I just finished a book by Richard North Patterson called No Safe Place. I’ve read it three or four times and it’s one of my favorites. In it, a gunman storms an abortion clinic, killing three people. That same day, the politicians jump on it using it as a club to beat their issues to death.
Yesterday afternoon I started to see the same thing come from the politicos who are going on air to offer “condolences” to the familes and friends of the victims while not so subtly sticking in their stands on the issues and how they could have prevented this tragedy.
I believe this instinct is part shameless “told-you-so”ing and part human nature. When we hear something that surprises us we subconciously start to combine it and compare it to our own life experiences. If your stand on abortion is in the forefront of your thoughts on a day-to-day basis, then your first thought will compare the shock to those beliefs. If you believe in gun control, you automatically combine the news of the shootings with your beliefs and come to a conclusion.
In Whispers: Voices of Paranoia, the doctor who wrote it discusses this process in the mind of a paranoid person – that they combine irrelevant facts with beliefs and convince themselves of their truths. For instance, your socks aren’t where you thought you left them and yesterday you saw a shadow in your peripheral vision. Therefore, in the mind of a paranoid, the instances are connected and it must be that an invisible gnome is moving his socks.
This is a damaged functionality of normal brain function. Normal people find their socks in an odd spot and think “I must have been really tired yesterday” or “my wife didn’t put them away like normal.” However, they DO try and find a reason. No matter how irrelevent, it gets a moment or two of thought.
Now this matter is much more serious. A man kills 32 people and himself. We immediately seek a reason as to why we believe why. The self-deluded see the answer as simple: tragedy + the issue they support = the answer be it gun control, immigration policies, or video games.
They’re own mind has blinded them to the fact that millions own guns and have never killed even a single person. This country has millions of immigrants who have never killed even a single person. Billions of people worldwide play video games and have never killed a single effing person.
The answers to this are much more complicated than the single small-interest issues. They have more to do with social and mental health than legislative action. However, legislation is much easier than reforming the society we live in. We have a nation where mental health is oft talked about but few people actually know the warning signs and how to help a person.
In the IMPACT class my husband and I are in for the adoption, one person could not understand how a bipolar person could do anything good. They were convinced that the person had complete and total control over her actions and that it was necessitated out of spite instead of out of a real disease. Bipolar is a real disease. It is treatable. Many people live productive lives on medication and need loving support from family and doctors to help them through the manic/depressive phases. They do not need to have their problems compounded by being a foster child in a home that is not compassionate and ignores the warning signs of an impending trigger. Many times, mental health patients are written off as “eccentric” or “just funny that way.” They never receive treatment.
People do not walk around with signs on their forehead that label them. Thank goodness. It just causes a problem for the rest of us when a person who should have received some sort of treatment slips through the cracks of society and chooses to be infamous instead of famous. The Columbine shootings happened my senior year of high school. My first thought was “I know how that could happen.” I know what it is like to be a social outcast, to live inside your own head, and to be so desperate for any sort of attention that you were willing to act out to get it. Many students know this feeling, compounded by pressure and stress, and seek other outlets. Sex. Drugs. Alcohol. Video games. Internet chat rooms. Whatever.
I have my own political thoughts but I don’t believe any of that will fix this. This is unfixable. It is no one’s fault and everyone’s fault.
It comes down to this: No matter what, if a person decides to massacre people and then himself, he is going to do it. Black, white, Asian, or Hispanic. Immigrant or citizen. Male or Female. Bomb, gun, or knife. If a person sees it as his destiny, it’s going to happen sooner or later. We can’t catch them all… and in today’s society of “me first” we aren’t going to catch as many as we hoped.