I feel compelled to comment on the Dark Knight massacre that took place last night, because I read a column by someone asking, How do things like this happen? He was saying, in part, that he just couldn't understand a mind like that. That's true. Psychosis is a different country. I know. I dropped into that place with my second manic episode. This took place over two years after a really bad psychiatrist named Roslyn Pariser misdiagnosed the first mania, and the suicidal depression that followed. I'm pretty sure she's not practicing anymore, and may have died. Not by my hand. I don't own a gun.
But I could if I wanted to. I imagine any records of me as a mental patient all those years ago are lost in time, and predate the universal medical databases now being started. I could walk into any gun store and buy whatever I wanted, just like that poor, sick kid, or get a friend to do it for me. There's no national database to kick out a name when someone buys 6000 rounds of ammunition. The NRA doesn't want that. So here's reason #1 why that massacre happened:
It is well-known that most Americans favor stricter gun control than we have, and that it is the "lobbying" of the NRA that makes politicians shy away from the issue. I want to define that word. Lobbying = money. The wealthy give politicians money through one device or another, and they have access to politicians. And it takes a lot of money to win an election. That's what it means. Otherwise, the voices of ordinary citizens like me who don't want our grandchildren killed in driveby shootings would result in change. And that's why I give what I can, which isn't much, to support candidates I believe in; the little people have to pool our voices to be heard over the loud voice of money.In America, anyone can get a gun.
And here's reason #2:
If you don't think so, watch the trailer for "Dirty Harry" above. Check the box office for such films as "Dirty Harry." Count the explosions in "The Dark Knight" (I won't be seeing it). And think about the Trayvon Martin case, how the vigilante who killed him would have gotten away scot-free if his parents had not had the internet and the ability to publicize the scandal. And think about what this has to do with your neighbor's admiration of those who get wealthy, even if they did it by outsourcing his job to cruel sweatshops in China, because he agrees with the American Myth that anyone can do it if they try.Too many Americans admire vigilantism.
This problem is not just about vigilantism and greed, though. Here's reason #3:
A significant number of Americans don't want to pay taxes.What does that have to do with it? It is our pooled money, gathered in taxes, that pays for our mental health agencies. And when the budget gets tight, they are among the first things to get cut. If anyone had noticed this guy's behavior, the resources it would take for someone to visit him, even the systems to do that don't exist. They cost money. It is money - taxes - that builds our roads and sewers and the systems of law and order, and mental hospitals and agencies. Building a decent, safe society costs money. We gather that money through taxes.
Moving from the political to the personal and spiritual, here's reason #4:
Nobody was paying attention to that guy.Last count, according to ABC news, James Holmes had bought four guns, one of them an assault rifle, and 6000 rounds of ammunition - what, nobody adds this up? A brilliant student, he'd dropped out in June. Why? Did anyone talk to him? Did anyone in his program care about him?
I was a grad student myselfl in fact, I was admitted to OSU on a Presidential Fellowship, which is fairly prestigious. Yet nobody ever took me aside, talked to me, mentored me, or gave a damn when I said, at graduation, that I didn't want to teach anymore. Even my director didn't ask me why. And I foundered around for a couple of years, but was lucky enough to find my way.
That kid didn't. His dropping out was a sign something was wrong; some teacher should have called him, talked to him, showed that they cared, tried to find out what was going on, whether he needed help. I hope we come to learn that someone tried. His own mother is quoted as saying "You have the right guy." I'm sure other people could see what she apparently saw in her son.
James Holmes had been psychotic for a long enough time to stockpile weapons and protective gear, and elaborately booby-trap his apartment. Now neighbors are saying he was strange, he was reclusive. But did anyone take a coffeecake to his door? I haven't heard of it yet. Did anyone smile at him on the stairs and say hello in the parking lot, or did people turn away because maybe he seemed a little unfriendly?
This tragedy is just awful. And it's one of a long string of these things. All I can do about it, other than support political candidates who might change things, is ask myself who I know that might enjoy a little kindness, at least a friendly smile and a greeting. Is there anyone I shy away from or avoid because they're different? I really hope not. I'm going to be watching. I hope we all are.