Disclaimer: to make it clear from the beginning, I am not a gun nut, I have never fired a gun in my life and don’t ever intend to. I am for sensible gun laws. I am not obsessed with the 2nd Amendment. My main concern here is with how we are talking about gun control.
I cannot join the bandwagon clapping their hands at Pres. Obama’s speech regarding the massacre in Oregon on Thursday. And I’m pretty disappointed that The New Yorker called it powerful – no wonder we’re “numb” if that’s what we think “powerful” is – but I guess you can’t really expect much different from mainstream media anymore. Mostly what struck me about the president’s speech is how hard it was for me to distinguish his talk about those with mental illness from Donald Trump when he talks about Latinos, Syrian refugees, women, the poor, etc.: Pres. Obama continues to demonize and stigmatized those suffering with mental illness even though there is a TON of research that deeply problematizes the categorical link the president reinforced between mental illness itself and violence like this. There are, however, plenty of studies (that are, of course, being suppressed) that conclusively show a statistically significant link between psychiatric MEDICATIONS and acts of violence. This is not the only factor here, but I’m from Columbine town: after that iconic massacre, drug companies were required to put black-box labels on their drugs. That’s it. Yet we bicker and fight about gun control as if it’s this solve-all god. I’m sorry, but if your medication causes the same side effects as the “illness” you’re trying to treat (homicidal and suicidal thoughts being the relevant ones here), you are doing it wrong and we’re the ones left holding the (body) bag(s).
Yet, Obama can casually mention mental illness once again reinforcing the false connection between that and violence, further stigmatizing sufferers and keeping them from getting help, while at the same time not lending even one word to the absolute shit show that is our mental health “care” system. If he really thinks those suffering with mental illness are perpetrating these hideously depraved acts (he doesn’t seem to see the pattern that the majority of these shooters are disgustingly entitled white dudes), then why is he not pushing for drastic reform there? The way he’s using the term mental illness objectifies many people (one in four, currently) for the sole purpose of political pawns – that is, to reinforce the “us v. them” divide that is deepening the suffering of millions while giving the rest of us a false sense of security. Even if there was a link between deadly rampages and mental illness, gun control alone would not solve the issue. Gun control is not this magic bullet the Democratic Party thinks it is because, look, if you want to go on a mass murder spree, the last thing you care about is breaking the law.
Besides, making something illegal does not by itself make it go away; it usually just makes it harder and sometimes, more dangerous. Either way, though, let us not delude ourselves: it is very, very easy to break the law – that’s why I have a job (I work at a law firm). I’m not saying that this is a reason not to pass sensible gun laws (though I have yet to read a definition of what proponents of such actually think that is – do you really, for example, want The State to be discerning who is mentally well enough for anything, including gun ownership, when the entire reason the 2nd Amendment was included in the Constitution was to protect the citizenry from government overreach?), but people break the law all the time. 22 gun laws were broken in the obtaining of the four guns used in the Columbine shootings, for example. (Also, slavery, the Holocaust and segregation were all legal; legality should not ever be used as a measure for morality.) The point is that the work towards protecting our children and innocent lives does not stop after we get good gun control, yet that seems to be how we’re talking about it. I understand that means restriction makes it much harder to commit horrendous crimes and I am all for gun legislation reform but a) we have got to stop relying on the “crazy people” argument The New Yorker had the gall to publish (and many had the ignorance to share all over social media) and b) we must not let the media or politicians, deceive us into thinking that making more laws – especially without addressing the deep cultural, social, environmental and economic issues that American politics are in large part responsible for causing or perpetuating – is the only work we have to do in a society who is “exceptional” in its number of mass shootings.
Mr. President, why are we as a society so unable to show any compassion for those suffering with these illnesses you carelessly and erroneously continued to associate with horrendous slaughter? Oh, and also, thanks to the Democrats for stirring up fear on the level that gets people to willingly surrender their rights to The State in the name of “security,” especially Bernie Sanders, who wants to keep guns from people who “should not have them.” That’s a polite way of saying “crazy people,” which we apparently should trust the State to provide us with laws that can successfully find “these people” and keep guns from them, which is supposed to theoretically keep the rest of us safe while doing nothing at all to minimize their suffering.
We should be ashamed that the seemingly endless torrent of blood of innocent people – from kids to adults – is not moving us toward action, whether it’s better gun laws, mental health reform or a cultural shift in what we’re willing to put up with in our life together. I, for one, am sick of listening to the empty rhetoric of politicians and the offensive, hurtful, ignorant and terrifyingly rampant arguments that dehumanize those with mental illness to make their case. There is no way to “hold elected officials accountable,” really. Threatening not to vote for them doesn’t account for the fact that the amount of time people hold office is sufficient for them to do irreversible or very-hard-to-reverse damage, even if it actually were the frontmen and women in politics actually making the decisions. I’m of the opinion that it’s not. For example, why, Mr. President, did you not mention the deadly intersection between white privilege and male entitlement? Who is tying your hands into giving “routine” responses? Take some responsibility, man. Your “routine” speeches are as wrong as they are lazy. There are some of us who actually aren’t numb. There are some of us who have been within range of two school shooting (and we’re not even 30 years old) who are sick and tired of listening to politicians offer prayers, complain about how that’s not enough but they can’t do anything “alone” (I find it very hard to believe you’re “alone,” Mr. President). There are some of us who cannot go through the 4th of July without flashbacks to 1999. “We” are not numb. We are in need of better leadership. Namely, we need to stop ceding leadership to people beyond ourselves.