Sunday, December 16, 2012

A history of violence, 12-14-12

In the light of recent events, it's time to have a very real conversation about not only mental health issues but where our society is going overall. To say we just need to ban guns or that we just need to place police officers everywhere is intellectually lazy and a cop-out.

By nature, human beings are violent creatures. In case you haven't been paying attention, we've been killing each other since the beginning of our history. Whether it has been over resources or beliefs, we've only gotten better and more efficient at it. We've also lost a sense of what death really is. Everything is so sanitized and remote that unless you've watched "Faces of Death" or actually watched someone die in front of you, it is sort of an abstract idea that most people don't grasp. Why do you think so many soldiers come home with PTSD? They've seen death up close and personal.

I'm not going to tell you I have all the answers to this problem, I don't think anyone really does. However, making more laws isn't going to fix the problem. Making handguns illegal won't stop killings from happening and arming every member of the populace isn't going to do that either. I also know that allowing everyone access to free mental healthcare isn't going to fix it, nor will placing a 100% tax on every box of bullets. As long as there are deranged, evil people walking this earth, events like that of Columbine, Norway, Oklahoma City, 9-11 and Newtown will happen.

America has a sordid history and fascination with violence. Consider that one of the first things the European settlers did upon landing on these shores was to start annihilating the natives. Ponder the fact that the Puritans had zero problem with burning alive people they thought were witches or that except for a few years in our history, America has been involved in one war or another. Why is it that we put warning labels on everything sexual in nature but allow kids to watch cartoons and films in which almost every problem is solved with violence of some sort? How many action films involve the villain being escorted to prison in handcuffs versus being blown up or shot to pieces by the hero? Think about all of that.

There is no law, no reasonable change that we can make that will stop a repeat of the tragedy of 12-14-2012. We can arm every single man, woman and child but we are already the most heavily armed nation in the world. We can ban the sale and possession of firearms but that won't stop it either. We can spout the talking points of the gun lobby and the anti-gun lobby until we're blue in the face but that'll get us nowhere.

As I said, I don't have the answers but here's where I think we can start. Require that further purchases and possession of assault weapons need a license, much like a driving permit. Make it a one time deal where you take a safety course, just like many states already require for hunting. Violations of the law involving firearms will result in the license being suspended or permanently revoked.

Next, if you commit a violent crime involving a gun, you go to jail for the rest of your life. I prefer a place like Angola where you don't sit on your ass in a cell and watch TV. You'll be working in the hot fields, swatting mosquitoes and digging ditches until the day you're buried in the dark delta soil.

All of these suggestions will not stop a suicidal, violent person though. If you're depressed and angry with suicide on your mind, no law or consequences will likely stop you. In fact, there are people who seek "suicide by cop". When I was a kid, we had a mental hospital in my town. People who were suffering from mental issues were sent there for the safety of the community. The problem is that we've closed so many of those and placed such a stigma on mental illness. We've basically made the choice of letting these kids with behavioral problems either stay in the schools and be bullied or be placed in prison. We allow our kids to be fed a steady diet of media that glorifies violence as the answer to everything, as we give them a pill for everything that we perceive to be wrong with them.

Sadly, as soon as the media finds a new tragedy, they'll be on to the next story they can command the most advertising dollars from. The question is will we allow them to? Once the last victim is buried, will we go back to our comfortable little lives and wait for it to happen again, maybe this time in our backyard? Or will we get beyond the paranoid fantasies on the right that the government wants to take everyone's guns and the delusional ideology on the far left that only by doing exactly that will we be safe?


    It is almost a no cure, no fix festering wound. The best we can do as a nation, as human beings, is to look at the causes of this horrid mess we're in. You are right on point.

  2. I appreciate your sentiments.
    People do tend to over simplify things... focusing on the fixing a symptom but not the problem in itself.
    I've seen reports that mental health issues are on the rise and instead of figuring out how to fix that problem, we create happy pills. How many of these people are misdiagnosed? Why do we demonize negative emotions? Why did Jefferson speak about the "Pursuit of Happiness" and not just AMERICANS MUST BE HAPPY ALL THE TIME!!! I think people have become generally disconnected with one another. Is that really your friend if you can't talk about anything you feel? Yet I find it more and more that people don't want to share how they feel. I do it as well.
    I don't think that punishing a person a lifetime for one mistake is necessary, I do believe in rehabilitation. Though with the penal system that is in place in the US, it is not encouraged. I do agree with putting prisoners to work. Allow them to feel how rewarding accomplishing something for themselves can be.
    But this is the America we have come to live in, where the quickest, easiest route is respected and where we just want to shut out things that are 'negative' and lock them in a little box. Out of sight. Out of mind. Let's all act shocked when they explode.

  3. I'm not so sure "Human beings are violent creatures," "By nature." We are certainly social creatures. Social creatures achieve goals primarily by cooperation. Even manipulation to achieve individual goals takes many forms that are more acceptable than violence. The fact that certain behaviors are more socially acceptable than violence indicates that our social nature regulates and governs individual violent tendencies. In the conclusion of the article, the author references suicidal, depressed, angry, and mental ill persons as the most difficult for society to manage. I would conclude then that the “Natural” human state is not violent in most circumstances, and share the author’s opinion that we need to take a harder look at what we are doing to identify and manage mentally disturbed tendencies.

  4. I think you've nailed it once again. It's about extremes of every sort. We as sane people need to take a look at the fringe thinking of the extremes. A bludgeon will kill as well as a gun and we already have laws in place for that behavior. It all boils down to parenting....teaching kids that hate is not the answer. 60 years later and they're still killing each other in the middle east over a strip of land. I think it's time we learn to mature as a society of people worldwide. Good luck with that.