I’ve become a bit of a wallflower when it comes to speaking out online about current events. Maybe you wouldn’t interpret my behavior that way, but if you put me on a continuum of Facebook jaw flapping, I think I’d be somewhere in the bottom half. A couple of years ago, I dug myself a hole that was pretty hard to crawl out of in regards to a particular hot topic. I’ve learned a lot since then and one of the most important things is when to keep my mouth shut. It’s helped me remain friendly with people who don’t share my opinions and I really value that. Anyways, this has all turned me into a bit of a watcher.
This past week, I’ve watched Facebook ignite in debate. Gun control. Mental health. God in schools. It’s a giant jumble of arguments falling all over the spectrum. I feel like I’m ok to lay out my thoughts on my own blog where people have the choice to read or not to read as it doesn’t show up in anyone’s newsfeed.
1) Gun Control:
Many of my friends are all up in arms (heh) thinking gun control equals eliminating guns. If you want to keep guns for self defense or hunting so be it. But does anyone really need an assault rifle handy just in case there is an intruder? I am too tired at the moment to go hunt down the statistics but you are more likely to accidentally injure or kill yourself with a gun than you are to need to defend yourself in your own home. Gun control means tighter restrictions, longer waiting periods, and stronger laws in general. No, this will NOT eliminate all violent crimes committed with guns. If we cut death by gun down by half, a quarter, heck one tenth, isn’t that worth it? In Australia, stronger gun laws were put into place in 1996. Their government bought back 650,000 guns and put into place tighter restrictions on guns overall. The 18 years prior to 1996 saw 13 mass shootings and they’ve not had one single mass shooting since 1996. Moreover, their murder rate (committed by firearm) has dropped 40% and their firearm suicide rate has dropped by half (source). No, gun control may not be the ONLY answer to the mass shooting problem but tell me this – could you look into the face of a parent who just lost their 1st grader to this violence and tell them that it isn’t even worth TRYING to reform?
2) Mental Health:
Fortunately, the mental health policy talk on Facebook is much less polarized. The general consensus is that the issue seems complicated and insurmountable. There is nothing to do but to slowly chip away at the issue and try to make some headway. I have strange feelings when it comes to the perpetrators in these violent crimes. Sometimes I get the feeling that the person committing the crimes is truly nuts (Aurora?). However, sometimes I have the strong feeling that, while they have committed a heinous and unspeakable evil, they have been failed by society along the way. We all know the typical description of a lone gunman who commits this type of crime. A loner. Smart. Quiet. Anti-social. While watching the Today show this morning, I saw an interview with a man who wrote a book profiling the shooters in these types of cases. He said that the men that commit mass murder/suicides are severely depressed. Yes, I know, that is obvious. Bear with me. He said they often do this type of thing because they feel completely isolated and alone. Let’s say, hypothetically, that the young man who did this awful thing was severely depressed (and mentally ill in other ways) and saw that, in this world, he was a hopeless person that only his mother could love. An interview with one of his classmates basically stated that he kept to himself and everyone left him alone (read: ignored him). Imagine now that he lived with this stigma and reinforced negative image of himself for years on end. I believe that we have a responsibility as part of the human race not to let anyone get that far. I’m not saying we all need to become best friends with someone who is nothing like us and doesn’t want anything to do with us. But it isn’t hard for a student to do kind things for another student. Make a kind comment that doesn’t put pressure on someone to verbally respond. Meet somewhere where they are at, in the way that they need, and let them know they are recognized as a valuable human being. This is where someone says, “That scum didn’t recognize the lives of those innocent victims as valuable.” Valid point EXCEPT that it is rather cyclical. We treat others as subhuman, they become subhuman, they treat others as subhuman. Hate breeds more hate.
I would really like to just direct you to THIS if you want to read an incredibly poignant, beautiful piece about God in this situation (and how he is in it whether we invite him in or not – and also how Mike Huckabee is a massive jackhole). I’ll add my own thoughts that will undoubtedly pale in comparison to her amazing way with words. What bothers me the absolute most is that when a tragedy like this happens it is inevitable that nine hundred of my friends will post things like “Jesus come quick!” or “God come now and rescue this wretched ball of dung” (paraphrasing). To be frank, I’m sick and tired of that lazy, self-centered brand of Christianity. Do we have NO responsibility to take action? Does this God who will swoop in and drop you on fluffy pillow clouds not ask anything of you in return? Jesus talked A LOT about what we are to do in our lives. Love others. Be a light. TAKE ACTION. My God is most honored when those who claim his name take positive steps to create a better world. If you believe better gun controls will help save lives each year, TAKE ACTION. If you believe we need to stop ostracizing those who are different and driving them to such hateful actions, DO SOMETHING. If you believe that we need to eliminate the stigma associated with receiving mental health care, DO IT. Finally, this may be hard to hear for some of you and I love you all, I really do … but “liking” an in memoriam page on Facebook and sharing their photos isn’t action. It doesn’t sufficiently honor those lives. It is good to spread stories of remembrance and people’s heroism. To really honor them, make a tangible difference. Vote. Write. Advocate.
In the end, I’m probably too idealistic. In fact, I know I am. Even if the U.S. and all those within it were better at all these things, the events of last Friday may have happened. But does it mean we continue to ignore something that is “too hard”? After all, tighter gun laws, more accessible mental health care, and an increase in basic human decency won’t prevent ALL loss of life so it isn’t worth working at, right?