Monday, January 10, 2011

Upon Rocky Shores

I'm not sure I can add anything to the conversation surrounding the tragedy in Tucson this weekend.  That our current environment could become so caustic that such a thing is even conceivable leaves me nearly without words.  Nearly.

I strongly support the 2nd Amendment, as I do the rest of the Bill of Rights.  I consider it the numeration of the "right of self-defense," and therefore confers with it the right to ownership and use of any weapon necessary for the pursuit of that right.  I believe that a law-abiding citizen should have the right to arm him or herself according to his or her conscience, and the strictures of legitimate possible necessity.  We do no one a service but the worst among us to disarm honest citizens and thus create a class of easy prey for the predators to feed upon.

But I have no issue with background checks and other efforts to keep deadly weapons out of the hands of those who would wreak havoc because of their stupidity, insanity, or callousness.  It's unfortunate that this young man, having long been showing the signs of being a potential danger to himself and others, hadn't lived in a place a little more... self aware than Arizona.

It says a lot that when news of the shooting went out, some of those who knew him immediately suspected that he might be the shooter.  This wasn't the "quiet kid" who "no one could have imagined" would do such a thing.  Quite the opposite.  He was, instead, voted--at least in the minds of many who knew him--as the one 'most likely to...'

Problem is that mental health--and health in general, when you get right down to it--isn't a personal problem, nor a matter of 'personal responsibility.'  To safeguard our communities, we need to know where risks might exist, and have the means with which to do something to allay those risks to the best of our ability.

I will not blame the tool, for a tool has no say in the manner in which it is used.  A human does not require a gun to kill, but a gun does require a human hand, and a mind capable of conceiving of the action.

Many are also using this tragedy to highlight the dangerous and now deadly rhetoric of violence that has become all too common in today's political landscape.  The "2nd Amendment Remedies" and "Don't Retreat, Reload" statements by people who should damn well know better.  Like the death of Dr. George Tiller (called "Tiller the Killer") at the hands of a radical anti-abortionist, this may be another one of those "will someone not rid me of this troublesome priest" moment, where those who instigate certain actions through their amplified voice, manage to skate away unblemished by virtue of their option of "plausible deniability."

But the fact is that this drum is already being beaten hard and fast, and I need not add my voice to it.

Instead I believe it's an argument for comprehensive health care, not an environment in which we're simply 'on our own' until we fall on our face, or "lose it" in a big way and do something horrific because there is no system in place to catch us as we stumble.  We are not alone in this, and one of the greatest moral crimes of the right wing is to suggest we are.  The health of our neighbors--be it physical or mental--does effect each and every one of us.

Jared Loughner was sent away from college with the suggestion to seek counseling before he might return.  He did not, but who knows if that's because he refused, or could not possibly hope to pay for it.  We should not live in a society in which disturbed individuals drift alone on a sea of distress until they come crashing upon rocky shores.  We should be better than this.

I'm all for individual liberty.  I'm all for individual civil rights.  But to suggest that somehow offering healthcare to all without forcing us into debt somehow restricts our rights is simply insane.  And even in the atmosphere of hate and division spread so casually through the media, perhaps this tragedy would never have happened had Loughner received timely intervention with regards to his mental health issues.  This is something we'll never know.

But we can speculate.

Actions have consequences.  So, it seems, does inaction.

And I'd like to finish this up by submitting to you all the words of two other fine writers sharing their own personal perspective on the tragedy.

The Greatest Tragedy

The Wrath of Fools


M Pax said...

Good article. The lack of mental health care has been a long standing problem. You can not depend on the person needing the help to get it and in many cases those desperate for help are unable to attain it.

Dracowin said...

Speaking from my own experience, mental health care is even harder to get than physical care when you don't have the means to pay. When I was almost completely unable to function due to depression and seeking help so I could get healthy and return to work I hit roadblocks everywhere I turned. I remember speaking with an interviewer (not even a health professional) when trying to get into one program. As I sat there with tears streaming down my face explaining that I really just wanted to die she said she didn't think my case was serious enough for their program. This after a different program told me I was too high a suicide risk for theirs. After leaving I sat in my car crying and debating whether I should just end it then and there. Had my borderline disorder that was later diagnosed been just a bit more severe I could easily have ended up going back in the place with a weapon and "showing them" just how bad my situation was. I have to admit the idea did cross my mind - I was that bad at the time.
We need healthcare access for everyone. It won't stop the talk from those in the spotlight, but it just might prevent it from leading someone else to cause further tragedy.