Saturday, December 15, 2012
Guns aren't all we need to talk about...
I've been thinking a lot about what happened in Connecticut yesterday, and about the other instances of firearm violence that we've seen in the past few years, not only in schools, but in malls and workplaces and theaters all over the United States. And yes, these things happen in other areas of the world, but they seem to happen much more frequently, and with much worse outcomes, here in the United States than they do elsewhere. Also, I think it is probably true that they often happen for different reasons here than they do other places
Just in the past month or two there have been at least two instances of multiple homicide by firearm in my local region. One of them happened less than three miles from where I sit right now. So, as I wrote yesterday, I believe strongly that we need to reexamine our culture's attitudes toward firearms.
This does not mean that there aren't other things we have to examine within our culture, as well.
One of the things I think we need to look at is the availability of mental health care.
We don't know, as far as I can tell from news reports, why the individual who shot all those people in Connecticut yesterday did what he did. There are, of course, the usual comments about how he was "remote", apparently the current phrasing for the fact that he was apparently a "loner". I think it is safe to assume, however, that people who go on shooting sprees have some sort of mental or emotional issues they are dealing with. Well-adjusted people just don't do things like that. So, I think it would be a big help if care for mental and emotional issues were a) more easily available to everyone who needs it and b) not stigmatized the way it currently is.
I'm not talking about screening everyone for "right-thinking", so that everyone is a cookie-cutter image of everyone else. And I'm not saying that "well-adjusted" means going along to get along. Goodness knows, I wouldn't do well in a system like that. I'm not necessarily the most social person in the world, as anyone who knows me would tell you. What I am talking about is noticing when someone we know doesn't seem to be coping well and having help available to them independent from their ability to pay for that help.
Another thing we need to do, as a society, is to quit acting like bullying is a normal activity and that those who are bullied need to "suck it up" or start acting like everyone else so that they won't stick out as a target for bullying. I don't just mean in the schools, among young people, either. Bullying takes place every day in workplaces all across America, on the streets, and over the Internet. This needs to stop.
How is this relevant? I have no clue if the shooter yesterday was bullied at any time in his life, but there are often reports that people who have shot up their school or workplace having been bullied, either actively around the time they do something or earlier, when they were in school. This is a common enough component of such cases that it bears looking at as a risk factor in setting people on a path that ends up with them in a situation where they have convinced themselves that their only option is to kill.
We also need to look at our culture's tendency to see violence, whether lethal or not, as a viable method of problem solving. The media is part of the problem here, I think. I'm not going to advocate for banning violence from film, television, and other forms of entertainment. Some stories that are worth telling have a component of violence to them. What I am going to do is go out on a limb and say that the brutality of the violence depicted in films and other media has probably gone far beyond what audiences need to see to get the idea of the stories being told, and that maybe filmmakers and other artists should try telling their stories less graphically. If nothing else, the current level of brutality in the media desensitizes us all to violence and brutality, and I don't see how that can possibly be a good thing. And, while I don't see that as driving people who would not otherwise do violent things to go out and shoot people, I do think (and this is, of course, a completely non-professional assessment) that it could make someone already predisposed to violence for whatever reason more willing to do more brutal things than they otherwise might.
These, of course, are only my opinions. And, of course, I've probably not even considered some other important things that could be done to make American culture less prone to the sorts of things happening as what occurred yesterday in Connecticut. And, as I said, we don't really know any of the reasons why that happened, and we might never know. These are just the things that yesterday's horrible events have made me think about.
I'd be interested in knowing what you all think are viable solutions to these kinds of tragedies.