Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Three Things I'm Not Going to Write About This Week

A few things regarding the Virginia Tech mass murder that I’m not going to write about, and why.

The main, overarching reason why: 33 sets of family and friends suffered an overwhelming personal loss this week, not to mention the injured and the witnesses to this tragic event. It’s not really the time to grab this “news item” and run with it for one’s own purposes.

1. Gun control: every time one person shoots a whole lot of people in this country, gun control becomes a hot issue. Check your statistics for who dies of what in this country on a daily basis, then decide what to write to your congressman about.

Check our infant mortality statistics for example-- appalling, especially for an industrialized nation like the US: we’re on a par with some third world nations for infant death primarily because we don’t provide good prenatal care.

Why I’m not writing about gun control: It’s always an issue, April 16th didn’t change that.
Our most recent mass murderer apparently made bomb threats prior to the 16th, he rented a van..., he apparently set a dorm room on fire previously. The single largest mass murders in the US were conducted with box-cutters (9-11) and fertilizer bombs in a rental van. Another mass murder in the US was conducted with a gallon of gas (Happy Land Fire, NY, 87 deaths) The perpetrator was drunk and angry at his girlfriend. He didn't plan anything and he gave no warnings.

On the other hand if you’re a black male in Michigan between the ages of 15-34, you’re most likely to die by homicide than any other cause. Probably by gun, and this goes on every day, not in one headline grabbing day. That’s why I’m not writing about gun control relative to a single event this week.

2. “Why didn’t somebody prevent this?” Many people tried. A lot of people are probably going to get sued, possibly fired from their jobs. New policies will be instituted, maybe even on a nationwide basis.

Why I’m not pointing fingers of blame: We enjoy a lot of freedom of choice in this country and I don’t want that to go away.
Freedom and safety are always at odds with each other, at best we strike a balance. Individuals can always find a way to do great harm if they choose to. Fear can’t be allowed to overwhelm us to the point where we try to tightly control everyone. Easy for me to say right now-- all my family and friends are healthy and intact. That's another good reason for me not to write about this; let those most affected have their say first and foremost even if they are grieving and raging. All us spectators can pontificate later.

3. What about mental health issues? Yes, what about them-- your next door neighbor might be mentally ill. See the above about freedom versus safety. It might be true that we’re mostly concerned with the mentally ill when they grab weapons. But the most recent example of this was a guy who absolutely alienated everyone by his own choice, then blamed everyone but himself for it. He wasn’t the first mentally ill person to refuse treatment, and conversely there are a lot of folks who seek treatment but can’t find it or afford it if they do.

Why I’m not writing about this in relation to recent events: It’s a complicated issue involving personal freedom, the availability of care, the stigmatization of mental illness (depression being most common) and it bugs me that our recent “super villain” grabs the headlines when a lot of suffering people never get the attention that they need because their story isn’t spectacular and therefore “newsworthy”.

Last night we watched a KSBW news editorial from the management, and he really nailed it, covered a lot of the same points that I just did, including when he said something to the effect of “Capitalizing on this event for demagoguery or political agendas is innapropriate.”

Good thing I didn’t do that.

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