Ok, so here we go again. Once again somebody has decided that it is a good idea to kill a whole bunch of people and themselves—going out in a blaze of glory. Our president says this has become routine–and he is right. Clearly he is fed-up with this kind of thing and so am I. So, what do we do about it? I thought I’d do a little brainstorming on the topic and see what I could come up with.
- I think we need to take a serious look at our relationship with weapons, particularly hand guns and assault rifles. It is true that our founding fathers put the right to bear arms in the Bill of Rights. It is also that at the time the height of firearm technology was the muzzle-loading rifle. Of course there were also cannons at the time but most people couldn’t afford them. The intent was to prevent tyranny. It has long been the habit of tyrants everywhere to forbid conquered people from bearing arms—even before the invention of firearms. But times have changed. The variety and power of our weapons has increased exponentially. We don’t let people own nuclear weapons or battleships. Clearly there is a line beyond which we will not allow private citizens to go regards weapon ownership. We just have to decide where that line belongs.
- Everyone needs to vote. You may think this is not related but it is. Your vote is the BEST defense against tyranny. In a true, working democracy assault weapons are not needed. So, my message to all you people that advocate unregulated gun ownership is this: Accept that times have changed and as a society we can no longer afford to have such firepower unregulated. Put away the guns and pick up the vote.
- MENTAL HEALTH IS EVERYBODY’S BUSINESS!!! Clearly at this point we all realize that everyone is at risk from attacks such as this. They occur with disturbing regularity and lethality. Every single time lip service is given to the mental health issue. A sane person does not commit mass murder. We live in the wealthiest country the world has ever known and yet the people who provide direct care to the mentally ill are often paid the lowest wages in a given community. I know that the vast majority of people with mental illness are not dangerous. I also know that people who commit mass murder are sick.
- We need to look at stigma, what it really is and how to eliminate it—not just regards mental illness but all stigmatized segments of our society. Stigma is judgmental thinking, plain and simple. It is judgmental thinking that is so imbedded in our society that we often don’t know we’re doing it until it is pointed out or we decide to examine our own actions and thoughts. Yet it is this stigma that prevents people from voluntarily going for treatment. It is also stigma that prevents us as a society from allocating the resources needed to prevent good kids from growing up to be mass murderers. We can only purge our own individual stigmatizing thoughts. You can’t change how others think.
- Every single one of us must work on becoming more compassionate and spiritual people. As individuals we tend to get so wrapped up in attending to our own needs that we let our fear push others away. I believe that if any of these mass murderers had enough compassionate and spiritual people in their life as they grew up they would not become murderers. This is not about saying “What is wrong with you?” It is about saying “What is wrong with me?”
- We must modify our sense of group to include everyone. People who feel a sense of belonging to a group generally do not attack that group. We are all human beings after all.
I know these are long-term fixes, but I don’t think there are any quick ones. It seems to me that these terrible events are symptoms of deeper problems with our society. Fixing a society takes a lot of effort from everybody. Do your part.