December 17, 2012

In the midst of the blood dance, a new voice

The Blue Review: I am Adam Lanza's Mother

Don't skip over that link! Go back. Click on it. Read the entirely of the blog post you find there. As the anti-gun triads blaze out across the airwaves led in large part by a series of propaganda articles and op-eds at the daily more Marxist-oriented CNN, it is refreshing to find a new voice finally entering the debate. "I am Adam Lanza's Mother" tells the story of one woman's struggle and heartbreak in dealing with a son suffering from severe mental illness. This is the real issue. This is the real discussion we need to have in our newspapers, our television programs, and our online social networks. The real problem is neither guns nor violent media. What plagues America and leads directly to mass shootings in diverse places is a broken, failed mental health system.

Once upon a time in America anyone who was diagnosed with any form of emotional or intellectual diversion from the "norm" was quickly confined to an asylum. Many of these places (although not all of them) were absolute hell-holes where the "patients" were tortured, sexually abused, physically abused, harassed and humiliated all in the name of "research". We've come a long ways over the course of my lifetime. The worst of these institutions were shut down while I was still a child. The remaining ones were reformed from the inside out. Things are so much better now that anyone with the financial means to do so can check themselves into a modern "retreat" where they will receive a comfortable room and three meals a day along with both personal and group counselling sessions. If the "retreat" in question specializes in treatment for drug and alcohol addiction it might even proudly use the term "rehabilitation center" in its name. For those with access to good financial resources there is almost no limit to the degree of luxury they can enjoy while being treated for depression, addiction, or even a severe condition such as schizophrenia. The more money you have the better the treatment you can receive.

Unfortunately, the poor, the indigent, the homeless, and even the working middle class do not have the resources to access our modern mental health system. Granted, there are psychologists and licensed social workers available for weekly or biweekly counselling sessions at quite reasonable rates, for children and adults suffering from severe mental illness there are very few options inexpensive enough for a solid middle class family to fall back on. For the working poor and the unemployed there is nothing at all. Even worse, the stigma and social isolation that can result from seeking treatment for a troubled child or even yourself can rise to extreme levels of intolerance. Mental illness is one of the few conditions where seeking treatment can cause you to be fired, suspended, or placed on permanent unpaid leave. No one will fire you for seeing a doctor about the flu or after suffering a heart attack, but if your boss finds out you are seeing a licensed social worker every Friday night in order to talk about your paranoia you could easily show up for work one day only to find yourself locked out of the premises and told never to return.

If we are serious about desiring to prevent the next mass shooting there are two things we simply must do: insure every law-abiding American who is willing to take responsibility for their own safety and the safety of others has the freedom to do so and see to it that individuals suffering from mental illness have the freedom to seek treatment without suffering permanent social isolation from their friends, family, and co-workers. If we really want to see a law passed that will help prevent the next mass shooting, then instead of seeking to limit the freedoms of gun-owning Americans we need to demand passage of a law that will prevent employers from firing people who seek treatment for mental illness. If you really want to improve America's health insurance system, then instead of handing over the entire health system to government control we need to seek ways to encourage offering better insurance coverage for mental illness.

We need better tools for dealing with, treating, and healing mental illness. We don't need better tools for punishing law-abiding Americans just because they own firearms.

Added later the same day:

We almost got this conversation started back in 2007 in the days following the Virginia Tech shooting. Even though Time Magazine published a pretty good analysis of Cho Seung-Hui's character and personality, the media-led cultural conversation quickly deteriorated into high capacity magazines and assault weapons. I hope we do not make the same mistake this time. I wrote about this issue on April 18, 2007 in the post "Culture and Crime".

Update December 29, 2012

People have asked what I mean by "blood dance". Well, this CNN video is a perfect example. Sen. Lieberman is dancing in the blood of the Sandy Hook Elementary school children in an effort to control how I (and tens of millions like me) live, think, act, and feel. He is using their tragic deaths to advance an agenda that will neither slow nor stop the tide of violence. Instead, it will only restrict the rights and freedoms of responsible, law-abiding Americans. CNN for their part has carefully framed this video with the clear editorial intent to make Sen. Lieberman seem rational and Wayne LaPierre seem callus. By doing so, they have joined Sen. Lieberman in his blood dance.
CNN: NRA Rejects Any New Gun Laws