The term "mental illness" has been thrown around as a quick and easy solution for gun enthusiasts and media alike. Mental illness, in turn, is conflated with violence through a process of loaded renaming. Mentally ill people are "disturbed," "threatening," "bad people," and ultimately counter-cultural figments of fear induced imaginations. Essentially what this means is that there are those who need psychiatric treatment and then there is the rest of the world that needs to protect themselves from those people. The truth of mental illness is it is not a static concept, an ailment reducible to genetic rhetoric, there is no "murderer gene." Tragedies are not questions, hence there are never any answers.
We live in a world much like the world that Christopher Nolan built. Only without Batman. There are Bruce Waynes all around us. And anyone can be that symbol. While we don't have a silent guardian watching over us, we do have heroes like Victoria Soto. While nothing can right this horrible wrong that has been done to our collective humanity, we should be comforted by the fact that a 27-year-old teacher was willing to lay down her life to save the lives of her students.
Liza Long's now-viral blog post is being heralded as "brave" and "powerful." I believe it is neither. I have faith that Long's post was a genuine attempt to start a discourse on mental health. For that reason, I am thankful she wrote it. I would guess that she loves her children very much and wants what's best for them. This is why I hope she will see the problematic rhetoric in her proclamation of kinship and solidarity with Adam Lanza's mother. It is a much more powerful and brave message to say: "I will not provide my son with a similar context. I will not participate in my country's love affair with guns. I am not Adam Lanza's mother. I am Michael's mother."
We've seen the same debates take place after the shootings in Aurora, Colorado, Virginia Tech, and every time, pundits miss the point. Simply put, there is no antidote for evil. The notion that simply changing the laws will take away the pain and suffering of this tragedy or even prevent future ones from occurring is simply not true.
The events in Newtown sparked a lot of discussion on gun control and the media's representation of children following violent events. However, as is the case with most well-covered human tragedies, mental health discourse was decidedly missing from the reporting. "Evil visited this community today," the Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy said following the shooting. Such words are not uncommon following acts of violence, but their prominence still made me cringe. I have to ask, whose "evil" are we talking about when we classify this tragedy as such?
We sit, huddled tightly together in the cramped space of a corner. The blinds are darkly drawn, the door is shut. Locked. Little bodies press in close together to the wall. I place my body as a barrier along the tips of their tiny feet, all the while smiling into anxious children's eyes and modelling breathing.
In the wake of the tragedy in the Newtown, CT elementary school, we are all left speechless. In the midst of the chaos that ensues, we rely on news media to guide us. But in order to get as close as possible to the story, sometimes news media pass the line of what is acceptable. Today, there were many instances of reporters talking to little children. Eight- and nine-year-olds. A little child who has just experienced a tragedy like this doesn't need a microphone in his or her face. What we don't want is the use of little children as a means of getting viewers. Those children need love and care first. The story should always come after.