Did you ever go about your daily life completely oblivious to a certain possibility -- one that you know, somewhere in your head, will happen given the right circumstances -- but which you casually dismiss as something incredibly unlikely, only to see that disturbing thought lived out, and come back to bite you on the ass?
I had one of those moments today, and it's caused a great deal of personal anguish and circumspection.
I can't remember how many times I have casually tossed about the idea, saying it right here on this page, how someone I dislike, often someone I have no personal connection with, or even real animosity towards, should be shot. I don't really mean it, it's supposed to be dark humor (although now, I really don't see the humor in it at all), and after I've gone ahead and written "so-and-so should be shot" I salve my conscience by adding "I don't advocate this, really, so don't do it", thinking I've absolved myself of responsibility in case it actually does.
And then someone actually does get shot. In this case, a congresswoman from Arizona, Gabrielle Giffords. I know nothing about Rep. Giffords other than the fact that she represents Arizona, and she's a democrat, and now she's got a bullet hole in her head; one put there by what seems to be a deranged individual with a lot of axes to grind, and a whole lot of unresolved personal issues.
I have to admit, I was feeling ambivalent towards the idea that the Congresswoman was wounded in this regard; public figures are in danger even in the best of times, and in this day and age of terrorism and "crazed gunmen" walking about, taking to a public event with little or no security is almost asking to be shot at. No one had the right to shoot at her, but it is one of the well-known risks of the job. I feel terrible about having that feeling now It seems callous, and selfish, but in my defense -- I don't know her, she's not one of my own, and until today, I'm not even certain that I knew that she even existed.
We have this terrible ability for dissociating ourselves from people we don't know, or aren't aware of, after all. I don't know whether this is a design flaw, or a feature, but sometimes it makes me sick -- especially when I see it in myself.
There were six other people killed in this travesty, amongst them, a 9 year old girl. For all I know, none of those people especially deserved to be shot at, and certainly not a child, and killed.
The thought entered my empty head; how many times have you written "so-and-so should be taken out and shot", and never once thought there might be someone sick and twisted enough to actually do it?
And what if you had written "Representative Giffords should be shot", and some deranged douchebag took that as a command, and went out and did it? Wouldn't you be just as responsible as the asshole who pulled the trigger? This thought has tormented me all day. I've been especially stupid and careless about this, and I should know better. I'm so ashamed of myself right now.
I'm going to be a whole lot more careful about such things in the future. I am so sorry. I would give the usual bromides about my thoughts and prayers going out to all the victims, but it would be bullshit; I don't pray, and my sympathy doesn't change anything. All I can say is that the guilt I feel for being an irresponsible prick will change at least one thing, hopefully for the better, and that is Me and my cavalier attitude towards suggesting violence as a sick joke.
As for the (a?) shooter, it appears that once again, we have someone with serious problems. His problems are probably well-known to his family and friends, and just in case they missed it, he was at least confused and angry enough to advertise them on MySpace. It's been suggested the shooter has had brushes with law enforcement before, and was rejected for military service as being "unfit", with no explanation of just what exactly that means.
I'm guessing it had nothing to do with flat feet.
There are millions more where this guy came from, too, and it's a sad commentary on our society. I've advocated on behalf of the mentally ill here many times before, usually after a similar incident, and I will do so again because it bears repeating.
I cannot, and will not, condone what this young man did today; he took the lives of six people, including an innocent child, and changed the lives of hundreds more. The wounded, the witnesses, the families of his victims, and perhaps even his own family, and this is something I find too terrible to contemplate. I know first-hand how a life can be affected by senseless violence (I've personally witnessed 3,000 people burned to death, crushed or vaporized, or leaping to their deaths), and whenever such things happen I can feel it in the pit of my stomach.
Every time there's a Columbine, a Virginia Tech, a Discovery Channel Eco-terrorist, the same story plays out about the gunman; he's a lunatic, people know he's a lunatic, heck, even the authorities know he's a lunatic....and he's walking the streets, his fuse lit. There never seems to be any help for these people before they do something destructive, and afterwards we sit here and scratch our heads, wondering why did this happen?
It happens because we don't care. Or it happens because we do care, but can't deal with reality. It happens because for all the talk about better Healthcare in this country, the one area where we can't do a damned thing right is with the mentally ill. We can pass bills so that the lazy, halt and lame can get free angioplasty and then go back out and gorge themselves on ice cream. We can "reform" Medicare so that the richest generations of retirees are spared the inconvenience of paying for overpriced prescription drugs that don't even pretend to do what they advertise they will, and cause 72 unwanted side-effects. We can argue about whether people should get End-of-Life counselling, or whether it's a good idea to perform double-lung transplants on unrepentant smokers. We cry a river of tears over the effects of (self-inflicted) obesity, and throw tons of money at a Healthcare system that can keep us alive long past the time when most of us will be useful and productive....for what, exactly?
You can get a gastric bypass, and insurance will cover that. You can be wheeled into an emergency room in cardiac arrest, and someone will work feverishly to save your life, even if you can't pay. But what happens when you're schizophrenic? What happens when you sit in darkened rooms, rocking back-and-forth and muttering under your breath to no one in particular? What happens when The Voice tells you that so-and-so is the Anti-Christ? what happens when your erratic behavior is a visible plea for help, and no one lifts a finger?
No one wants to know you then. No one seems to know what to do. So, they leave you alone. Maybe, they think, you'll work it all out by yourself. Maybe they refuse to get you some help, because it would reflect badly on themselves. There's a stigma attached. If, by some chance, you manage to get into some scrape with the authorities, they'll send you to the local loony bin....and then let you out on the flimsiest of pretexts because it's too expensive to treat you, and budgets are tight.
Whenever legislators need to "cut the fat" in their budgets, where do you think they go first? Do the mentally ill advocate for themselves? Do they hold demonstrations, and get air time on FoxNews or MSNBC? Even if they did, wouldn't you dismiss them as a bunch of crazy people, not worth paying attention to? You want to talk about real discrimination; try going through the rest of your life with the label "mental patient", even "ex-mental patient".
Fifteen months of debate, or hemming-and-hawing, of flimsy math, of unflattering truths and outrageous lies over Obama Care, and not once did I ever hear anyone say "mental health", except in the context of making it easier for people to pay for their anti-depressants (because Big Pharma is gouging them, you see), most of which are complete crap, and that the majority of people who take them don't really need.
You know what I learned with six-plus years of therapy and a slew of anti-depressants? That most people are absolutely full of shit, most are dumber than a sack of hammers, and so enamored of themselves that when others don't recognize their"specialness", they run right to a douchebag with a Psychology degree, handing out pills like they were Pez at $400 for the 45-minute hour, and never telling them the painful truth about themselves: you feel bad because you really suck, you selfish twit. Life isn't fair, and no one owes you anything, so stop whining and learn to make better decisions.
When someone is really mentally ill, and I mean hearing-voices-visions-of-angels-and-demons-full-batshit-insane-howling-at-the-moon-mentally-ill, they suddenly become invisible.
At least until they indiscriminately shoot someone. Usually, a lot of someones. The cycle repeats itself continually, and still, nothing changes; we grieve, we make speeches, we erect monuments to the dead, and have our Oprah Moment. In a few months, someone else who's parents are afraid to admit it, or too embarrassed by their son's issues, the Mental Health professionals who do nothing but push pills and suck cash from your insurance company, the "Authorities" who can't afford to keep a whacko, and can't wait to let 'em lose, will go off, and dozens, hundreds of more lives will be destroyed or altered.
If there's anything good that come out of the murders of six people, and the wounding of several more, it is this: the high profiles of the victims, and the disgusting thought of a little girl taken before her time, just might...might...finally be the event that changes everything, and causes us to re-evaluate how we think, as a society, about how we treat those who are ill and capable of this sort of violence.
I, for one, learned a slew of incredibly valuable lessons today, most that shouldn't ever have needed to be taught. I'm going to be a whole lot more careful about what I write, and how I write it, because I don't want this sort of thing on my conscience, and I never want to be the reason why it has happened.
I probably won't be blogging for a few days, because I feel absolutely filthy and disgusted with myself at the moment.