Annette was an avid recreational target-shooter with her own rifle. One day Alexander, her 15-year-old son, begged her to get the gun out of the house. When she asked him why, his reply was chilling: "Because I might blow my head off." Canadians between 12 and 19 are at risk of developing depression. We lose 4,000 young people every year to suicide and the suicide rate among our Inuit youth is one of the highest in the world. Although some provinces like Alberta have made strides in increasing mental health resources in their communities, Lowe says the resources available across Canada are "woefully insufficient."
A January 8 letter to the Toronto Star headlined "Preventing Another Newtown" pointed out that "The perpetrators of almost every mass shooting were on psychotropic drugs." As absurd as it may seem, there is a myth that continues to grow after mass shootings and that is that the cause of these shootings are psychiatric medications themselves. But studies demonstrate that most acts of violence are committed by people who are not being treated.
So overall 2012 has indeed been a significant year in relation to our natural and social systems, but the irony is, none of these events seem to have made a dent in the minds of climate skeptics or gun lobbyists, as they continue to cling on to the same archaic paradigms. So what is the deeper problem? What is the systemic issue?
Hopefully, the horrors of the Newtown, Connecticut shooting will lead to a more sensible attitude to violence and mental illness and to improved treatment for the hardest to treat. Whenever a tragedy like this occurs, mental health bureaucrats repeat their mantra that violence is not typical for the mentally ill who are more often the victims rather than the perpetrators.
What will come of the events at Sandy Hook Elementary School in the coming weeks and months remains to be seen. But in the wake of this and other tragedies, young people have proven that strength, resilience and compassion can prevail. We can bring meaning to these atrocities that seem to negate all that is right in the world.
Our need to continue seeking fulfillment via Almighty Stuff is an all-consuming pursuit. Will it ever be enough to satisfy us? To fill up all those empty spaces? It doesn't really matter: there will always be another version that just might do the trick. We can never bring peace to this world under our current coma of contentedness.
Despite the inescapable emotion involved in such a tragedy involving the loss of innocent lives, both pro and anti-gun lobbyists need to approach the argument in an unbiased and dispassionate manner. The debate needs to be depoliticized and examined at a strictly human level, where gun-related crimes have caused unspeakable horror and heartache.
It's one thing to be a parent talking to your kids about the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting -- it's quite another to be a journalist writing a news story about it for them. My audience is five- to 12-year-olds and somehow I had to write a story that wouldn't be too scary or grown-up. While I don't get to choose the news, I still get to choose how I report on it.
The tragic shooting in Connecticut, like the tragic one before it in Colorado, once again has the public seeking answers and pundits seeking the easiest answers to give. Guns and mental illness -- these are the issues on the tip of the average tongue. Like a number notions entrenched in the public consciousness, they are somewhat untrue.
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.
For all the talk of the effects of guns and the nature of gun crime, very little is said about the role that guns play as social symbols. The gun debate is still articulated by simplistic slogans such as: "guns don't kill people, people do." But in addition to their functional value -- as instruments of security and insecurity -- guns are also infused with a powerful symbolic value. A gun is more than an object. A gun is a means towards, and a symbol of, an ideal society. It serves as a functional and figurative instrument of who does, and who does not, have power and citizenship.
Monday morning marked the long-awaited release of Wally T. Oppal's Missing Women Commission of Inquiry report. To say commissioning this report was a bit controversial is like saying Pickton himself was a bit murdery. Oppal's investigation basically entailed a jaunty stroll across a packed minefield of modern Canada's touchiest subjects including racism, sexism, classism, aboriginal politics, the sex trade, mental illness, alcoholism, drug abuse, bureaucratic cruelty and police incompetence, all headed by a party hack from an embattled provincial government that might very well poll worse than all the others put together.
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.
We cannot anticipate such senseless slaughter. But we can make the next one more difficult. America does not have any more mentally handicapped, disturbed, or mad people than any other country. What it does have is more guns. We cannot make sense of what happened in Newtown. We can only try to give this senseless massacre some purpose other than a cathartic outpouring of grief.
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.