It feels endlessly cowardly that after every mass shooting now the same excuse is pulled out for it – mental illness.
Mental illness has become a catch all bucket to throw all of our old fish in.
Man beats a woman, oh, well, he’s mentally ill.
Woman kills her kids, oh, she’s mentally ill.
Boy rapes a girl, oh, gee, didn’t you know he has mental illness?
Kid shoots children, oh, yeah, totally mentally ill.
NONE of this is to say that these people are not mentally ill because they clearly have deep issues to have done the things they did but in doing this we are demonizing mental illness and pushing those of us who suffer with it deeper into the shadows.
Yes, the people who commit horrific acts are mentally ill, yes, but so too is the kid struggling with depression on their own. So too is the person who hears and sees things that are not there but is working with professionals to get better. So too are millions of us who are working every day through our own issues to try to make it through another day.
Mental illness has become another bucket like addiction that takes away responsibility from the criminal and then puts harsher light on the people who deal with those things but who don’t break the law.
Most of us.
Because let’s be real, real honest here.
We’re all a little ‘off’.
Basically it’s our ability to deal with our imbalances and to weather our storms that decides whether we need professional help or the help of medication. Some of us just learn to ride the wave and hide our issues.
That’s how many of us deal, not by being open, not by reaching out, not by getting help, but by hiding things away because our society sees all of this as weakness and you aren’t allowed to be weak.
And none of us want to say we’re ‘mentally ill’ when the poster people for this are murders and their ilk.
YES, this is a mental illness problem but like gun control, we won’t deal with it. We won’t make it easier for people to get help. We won’t take the stigma away from people who do need that help. We make any health issues a matter of insurance and what you have and don’t have and what you can afford and cannot afford. ‘Go get help’, they say, which sounds great, if you can afford it.
Or if you know you need it.
And there’s another issue, this echo chamber we have created where every mad notion has someone that will support it. Anyone that wants to hurt people, or bully people will find someone who stands with them, or rather, behind them, with their wishes.
Put a video of yourself hurting or killing people and there will be people who will watch and share.
Because it’s more than just the psychological issues of these people it’s also about this culture of hate we have fostered that cheers these monsters on. Look no further than Kyle Rittenhouse, who murdered people during a protest and who faced no real punishment for it and now gets wined and dined by the Republicans as if he’s some folk hero.
We cheer for killers and monsters if they serve our goals.
We cheer them on if they do the things we wish we could.
We are a culture full of so much rage that even the killing of children will have some that are happy it happened, some that are so broken that they just want to see the world washed in blood.
And this is all of our faults.
Together we built the world that stands for this.
That gives voice and platform to these people.
Then it’s the guns.
It’s always the guns, because the easier it is for people who are broken and full of rage to get their hands on a gun then the easier it is to lash out in a fit of passion.
I know for a fact that if I had a gun at hand throughout my life I’d be dead.
Know it for a fact.
That’s because there’s a part of me that’s broken.
I’d never hurt anyone else but I’d never trust myself not to hurt me when rubber hits road.
Imagine though you are someone who doesn’t want to hurt yourself as much as hurt other people and you have access to a gun or can get one and have rage for the world and want to lash out.
And then imagine that you have a cheering section cheering you on.
Like the young woman who cheered her boyfriend on to kill himself.
Or the people on countless internet forums that cheer people on to hurt others.
Until we de-stigmatize mental illness and work to accept that you can have it and function and are not a threat, we are in trouble.
Until we can get people the help the need we will see these shootings.
Until we quash the forums of hate we will see this.
Until we make it harder to get guns and impossible to get weapons of war we will see this.
We have been lucky in that we are still only seeing homegrown killers. What happens if one of our many enemies sees how lax we are and targets one of these ‘soft’ spaces?
Sure, it’s not the same as the lone gunman, but we sure as heck have given these people a map in how to damage us.
The problem, in the end, is us.
We won’t take the guns away, we won’t protect the kids, we won’t help the mentally ill, and we refuse to take the warning signs seriously.
WE are the killers, the faces of these people similar to our own, their pain ignored like so much other pain. There is no quick fix.
People have been targeting children for as long as time itself.
It won’t end.
But blaming one area, mental illness, is as empty as blaming guns alone when both work hand in hand to create these horrors. It is the availability of guns that allows people in crisis to harm many people at once.
If they want to, they’ll find a way, there’s no way around it, but the more we shift the blame, and water down the causes, and ignore ways to fix these things then we have really learned nothing from these lessons.
We refuse to learn from them, because it’s easier and more profitable to shrug and blame the crazies and act as if prayers will salve these wounds.
There is a question of cost, we ask ourselves from time to time – what does freedom cost?
This is the cost.
This is the cost of our freedom.
I hope that those that love their guns are happy to pay it.
There’s a point where even god stops listening and demands action.
It’s time for action.
Not more words and prayers.