We are defined by our Enigmas

December 17, 2012 at 7:48 am | Posted in BadDays, Editorial, FamousPeople | 6 Comments
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I woke up early this morning with these words in my head.  They came to me nearly fully formed, with almost no editing necessary.

We are defined by our Enigmas

We are defined by our Enigmas.  And one of the great enigmas of our time is that of the madman on a rampage.  It consumes us and cheats us of time best spent elsewhere.

We obsess, and we fret.  What could we have done?  Would “gun control” have helped?  We like soft and easy answers.  Surely that would have helped.  We could pass a new law: only licensed policemen could have guns.

But what if Nancy Lanza had succumbed to a sudden illness?  Adam Lanza might have moved in with his uncle, a police officer.  Again, he would have had access to weapons.

Had he lived with a family in the construction business, he might have used explosives and harmed far more people.  When tragedy strikes, we rarely pause to think that it could have been worse.

Had he been “radicalized” by a group that advocates violence and recruits the disenfranchised, he might have become a suicide bomber.

We would call him a “terrorist” instead of a “school shooter” and somehow think he was different in a meaningful way.

Putting the evil in the object, whether guns or bombs, is a risky thing because it rarely cures the problem.

Maybe we could spend more money on mental health.  We could.  We could make certain that people receive mental health “regardless of level of income.”  But, “regardless of level of income” has become a euphemism for poverty in the United States.

And that means that kids from middle class and wealthy families, like Adam Lanza, paradoxically “fall through the cracks.”  Adam himself was barely a step from homeless.  But his family had so much money that he would have never qualified for any of these special programs.  And that, again, leaves us with a madman on a rampage.

The idea that middle class and wealthy families will step forward to help their mentally ill family members is an old lie.

Ask anyone who has worked in the mental health field for at least a few years and you will find out the truth.  Most families cannot handle the burden and eventually abandon the suffering family member.  But, the politicians can always sell us the same old well-worn lies that “sound good.”

And that means the problem is never addressed.

The most disturbing thought of all is that there is no solution.  Maybe the way that we have built our society transforms some of our best and brightest into fragile and unemployable young adults who have nowhere to turn when they break down.  And that, inevitably, leaves us with a madman on a rampage.

Liza Long can tell you how things really are.

But, the biggest engima of all is the question of why do we we keep defining ourselves in terms of losses?  We focus on the rampage of the madman, and we cheat ourselves of the awareness of the windows of opportunity that can exist in almost any situation.

As we move forward from this tragedy, we need to remember the words of Robert F. Kennedy:

There are those who look at things the way they are, and ask why… I dream of things that never were, and ask why not?

Enigmatically, Robert F. Kennedy died because of a madman on a rampage.

Update: Maybe this might make a difference. (It is a petition to “address the shortcomings of the current mental health system to prevent at-risk people from becoming violent offenders.”)

Update (12/21): This article argues that our collective violence is part of our evolutionary history….

 

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