Seriously guys. It's rough here. And I LIKE politics.
I've thought about it long and hard (ie, since Monday) and what I want to talk about today is a Very Special Message about mental illness and gun violence. If I'm perfectly honest, it was the events/policy proposals that resulted from the Newtown, CT shootings last month (was it really only last month?!) that compelled me to start actually thinking about blogging again. Mostly, because I like to indulge myself in some serious megaphone-esq diatribes, but also because I'm starting to feel like Inigo Montoya with Vizzini when they're staring over the cliff at the utterly delicious Cary Elwes. In short (ha) - "I do not think it means what you think it it means" to say that someone is mentally ill.
So gather 'round children! Mama's grabbing her megaphone.
When people (and I use this term loosely with Wayne LaPierre) start yammering on about a database to track the "mentally ill", I am sort of surprised. Of course, the utter hypocrisy of it (get yer gubmint hands off my EVERYTHING I dun TRUST you now let's make sure that same government starts opening files on a shit ton of Americans) would confound me, were I not well acquainted with the Twister-esq limbo games many on the (far) right play to make their points work. My surprise then comes from a sort of - "who, me"? - place. Because the truth of the matter is, I am "mentally ill". And the only thing to which I pose a threat is a steaming, just-out-of-the-oven, pizza pie from northern NJ.
And maybe a couple of salt bagels with cream cheese, too.
I have a diagnosis of Major Depressive Disorder (recurrent! Lucky me!) which is a "mental illness". Other "mental illnesses" include eating disorders like anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating; "bibliomania," which involves the hoarding of books to an extent that it hurts/destroys your social relationships; male erectile disorder; nicotine withdrawal; perfectionism; premature ejaculation; insomnia. If you start databasing all of us "mentally ill", I gotta tell you - no one's getting a gun, including Mr. LaPierre (and no, I'm not implying he has male erectile disorder, although he gives me FEMALE erectile disorder. Bam!).
This is not to say that there aren't mental disorders (Antisocial Personality Disorder, for example, or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, perhaps those afflicted with schizophrenia or fugue states) that aren't compatible with gun ownership (... triple negative?). What it IS to say is that when people start blaming "mental illness" for gun violence, the conversation has gone right off the trail. The conversation has given up on finding its way back. The conversation is enjoying the view with the knowledge that the trail is so far gone, the best way to find home is perhaps to stay where it is, right now.
And light a fire?
Anyway, blaming massacres like Newtown on things like video games, or rap music, or the fact that it's illegal for 4th graders to keep a glock in their locker misses SEVERAL key points:
- 4th graders' hands are pretty small; glocks are sort of too big for them
- Some of rap is bad. So is some country music, and most pop (jk, I LOVE Tay Tay plus hello, soooo not cool when it comes to music. Give me Adele any day of the week over... Feist? Is that a thing?). But I don't think I've ever heard Billy Joel sing "Vienna" and then promptly got on a plane to Austria. Music just ain't that suggestive
- Video games are pretty big sucks of time, and I know a lot of dudes who could do better to avoid them. But Japan has one of the biggest gaming societies in the world, and you know how many massacres there were there last year? None. Zero. Zip. Nada
- Being diagnosed with a mental illness is not correlated with waking up one day and shooting up an elementary school. Because when I was in the worst throes of MY mental illness, it was a victory if I got out of bed at all. It's a cliche, but trust me when I say my mental disorder made doing anything, at all, near impossible. Amassing weapons? No. Booby trapping my apartment so the police had to use some CRAZY electronics to get in without blowing up the whole building? Uh, not quite. Making a strategic plan over the course of weeks/months/years about where, when and how to best murder dozens of people before getting caught by the authorities? Then actually IMPLEMENTING said plan? Going through with it?? Following through??? HAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHAAHAH. I WAS LUCKY IF I REMEMBERED TO PUT ON DEODORANT!!!
Wait. Did I put on deodorant this morning?
Having a conversation about "mental illness" is a something I wish we had every day. There is way too much of a stigma in the US (and probably, the world) surrounding mental illness and its treatment. There's not something "defective" about people with mental disorders, unless there is something "defective" about people who get the flu, or chicken pox, or have a heart attack. That's why it's an ILLNESS. Some people can't be cured - the same is true for some cancers and (currently) HIV. But condemning an entire population to a database "for their own good" is illegal - ILLEGAL! - when it comes to HIV. You know why? Creating said database would provide a (massive) disincentive for people who need help to get it. And that doesn't help the problem, at all.
I suppose the next logical question is, what would?
And I don't have the answer. I'm not a psychiatrist who specializes in schizophrenia, and I'm not a member of the law enforcement community with years under my belt in dealing with gun violence. I'm not a sociologist who studies these phenomena, or a politician who must take up legislation on the issue. I'm not responsible for much of anything, really, other than myself. And even that sometimes is too much.
But I will say this. Mental illness in this country needs to be de-stigmatized, not doubled down upon. Blaming the mentally ill isn't going to stop gun violence, or suicide, or a whole host of other issues that may result from the actions of or interactions with someone with a mental disorder. Discussing mental illness more, and understanding from whence it comes, and how to recognize it in a person, and improving the ways to help someone you suspect may be afflicted - yes. Those will help. So will security checks, prosecuting offenders, changing the "freedom from" culture in our country, and a crap ton of other ideas that people smarter than I will certainly share. Let's figure this out together, because we'll all benefit from the above.
Also, a pizza from NJ. That shit is gooooooood.