Felicia Muftic: No easy answers in wake of Tucson shooting
Grand County, CO Colorado
It hit me in the pit of my stomach when I heard about the shooting of a congresswoman by a disturbed individual who took six innocent lives. Everyone who has ever been in media, in high-profile positions – whether in show business, sports, or politics on the local or national level – realize irrational and unanticipated or unpreventable acts by disturbed individuals happen.
The first reaction is to cast blame. The next is to devise some way to prevent a similar event from ever happening again. The latter is the hardest to construct, but there is still much we can do by taking our own personal responsibility.
There seems to be a streak somewhere in the human genome the produces insane behavior by some who see violent acts as a way to get revenge for a perceived wrong. Mass killers do it in a method guaranteed to bring attention to their actions.
Yes, the insane “become unhinged,” as Dick Armey, the political operative associated with the Tea Party movement, said.. But I disagree with him that absolves us of any guilt.
Our media and pop culture dramatize the fantasies of violent outlets for personal and societal rage. Our politicians use metaphors of gun violence to make a point of how full of anger they feel. Others present conspiracy theories based on abstract deductive reasoning as fact, when little evidence exists.
We have inadvertently oiled the loose hinges of the paranoid and schizophrenics. There are other words and expressions that can be used to illustrate the depth of our feelings. We should use them.
My husband, a refugee from Communism, reacted to the political finger-pointing that followed the news: ” Here it comes … restrictions on my Second amendment rights to carry a gun and someone ought to muzzle the rabble rousing, red meat throwing talkers and political fellow travelers of both parties.”
“Who should muzzle whom? The government?” I asked.
“No,” he said. “Talk show hosts and journalists and bloggers ought to take responsibility themselves to watch their tongues, and the government ought to be more alert to those who may be a threat so that those threatened can take preventative and defensive action.”
As usual, he put his finger on the difficulty of the solutions.
What we parents, politicians, and media types can do is to take personal responsibility to be careful how we present our points and use analogies. We can also be aware of danger signals … including alarming postings on the internet. We should bring them to the attention of authorities. We can also support funding, information, and services for mental health treatment.
Initial reports are that the shooter could have had psychiatric intervention before he exploded. What would have happened if his parents had acted differently when learning of his problems? The community college could have alerted authorities off campus that he presented a threat to others, and those who read his writings on the internet could have done more than just to ignore him and had alerted law enforcement.
Arizona laws permit this kind of intervention, and no one took advantage of it, some in the name of protecting the young man’s personal rights. This episode may be a teachable moment for us all.
Referring someone who appears to be a threat to others to professionals is only part of the issue. Widely recognized is the inadequacy of our mental health care system. The movement to deinstitutionalize the mentally ill in the mid-1970s resulted in a woefully underfunded public community-based health system.
Mental health services have not been equally covered by medical insurance, and charity services struggle for their share of donated dollars. At least the health care reform law will cover mental health services much as medical services are covered. What we can do is to support funding for mental health services so that the system is available, effective and accessible.
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