That’s what it took for me, and for a lot of other people to find a voice and discuss, or at least make an adequate attempt to discuss, what had taken place in Newtown, CT on Friday.
Even now, no words seem to encompass this tragedy, which was completely senseless and avoidable, on all accounts. Sadly, and enragingly, this has already been politicized. Half of the country wants to prevent this from ever happening again, while the other half is more concerned with their own guns. This is amazing, and not in a good way. It’s absolutely astounding that, in the wake of the news that someone would shoot up an elementary school, the thought of “don’t take my guns away” would even cross people’s brains.
Callous? Ridiculous? Completely devoid of humanity? Whatever epithet you can come up with that describes that pro-gun-toting BS, use it. Myself, I am mourning the fact that we as a people, as a country devolved to such an extent that a tragedy would be almost instantly used for politicking.
The gun control laws have been an elephant in the room long enough. Let’s talk about this.
For starters, the much-maligned Second Amendment:
A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.
Please pay close attention to the phrasing, especially the first four words. A well regulated militia. What part of this, I ask you, tells you that the Second Amendment gives the right to bear arms to civilians? With the phrasing of this law, the implication is that the right to keep and bear arms is applicable to only the people who are part of said well-regulated militia, and who are acting in the security of the country. In other words, it applies only to the Armed Forces, and if you have to stretch, police. Civilians are not in the equation here, legally, and for a good reason. There’s also reason there are gun permits and control laws, but they are not enforced, and that reason is the same as prior, and is really very simple: not everyone should own a weapon.
That’s only a haunch of the proverbial elephant in the room, and that is something that the NRA and the gun-toting brigade don’t seem to understand. Not everyone should own a weapon. Not everyone has the responsibility, the psychological stability, the common sense, the levelheadedness, or the knowledge to make for a responsible weapon owner. Per one person who keeps a small handgun in a safe for protection and has no reason to ever remove it from its safe, there are at least three people who will keep an assault rifle in their house, claim it’s for the same reason, and have no rational or common-sense explanation whatsoever as to what kind of danger they perceive themselves to be in that they own an assault rifle that, let’s face it, doesn’t belong outside the Army.
What is wrong with this picture? Plenty, and there’s far too much behind this to dismantle. So let’s begin.
Let’s start with the fear-mongering. It’s gone far enough. Let’s start by stopping the culture of sensationalizing and dissecting infinitisemally every little tiny quibbling detail of the news reported and just stick to reporting facts. What happened to journalism? What happened to real, implication-free, non-yellowed journalism? Has that become completely extinct while I wasn’t looking? Because really, every last piece of information that comes over mass media has an overwhelming flavor of you should be afraid for your life! when in reality, the “threat” is imaginary at best, and overblown any way you spin it. We are capable of independent thought – yes, even the yokels who may not seem that way at first – and we should be given the very basic luxury of interpreting the facts for ourselves. Yes, media saturation is one of the reasons behind gun violence, or has the shooting of Gabrielle Giffords in Arizona, a result of overblown and oversaturated rhetoric, taught us nothing?
But this is the easy discussion. We can always talk about guns. We can always talk about the media being a roiling pot of fear, misinformation, and loathing. That’s the easy discussion.
We can’t talk about mental illness.
We need to.
This is the real elephant in the room. This is the hard discussion to have. And it’s the hardest one.
The shooter had a mild form of autism. Guess what’s going to happen next in the media. If you can’t, I’ll spell it out for you: after this, every single autistic person, child or adult, will be demonized as some violent homicidal maniac who’s a menace to everyone around them. Every single person with a mental illness – a genuine mental illness – will now have the label of “potential killer” slapped on them. Is it the case? Of course not. But will the general public be aware of it? No. Who will suffer as a result of their lack of awareness? Everyone.
Mental illnesses get misdiagnosed and mistreated on a regular basis. As a result, people who have them end up with a far more compromised mens rea than they have naturally. All this in the interest of slapping a band-aid in the form of a pill on the real problem, and that problem is that people do not really know how to adequately treat mental illness. It doesn’t help that not enough of a priority is put onto researching mental illness to begin with. This and worse happens with autism, and as a result, what happens, again? No one benefits. Not the autistic people. Not their families. The only people benefiting in this unfortunate equation are the pill-pushers and the manufacturers of the medicines.
All blended in with the media frenzy about fear and loathing, and the added bonus of people screaming about their so-called imaginary “patriotic freedom” to carry an AK-47 as they see fit – to defend themselves from what, they don’t know and I won’t be the one to ask – and the responsible gun owners staying very silent to dissociate themselves from the AK brigade, blithely unaware that they’re the ones misrepresented by them too, and you get a perfect storm that brings absolutely nothing good for the social perception of anyone who’s not “normal” (an objective concept at best). Fear whips people into a frenzy, and I can assure you one thing without hesitation: nothing that people do out of fear is done with a sound mind and in sound judgment.
People have already come out and said that if one of the teachers had a gun on her, then this could’ve been avoided. Reality check time: she did own a gun. That was the gun that her son had taken to kill her and her husband, and everyone else.
Some people are even coming out and saying that assault rifles need to be in schools. Okay, and that solves what, exactly? And let’s add that this was an elementary school. Children were victims. CHILDREN. Children who get curious, and who are bound to try and play with an assault rifle because of the way it looks. The inevitable result of that – I cannot use a polite term to frame that suggestion – is more deaths.
More guns do not solve the issue. It’s pure and simple math. What did I say back in the election season? Math does not lie. It does not take sides. If you have 2x = 10a as a base setup, 4x = 20a. Simple math.
Mental illness needs to be discussed. Mental illness, which takes many shapes and forms, rarely if ever diagnosed properly, treated very inefficiently most of the time, is the real elephant in the room. As a tragedy unfolds, and as twenty-seven families have to now face Christmas without their kids and loved ones, we as a country are mourning with them.
We are also staring down a choice. This choice is how we continue from here. Do we:
1. Make an effort to actually learn about something that affects a chunk of our population that keeps growing, and work to prevent these tragedies before they begin? Yes, mental illness affects an ever-growing segment of the US population. And by and large, few mentally ill individuals ever become violent. But if they had been treated, this could have been avoided.
2. Keep on our current path and wring our hands, collectively, saying that we have to do something?
Because let’s be realistic: we’ve done all our hand-wringing with the Colorado shootings. With Virginia Tech. Time to stop with the hand-wringing and start on a real, non-knee-jerk, non-stereotypical, non-biased conversation about mental illness. About what constitutes responsible gun control. About when to turn off the television because bad news saturates. And most importantly, about real, honest, realistic responsibility and prevention.
Because we, as a people and as a country, need to actually be people. Screw ideology, screw your personal beliefs for a minute, and just look at the big picture. It’s grown to be quite ugly, and it got that way when realistic discussion gave way to the quagmire of politicking and media sensationalism. We can make things work, but to do that, we actually need to keep the jerking knees under control and discuss. Even the tough stuff. Especially the tough stuff.
In Memoriam: the victims of the Newtown, CT shooting. Requiescat in pace.