Friday, July 31, 2015

Mental Health or Terrorism?

  • A 20-something white kid wraps himself in a Confederate flag and spouts white supremacy- and kills people in a church.
  • A 20-something Middle Eastern kid wraps himself in ISIS ideology and kills Marine recruiters.
  • A 20-something white kid in Colorado with no apparent ideology walks into a movie theater and kills people.
Is it terrorism or is it mental health?
Is it true ideology or is it illness.

We don't seem to know how to answer that. All of the above cases- and countless others from Sandy Hook to Columbine have one thing in common- the clear presence of mental illness. There are events that are clearly terrorism-based. There are attacks against the event promoting images of Mohammed, the Middle Eastern soldier attacking his base, the shoe bomber, September 11. These are terrorism. As were the Oklahoma City and Boston Marathon bombings.

But most are not.

Someone out there has no doubt done the research and can tell me how many of the attacks are truly acts of terrorism and how many are the acts of individuals who may be attracted by extremist, violent ideology, but who are acting out there own violent illnesses and racist or religious ideologies and prejudices. These are often loners, perhaps even bordering on anti-social or psychopathic loners.
They are encouraged by the attention it gets and want to go out in a blaze of glory, taking their "enemies" with them, even if those enemies are other students, innocent bystanders or kindergarten kids. These are not sane individuals. These are terrorists in the broad sense of the word- people who are spreading terror. But they are not terrorists in the world-wide sense of that word.
They are fed and watered by our news media's need for big stories. They are nourished by a gun culture that even sees the answer to the violence as more guns and more potential for violence. I saw where one small town even tried to pass a local law that the head of every household should own a gun and know how to use it.
I would have been asked to leave that town as I would have refused.
Allow people to carry guns into movie theaters and these maniacs won't get away with it. But as the old saying is re-interpreted: Build better laws and protections against maniacs and you will simply promote better maniacs.
  • What we need is a serious discussion on our culture.
  • What we need is reasonable laws that help curtail gun violence and gun registration.
  • What we need is a group like the NRA to be the group that starts putting together serious, thoughtful regulations and guidelines that can have an impact, not the mindless, unquestioning antipathy to any and all attempts to make sense of this insanity.
We are not having that. We are seeing people on both sides of the issue making extreme- and at times extremely stupid- statements that are meant to engender fear, not dialogue; disagreement and not unity.
  • What we also need is an improvement in insurance coverage for mental health issues.
  • We need better ways of identifying and treating those who may be in the midst of mental health crises.
  • Finally, we need a greater awareness that mental illness is a disease that needs to be treated on a parity with other illnesses.
This will not eliminate mass shooting like we have seen, but it may reduce their frequency and give us a more healthy and open attitude in the country about how to deal with this serious issue. Stop the name-calling; stop the anger-inducing rhetoric; stop our unwillingness to face the issues. We can do this!

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