. This includes gun manufacturers, who make up a percentage of the companies receiving federal subsidies. What’s that, you say? That’s news to you?
We devote so much of our time and resources to buying drugs that we’ve forgotten there are other ways to improve our lives. There are also other ways to improve people’s lives than jail-time. Yet, that’s exactly what we hear proposed. It’s not about giving these people access to better health care, so they can work through their problems without the use of deadly weapons. It’s just so much easier to assume that we can put them away and keep them out of our space. Only, that’s not possible, thanks to Reagan’s dismantling of the existing health care infrastructure 30 years ago.
We got where we are today because we were sweet-talked into believing we were doing what was best for our country. Now we’ve got prisons overflowing (and privatized), and we don’t know when the next gunman is going to go off like a powder-keg.
It’s not sane. No wonder we have gun control problems. We subsidize manufacture of the weapons that kill us. And we make our people pay out-of-pocket for health care.
How sane is that?
In 2005, I lost eight people (either through direct relationships with them or indirectly through my friends). Children, parents, people with whom I was friends, and one I worked with weekly as a parent in a co-op nursery school. I found I couldn’t make sense of some of the things I heard during the funerals I attended.
In January, 2006, I began to attend the Unitarian Universalist congregation I now call home. I’ve begun to make some sense of my reactions, even though I can’t make sense of losses on days like yesterday.
I’ve dealt with loss all my life. Some days I handle it better than others.
Are you having trouble wrapping your mind around what happened yesterday? Feeling numb? Not sure why?
Not feeling anything?
People grieve differently. They process horror differently.
In 1969, Dr. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross published a book that described for the first time the five stages of grief. When I was in 7th grade, I took a class on death and dying, in part because of my mother’s long-term illness, but nothing prepared me for the reality of losing a close member of my family.
I learned a lot when my dad died in 2010, thanks to the hospice nurses in Colorado and the grief counselor I met with weekly near me at home. I understood on an intellectual level what I was seeing, knew the signs to watch for, and knew in my heart when my dad was truly gone for good.
I knew from the descriptions I heard that my mother in law was dying, that same year, because I had already experienced the steps with my dad. And I knew when I was going to lose two more friends in October and November of 2010.
I learned more when my friend Richard died at the end of that horrible year and took away Christmas for me. My greatest gift was the ability to talk with him before he died, and to be there with him and with friends the night before.
I will learn again as I watch one of my earliest friends in this area die from cancer over the next several months.
There are no words that provide as much comfort as a hug and a sharing of sorrow that comes from grief.
None of these deaths were brought about by someone else. None of them was the result of random violence, accidental association, or any other logical reason.
The deaths in Connecticut of twenty children and seven adults happened because someone took it on himself to play god, who had the means to accomplish this horrific act and who had no sense of the long-term, incomprehensible damage he would do, no thought to care about the ramifications of his act.
And more than anything else, he will never know the effect his senseless act of violence will have on our lives, on the lives of the people of Connecticut and most of all on the families of those he killed, because he killed himself, ending his mad spree of death.
As John Dickerson says in his article on Slate.com:
If you have trouble processing what happened yesterday, that might be one reason why you are numb. It’s too much to process all at once. You simply can’t do it.
There is no greater act of faith than waving goodbye to your kids on their way to school in the morning, thinking no matter how hard it was to get them to that point during the day, all the petty arguments or smiles you have with them might somehow disappear after they leave your sight.
Somehow, whether you are a parent or not, you can find a way to relate to the tragedy unfolding in Connecticut. Do what you can to come to terms with what you know, what you’re learning and what you will say to others, but take these things into consideration:
This is unimaginable. Christmas lights are already everywhere. In many of these houses, trees are likely already up, decorated and waiting for laughter and footsteps that won’t ever come on Christmas eve or Christmas morning.
There is still one day left to Hanukkah, one last, bright day when all nine candles burn brightly and then burn out.
Yesterday was the Sabbath, the day some people recognize for giving thanks for what they have, and bless their children.
Today we are left wondering what pushed the shooter over the edge. We are left to wonder whether we are still right to guarantee access to weapons that can do this damage. We wonder how we could have stopped this from happening.
But we’ve been wondering this for years.
We wondered at the tragedies in Blacksburg (Virginia Tech).* In Aurora. And in other places and at other times throughout our history. And I wonder how much longer it will take us to recognize that the question isn’t so much about access to weapons but how we treat our mentally ill and what we do to ease the pain of those who most need the help before they take it out on other people.
This isn’t about the 2nd Amendment. It’s about our attitude regarding those whose brains work differently from ours.
Give yourself time. Hug your kids. Curl up with popcorn and watch a movie. Make it something innocuous. Or play a game with them today.
And let your brain do its work.
When the time comes, give in. You’ll get there. Everyone does.
And then, start to take some action.
David Gerrold, who I follow on Facebook, Jason Alexander, an actor I’ve come to respect for any number of reasons, Jim Wright (Stonekettle Station), and others have all had things to say about senseless violence.
When you’re done reading all these things, go sign yourself up for an account on whitehouse.gov and sign this petition:
Immediately address the issue of gun control through the introduction of legislation in Congress.
and this one, too:
Make Mental Health a National Emergency
[note that the links are dead. Thanks, Trump!]
And after all that, restore your faith in humanity. Because you’re still here and you can.
*edited to fix an error gracefully pointed out by a reader…