Quick update 6:40 pm CST: This evening it was reported on FOX News that Adam Lanza was neither on mind-altering meds or had Asperger’s Syndrome, all by hearsay. Whatever the case is, we need the truth, not what friends of the family have to say. The reporting on this story has been abysmal.
How does one write about the reaction of a deeply manipulated and divided country to a horrific massacre involving a multitude of hot button topics all rolled into one: “gun control,” gun-free zones, mental illness, conformity, divorce, disintegrating family life, lack of God in society, video games depicting violence, violent entertainment culture, psychotropic drugs, psychiatry, psychology (not the same thing), lack of public safety laws dealing with the criminally insane, home-schooling, mainstreaming…the list is endless.
In less than an hour on Friday morning, all these topics melded into a single incident in Newtown, Connecticut, an affluent place, some distance from cities where those who flee urbanity are supposed to be safe from crime and violence. In the constant news cycle that is our current America, anyone interested can find out any and every aspect of the disturbed and mentally ill young man who shattered the tranquility. Adam Lanza’s, life, death and how he became infamous in about half an hour was on full display less than half a week after he shot his mother in the face killing her, forced his way into the school where she used to teach kindergarten, killed three of four people he argued with the day before, before killing 20 young children and finally himself. In the first 12 hours, the broadcast media got a whole lot wrong before it was all straightened out (they still seem to put the scoop ahead of being right), but now we know: mass shootings are the bell ring for pavlovian gun control advocates regardless of the more invasive and pressing issues. It’s the easy target.
In nothing flat, calls for stricter gun controls, particularly on automatic weapons, were everywhere, not just on broadcast media, but on all my liberal friends’ Facebook feeds. Because of the emotional charge Friday’s incident produced, it was nearly impossible to think through answers, but statements like “we need to address the gun culture” and “politicians need to stand up to the NRA” needed to be countered or any hope of neutralizing the easy target for the left was lost. My knowledge on firearms goes as far as revolver, pistol, rifle and machine guns are different classifications; James Bond carries a Walther PPK; and a Glock is a handgun. Not being a gun person, on an intellectual level, I have some sympathy for wanting to keep fully-automatic weapons as much in strictly military hands as possible, but know that any chink in the armor of the 2nd Amendment is going to lead exactly where the progressives want to go. It wasn’t pretty (and by some miracle, I still have all my Facebook friends.)
Trying to reason with the left on this is more or less the proverbial beating of one’s head against a wall. That Connecticut has some of the tightest gun control laws in the country and the shooting happened in a gun-free zone is completely lost on them. No, we should just outlaw the weapons. The first thing several of my friends posted is a list of countries where the number of gun-related homicides in the last year (the data is old and inaccurate, I figured out) is considerably lower than ours. Aside from the fact that the USA has a MUCH larger population than every one of those nations and that the US gun-related murder rate is highest in Chicago, where guns are illegal, or that one of those countries, Canada, repealed their gun ban last year. Switzerland, as part of their national defense, requires men to have their military weapons at home. Last year, the Swiss chose to maintain this strategy by popular vote. That might have something to do with their lower numbers. In the United Kingdom, where guns are illegal, armed criminal action – with a gun – has risen 35% in the last year. Brazil banned guns ahead of their hosting the World Cup in less than two years, and the home invasion and other crimes wave has risen so rapidly, that FIFA, the ruling body of what Americans call soccer, has warned the Brazilians to get it under control. In Australia, since the gun ban was put into place, crime has done nothing but rise, including an unreal amount of fearless home invasion. And that’s just outside the US. Washington, D.C., now has concealed carry permits and crime dropped like a rock, just like it’s low in Texas, Arizona, Alaska and all the places where one should just assume the person next to them has a weapon. But, to the left, the answer is “gun control” as if the black market doesn’t exist or assuming that criminals actually have any respect for law. Oh, no, we live in a “gun culture” and that needs to stop (to be honest, I don’t know that I’ve ever seen a gun outside of sporting goods stores and museums other than my cousins’ hunting rifles, sniper rifles at big events and the Glocks the cops carry. And this is a “gun culture?”)
Anyone with an ounce of sense (and who has watched WAY too many crime shows based on reality. I mean, they can’t make some of that stuff up) knows that regular, everyday people don’t go on shooting rampages just to do it. There’s always something else there. The first blame in this case was pinned on psychotropic drugs, which did play a part in every mass shooting incident in the US for the last 20 years. Not being a fan of messing with gray matter or big pharma, this is tempting, but not where some of us went in the beginning. Personally, I went to mental illness where the individual is violent as a part of the malady or just personality based on experiences in my own circles. Earlier this year, a relative of my father’s was attacked by his stepson, a 20-something year-old described by his mother as “wackjob.” She tried to have him institutionalized, and because of the way the laws read since the 70’s in California, until the son committed a crime, the state could not force him off the street, and consequently, no one else could either (as a cost cutting measure, Ronald Reagan decided to do away with the mental institutions in California. One of the few really big mistakes he made as a politician). And so, the stepson picked up a hammer and whacked my relative four times in the head, one of which penetrated the skull. The relative is recovering. The stepson is a guest of the state of California without bond, charged with attempted murder awaiting psychiatric evaluation completion for being criminally insane.
The reason to go to the criminally insane place, is that in addition to the psychotropic drugs, with people who go off the deep end, there’s always a mental imbalance of some sort, and many times since birth. There are a lot of people who do not believe that there are individuals born without a sense of right or wrong who go to violence quickly, even as little kids, but it is true, and aside from my relative’s stepson, I’ve encountered quite a few over the years. The most violent and conscienceless child I’ve ever encountered was a girl I used to babysit and at a year old she threw a book at me for no reason almost breaking my nose. Her fairly liberal mother laughed it off at the time. I doubt the woman is laughing any longer. Her daughter was expelled from several Catholic grade schools for behavior and was not even welcome in the local public school. She ended up attending a private high school for “disturbed” kids, and what happened to her after that I do not know. And this was the child of a Harvard lawyer and a very lady-like woman who prefer to attend Mass at one of the three magnet parishes for Catholic revolutionaries. In other parts of my life, I worked with a librarian at one point who was not violent, but had no sense of morals or conscience. Rules were for other people. Her favorite rare books dealers were not known to be scrupulous with provenances, and several of us saved evidence regarding her actions to keep ourselves out of trouble. This was a woman with a masters in library science. A kid who lived down the street ended up being institutionalized for criminal behavior. He was adopted and his father never did see that this kid was manipulative and cruel. Everyone else knew it, and eventually his adopted mother came to see it. It happens that humans, regardless of upbringing, are born, maybe even conceived, without the capacity to live peacefully in society. It’s just the way these people’s brains are wired. Medically speaking, dealing with that is a PSYCHIATRIC issue, meaning it’s a physical body tissue thing, not one that involves just past experiences, as in psychology. Such people are not what we would call normal, and it takes more than just parents, therapy, and discipline to deal with it.
Since Friday, a blog piece by The Anarchist Soccer Mom has been circulating in cyber-space titled Thinking the Unthinkable about her struggles with her son who is 13, mentally ill and, on occasion, violent. She is one of the countless mothers in America with a child she knows needs institutional psychiatric help but has no recourse until the child commits a crime. This child’s parents are now divorced, and the father, by choice, has as little contact with this child as possible. How similar that little detail is to the Adam Lanza situation has yet to be fully revealed, as it sounds like Mr. Lanza was providing cash, but not much else in the way of help, to the mother. Having a sick or special needs child is not an unusual factor in marriages that break up. I went to school with a boy who was quiet and shy and not violent at all, but academically slow (and a great sailor, actually. We sailed together more than once). His mother couldn’t quite handle it and left (his dad, actually, was the one who was very patient with him and taught him how to sail). A couple in my parents’ parish had a son who was more or less allergic to himself. His parents marriage didn’t last after the father started drinking in excess. My dad had a friend who’s wife left him, and part of it was a special needs child. Another couple who are family friends (more family than friends) are still married because, according to one of their kids, both of them are too Catholic to actually pursue divorce. One of their children has spent a good percentage of the last ten years in and out of hospitals with a kidney disease, including coding once, liver failure, and rehab for pain killers. I have a cousin who had a heart attack weeks after the birth of her only child (due to the fact that she had a heart attack) who had a gigantic hole in her heart (which is now fixed. YEA!), and her husband left her over it. (Just so we all know it goes both ways.) So much for, “in sickness and in health.”
How much of the message of “do what you have to do to be happy” currently in American culture is feeding this aspect of the struggle? Can’t come to grips with the fact that your child has a disability or is mentally ill, so just leave and let the other parent deal with it? Oh, that’s mature. A few weeks ago, a family with an adult special needs son sat in front of me at Mass (my guess is autism, based on observing other autistic people) and this man was literally passed between mother, father and brother. Keeping him pacified and quiet was a team effort. At the Sign of Peace, he had a kiss for everyone in his family. Even his sister in law took a turn while the rest went to Communion. Last summer in Chicago, I went to Mass at Holy Name Cathedral and the family sitting in front of me had a baby who was obviously Downs – and his parents were very obviously in love with him. Another family we know has two disabled sons, which is simply a result of genetics. Their condition is neurological in nature and these people live to be sure these boys are cared for even if they have no control over their bodies or can’t make any sounds. Granted, these children were not and are not violent, but no one walked away.
That’s a long, roundabout way of saying that the way life is set up in the United States it is incredibly easy to walk away from responsibilities and children when life doesn’t follow a fairy tale script. How much this adds to the mental illness issue is debatable, but it does assure that the parent left behind has to balance the needs of the child against making a living. There are many societal reasons that this has become the norm, but what really matters here is that the parent remaining cannot monitor the mentally ill child as closely as may be needed.
In the case of Adam Lanza, we now know that the young man had Asperger’s Syndrome where violence is a component and that he sat and played violent video games regularly (this is one of the places where having two parents paying attention might well have made a difference). Among regular people with morals and empathy, violent games are desensitising enough, but for someone who cannot distinguish between right and wrong or feel pain, as Adam Lanza was reported to exhibit as early as middle school, it can be a demonstration of what is possible. Mixing fantasy and reality…who knows what manifests in the mind of a mentally ill person. With all due respect to some very talented and creative make-up and set artists in Hollywood, not to mention video game programmers, violence is overrated for entertainment. I admit to being a Jane Austen fan, and all the BBC productions of her stories, but I like a classic good vs. evil story where the hero kills the bad guy because it’s needed not just because. That seems to be where we’ve gone off the rails as a society, blurring that line. What is perceived to be good or evil has been turned on it’s head.
Before the last 24 hours when the “Bash the NRA” mantra started to pick up steam again, there was a certain amount of “we need to get God back into the public square” which is just as quickly going to go back into a hole, I’m afraid. God’s ways are not ours and they are not always easy. God is not going to give anyone more than they can handle, but sometimes the handling is a group effort. The question is, do we mere mortals take up the challenge or walk away when the going gets difficult? That’s the current message that needs to be countered. That’s what is despised about people like the family with the autistic son I saw at Mass, and the Palins, and women who choose life for their unborn children regardless of how they were conceived: they take the societally bittersweet gifts from God and make something of them without excuses. In the current, “if it feels good, do it” and culturally acceptable paths of least resistance, it’s a hard sell, just as Christianity was to pagan Europe, Africa, and Asia minor all those centuries ago. (back to missionary status we are) Part of God’s ways, though, is recognizing the difference between actual evil and mental illness.
It’s not very well known, but the Catholic Church still has exorcists, the priests who fulfill the mission of driving demons out of human bodies. Each archdiocese is supposed to have at least one on staff (some archbishops think this is old-fashioned and don’t. These tend to be the liberal places with empty seminaries). Their identities are confidential and before any of them are called in – including the famous case in the 1940’s which was the basis for the movie The Exorcist – the victim must go through a battery of psychiatric evaluations to be sure that the affliction is actually demonic possession and not mental illness. Adam Lanza’s shooting rampage was the result of poor management of a mental illness, not simply evil. He was mentally ill, not just possessed or affected by evil in society. It’s part of our job as God’s people to recognize the difference and treat the proper malady, not go to a side issue that on the surface looks like it would solve a lot of problems, but in the end only leaves the innocent completely defenseless.
Not one of the issues involved in the aftermath of last Friday’s horrific holocaust* has an easy, simple answer. The left is trying to tell us that banning guns will do the trick, but with the line so blurred between good and evil, no criminally minded person or mentally ill sort without a conscience is going to consider the illegality of black market weapons a barrier. That’s not going to stop any of it. The cries of parents who are where Nancy Lanza and my relative’s wife have been are already being sidelined as the need for proper mental institutions to deal with violent mentally ill young people is being swept under rugs and behind the “Ban the NRA” signs. As a society we no longer shun and shame those who walk away from responsibility and think only of our own comfort. Violent entertainment must mean big money or Hollywood wouldn’t produce so much of it. That Americans consume it so readily speaks to the baseness of human nature and that we are no different from the Romans who filled the Colosseum to be entertained by battle. Yes, God needs to return to public life, but not used to beat our fellow Americans over the head. God’s ways should be used to sort out proper responses to troubled souls (not bodies, but souls. There is a difference. Big pet peeve).
But most of all, we cannot allow the left to use what results when mental illness is not addressed, when our laws do not allow violent people to be put in places where they cannot do themselves or anyone else harm before they commit a crime, when parents’ attention is divided and purposefully looking elsewhere, when entertainment fare glorifies violence without a purpose, or when God’s ways are subverted to make those who are not guilty of anything other than being polite, law abiding citizens into sitting ducks for some lunatic.
More “gun control” is not the answer.
* Holocaust meaning a senseless slaughter of innocents. The Holocaust was an equally disturbing historical series of events in the 20th century.
Information on crime statistics in the USA and abroad was gathered from these sources:
http://csgv2.blogspot.com/2011/03/truth-about-guns-in-switzerland.html – gun control sold as suicide prevention