6/21/2016
You adjust!

I've been thinking of guns lately.

I mean, it's all over the news. Three high-profile (for lack of a better term) murders, one of them involving 49 casualties, all involving guns. There's singer Christina Grimmie being shot point blank after a concert in Orlando. The following day, there's that mass shooting at a gay night club, also in Orlando. A few days later, somewhere in West Yorkshire, a British MP, Jo Cox, was fatally shot and stabbed after meeting with her constituents.

I watch a lot of those late night shows. I have made a routine around it, arguably: John Oliver on Mondays, Samantha Bee on Tuesdays, Stephen Colbert and Seth Myers across the week. They themselves have pointed out - and this is before Cox's murder, although with that being a British news item it inevitably wasn't tackled as much - that there's a routine, a frustrating routine, where people start talking about gun control, about background checks, about how the National Rifle Association prevents anything from ever happening in the name of protecting the sanctity of the Second Amendment. And then nothing happens, and then something happens again. More people die, and the cycle repeats.

I'm not here to talk about gun control, though. It's not that I don't care; it's just that, well, it seems like a uniquely American problem. Sure, people get shot and killed here in the Philippines, and yes, we do have a crime problem, but somehow I get the impression that there are still much more guns going around in the United States. But then again, what do I really know?

So, no, I'm not here to talk about gun control. I'm here to talk about that other constant, seemingly at least: mental health.

Kevin James Loibl apparently traveled to Orlando specifically to confront Christina Grimmie - about what exactly, we will never know, as he shot himself after being tackled to the ground by the singer's brother, Marcus.

Before the connection between his attacks and the teachings of Islamic State became clear - before it became apparent that he was, indeed, self-radicalized, on American soil - Omar Mateen was portrayed as a man with mental issues, who was probably unwell by the time he entered Pulse, by then wrapping up its night of festivities, and mowing down 49 people before being killed by authorities.

Thomas Mair's motives for killing Jo Cox may have gotten clearer by the time he was arraigned in court, when he identified himself as "death to traitors, freedom for Britain" - the murder coming just a week before the United Kingdom votes in an admittedly toxic referendum on whether to stay in the European Union or leave it altogether - but in the immediate aftermath of the crime, he was described as "quiet" and "reserved", and apparently had a history of mental illness.

That explains everything, right?

It's increasingly clear, despite social media too keen on promoting positivity and nothing else, that we are capable of doing very bad things. Despite our assertions that we are above and beyond the barbarity of the past - the brute force of our ancestors; the senseless bloodshed of wars fought in our name; perhaps a combination of both, as with Adolf Hitler - there will be times when we are reminded that it's still in us. Sure, deny that you are capable of it, but you are; you just choose not to, but they have.

But there must be an simple explanation for this. Apparently complex situations call for simple explanations. Say, why could Omar Mateen do what he did?

He's Muslim, and Muslims hate America.

Or, he's Muslim, and Muslims hate gay people.

Or, he's got mental health issues.

There you go. An easy explanation. That wraps everything up. That confirms everything you know. You are still much better than this. You move on. And that solves nothing, except perhaps for that big problem of yours, where your bubble of puppies and rainbows was burst.

Of course, not all Muslims hate America. Or gays. Not all Muslims set out to detonate bombs. Not a sizable chunk of them. But that has not stopped Donald Trump from being the presumptive Republican presidential nominee. Clearly many people have the same ideas, too.

Same goes with mental health. It's complicated. It's far more complicated. The fact that we can't easily study what's going on in one's brain without either plugging a myriad of wires in, or waiting until the person dies, attests to what we know, or don't know, about our heads. Nobody can definitively tell you why people turn out the way they do, or become the way they do at some point in their lives. Say, why did he turn out like that?

His parents did not raise him well.

Or, he just wants attention.

Or, he's crazy - he does not know what he's doing.

The emphasis on "mental health" is just that: an easy explanation, a way to differentiate the perpetrator from the rest of us. He did what he did because he was mentally disturbed. He's not capable of suppressing those dark thoughts inside his head. We could not have been able to do anything.

Only you could, in one way or another. What that exactly is, I don't know - we don't know. I myself have had suicidal thoughts after extreme stress and I don't even know why I had those in the first place, what made that situation different from all others. But you could have done something nonetheless. It's not definitive, but it still helps. And it's not a sort of solution where you leave something on the table and walk away, hoping they bite. It's not one heart-to-heart conversation. It's not one offer of distraction. It's definitely not an invitation to a worship service.

It's not suggesting, sternly or otherwise, to pick up sticks and move on.

It's not demanding that they adjust because they're the ones being weird, not you.

It's not dismissing it as a problem you can't solve, and therefore, won't serve. But yeah, that bubble with puppies and rainbows and random acts of kindness is so much better, yeah?

And your responses...

Post a Comment