COMMENTARY | In the wake of the horrible shooting at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, there has been a lot of blame thrown around as to what caused Adam Lanza to snap, load of an arsenal of weapons, and go slay 20 children and six adults. The blame has disproportionately focused on the guns themselves, the violence coming out of Hollywood, video games, the mental health system, and a few others. Yet no one in America wants to address the issues that drive this kind of tragedy in a realistic way.
Yes, all of the above issues probably had a role to play in the tragedy and anyone who realistically thinks that this event will change anything should just march down the yellow brick road to the magic forrest where we all use lollypop slingshots to hunt us a unicorn. Hollywood is not going to get less bloody, video games are going to continue to promote death, and banning every single assault weapon in America is going to have about as much an effect on violence as blaming the chocolate chip for the obesity epidemic.
Here are five issues that people really need to open up a discussion about if they truly want these types of events to stop.
1. The Public Health System
Focusing on the state of our mental health system while ignoring the larger role of public health is like focusing on the gunpowder while ignoring the bullet, the gun, and the shooter (pun intended). The public health system in America is in a horrible state. People are going broke to pay medical bills, people avoid going to the doctor for checkups, and the worst part of the system is that people are almost entirely dependent on their place of employment to determine if their families are going to be taken care of.
Realistically, a person who sees their doctor a few times a year for checkups and the availability of treatment regardless of your age or socioeconomic status is a surefire way to identify those among us that may have some level of mental issues. You see, doctors are trained to spot warning signs in people during their 8 YEARS of medical school. When giving checkups, doctors look for outside influences that may be effecting people’s state of mind and body as a way to offer the treatment and health options. This can be said for a lot of professions, but the health system in America is the most prominent because it is the one area of wellness that is still completely in the hand of for-profit corporations.
Here is where you can just move down to the comments section to see all the people who are going to jump on me saying “President Obama’s health care law is going to change all of that, now everyone will have healthcare”. Actually people, you couldn’t be more wrong. With the entire debate focusing on the Obamacare fiasco, there is only one thing that is completely clear. Obamacare will give everyone access to healthcare, but, for most people, it will still be way too expensive to utilize. Most people will just pay the yearly fine and move on, a little more pissed off at the government for providing them with nothing and taking just a little bit more of their money.
The most obvious part of my argument is that the bill, with its trillions of dollars in spending, has earmarked effectively NOTHING for new doctors, hospitals, Drug Rehabilitation facilities, and even mental health services. Do you really think that if the bill was expecting millions of people to join the ranks of the “insured” that they would earmark a couple of bucks to handle the influx of new patients? The government allocated $1.2 BILLION dollars to Salt Lake City to cover the costs of the Olympic Games in 2002. This was to handle to huge crunch of people descending on one city for a couple of weeks, not for tens of millions of people joining a system that is already more costly than anywhere else in the civilized world.
So next time you get your Facebook statuses in a bunch over some tragedy that happens because of one lunatic, we really need to investigate the way we treat people before they snap and not after.
Which leads us to…
2. The Public Education System
Our school system in America is the one example of a completely socialized system where the long arm of capitalism rarely reaches in. The teachers, buildings and supplies are all paid for with our tax money, and the results have been painfully pathetic.
We spend more per pupil than almost any other country when it comes to our schools. We even do a decent job of preparing those students who will excel in any environment into the next level of their lives. Yet, in America, those that lie on the fringes are painfully ignored as they progress from the ranks of “troubled youth” to full fledged criminals and psychos. Instead of nurturing the talents of the students and making sure those that do have learning disabilities and mental issues are properly prepared for society, we just push them towards a goal that they will never be able to reach and ignore them. Schools have seen their vocational budgets slashed beyond any form of effectiveness and the only barometer used to measure education is the student’s ability to get into college after they graduate. It has become very Un-Politically correct to say that not everyone is destined to go to college, but that is because people make that argument based on gender or race. I am saying that not only is everyone not meant to go to college, not everyone WANTS to go to college.
I knew a girl in High School who drove a BMW from the day she turned 17, and, when people would inquire as to what bank her father worked for, those in the know would whisper that she was a “Plumber’s Daughter.” They didn’t say this with the disgust that you would expect from telling you that her father is knee deep in poop for most of his day. They said this with the reverence usually reserved for astronauts and basketballs players.
You see, what they knew then was that being a good plumber pays a fortune! You don’t need a college degree or calculus to do it, but it is very rewarding both professionally and financially. Yet, if you suggest to a student that he try to study to become a plumber, it is treated the same as telling him he should just resign himself to be a fry cook at McDonald’s The horrible part about it is that trying to convince people who have no ability or interest in college that they need to prepare for it will almost guarantee that they will be working at McDonald’s after they graduate. That is a surefire formula for someone to snap.
3. The Stress of American Life
Look at most countries (notice I didn’t say Westernized countries because almost all countries have some level of these benefits). There are laws protecting maternity leave, vacation pay, pension funds, and a lot of other benefits that an employer must give you in order to make sure you stay at the top of your mental game. Sure, in America, most people have vacation days, but they feel that, if they use them, they may miss something at work that will make them expendable. Sure, women have the right to maternity leave, just not the right to be paid for it. While in almost all countries maternity time is paid, we needed a special law in America to get the leave at all. Now only a lucky few are able to be paid to recover from having a child and be there for them for the first few months of their lives.
What does this have to do with the Newton tragedy? A hell of a lot!
In America, no one gets the chance to unplug at all. We work ridiculous hours to support ridiculously indulgent lifestyles and are constantly told that asking for any time off or to ourselves is a sign that we are becoming weak and entitled. The word entitled itself has gotten such a bad rap that people recoil from the word as if it is the word SYPHILLIS. Unfortunately for everybody, we are entitled. We are entitled to a few days off every now and then. We are entitled to be treated with dignity and respect, and, most of all, we are entitled to not be pushed to the breaking point by society and then when we go off the deep end we lose our jobs, medical care, and all other forms of aid. Sure, we can go on food stamps and welfare and then get treated like a tick does when they attach themselves to the tail of a dog.
Even if Adam Lanza had all the money and support he would every need, he lived in a society where no one even has time to sit down and have a cup of coffee anymore and just expect that everyone will be able to adapt accordingly.
4. The Gun Culture
I know, I know, I was just complaining a minute ago how everyone was using the gun culture in America as a scapegoat to avoid the tough issues we face. I didn’t say I wasn’t a little bit of a hypocrite sometimes, but I digress. I do not mean that I want to take sides on the whole more guns/less guns argument. I am saying the fact that it is an argument at all is to blame and that is a unique argument here in America.
There are those among us who say that if the Bushmaster AR-15 assault rifle was banned this would never have happened. That is almost as ignorant as saying that if every school was protected by a full platoon of the 82nd airborne there would be no more violence in schools. I say to both: Would this have been better if he just used the handguns he had? How about if he made a bomb? Or lit a fire? Do we need lighter control to keep our kids safe?
On the other side of the coin, if we armed the entire school with rocket launchers to stop the Adam Lanzas, what are we going to do with our school buses? How about zoos? There are plenty of kids there. How about parks? Should we just make sure there are networks of super-armed humans everywhere to protect us? NEWSFLASH there already are. They are called the police. They are all over towns and patrolling constantly (even at schools) to try to stop bad guys. Do we need millions of more cops? America has five percent of the world’s population and 25 percent of the world’s prisoners so the cops are doing a pretty good job of locking people up, yet these things are still happening.
The problem is that we are making it our business to talk about guns as the problem instead of talking about the lunatics that get their hands on the guns/axes/bombs. The September 11th hijackers killed more than 3,000 people with a bunch of box cutters Since then, we have spent billions of dollars making sure every 92 year old Alzheimer’s patient in a wheelchair doesn’t have C-4 in their sneakers. Yet terrorists still find ways to kill people.
And the Adam Lanza’s of the world will still find a way to hurt people while we are still debating this pointless issue.
5. The Political/Media Culture in America
It has taken a while for us to get to this point, but we have now officially chosen sides in America. Fifty percent support the Democrats and 50 percent support the Republicans. I used to say the right and left, but there is really no more divide between the left and right anymore. Everyone supports the party line. For the next four years, America has two types of people: those that are for Obama and those that are against him. This is not Obama’s fault. He does happen to be a pretty polarizing figure but in my opinion it is because he exemplifies the problem we now have. Instead of doing, we talk about doing. Obama seriously considers himself a progressive because every time he wants to change something, he runs around the country giving speeches and getting people pissed off. Then he comes back to Washington and does precisely nothing. The Republicans are just as bad, if not worse. They just say as long as they don’t agree to anything it will stop Obama from ever getting to accomplish anything.
The one thing that both parties have in common is their relentless hatred of the other side. Remember the last time we got into a debate about gun control? It was right after some nut job shot congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and a whole bunch of other people. At the time, there was not a television screen to be found without a Democrat on it saying that if Republicans had just been less critical and hateful to all of them this lunatic would have never done what he did. These were the same people who just a few years earlier were camped out on the White house lawn calling George Bush a Nazi and saying he went to war and actually got Americans killed for oil.
You see, in America, we have lost the ability to sell people on the idea that what we are pushing is right, only that what the other guy is pushing is wrong. Tune on the television, log onto Facebook, or go anywhere and you will not hear people talking about the benefits of their solutions only about the flaws in their opponents. This leads us to hate our opponents instead of being able to work together towards a solution. How can you compromise with someone you just called a bigoted, racist and misogynist rape supporter and allow then to have any meaningful input into a debate or policy? If you accept some of their policies, doesn’t that then make you a bigoted, racist and misogynist rape supporter?
The media love to portray this type of disagreement between Americans because, let’s face it, people don’t tune into broadcasts of people getting along and working together. Controversy sells newspapers and the media love selling it.
When people are convinced that the entire world is going to hell and that things are not going to get any better, they tend to snap. Especially those among us that aren’t all there to begin with. Maybe if we tone it down a bit and work together on solutions, America will become a little less of a breeding ground for hostile loonies.
If not, at least we spent more than a trillion dollars last year on Defense so the 82nd airborne is ready to protect us all.