Photo from Mount Royal, Frisco, Colorado.

"That is happiness; to be disolved into something complete and great. When it comes to one, it comes as naturally as sleep." - Willa Cather

Sunday, 16 December 2012

Can't keep my mouth shut

Counterintuitive as it seems, living abroad has made me more patriotic. I love the United States: it's beauty, it's originality and probably most of all, it's human diversity. It is a country that has had enormous successes and has such potential to effect positive change.

When I read on Friday what had happened in Connecticut, I was filled with such an extreme sadness. For a moment, I imagined Rasmus and me losing Christian. What would we do? What could we say? I am sure all the moms who read this blog went through this.

Immediately I thought "HOW could this happen AGAIN?" The problem with me is, I expect everyone in the world to look at things like I do - and they don't.

(as I read somewhere about America -  one guy in an aiport had a bomb in his shoe and everyone removes their shoes before boarding a plane; 31 school shootings since Columbine and nothing changes)

I posted something on Facebook about gun control and universal psychiatric care and I lost 14 friends. I couldn't sleep because it had never occurred to me how much I would offend people.

And yet, I continue here.

Can someone please tell me why ít is legal for Americans to buy automatic rifles like those used in Afghanistan? And why, last week, did Michigan legalize carrying concealed weapons in schools? I keep trying to look at it from the point of view of those who want to own guns, but I don't get it. Yet I guess I think like a Dane. I live in a country where possessing a weapon like that or bringing a gun in a school is incomprehensible. But have I become so close-minded in my safe haven that I can't understand the view point of my old grade school friends? Have I changed so much?

Then again, America, why not make owning a home nuclear bomb legal? - then we can all wonder why half of the state of New York disappears when a psychopath gets a hold of one.

But enough on that.

There is something else that I can't let go of. The killer: Adam Lanza. Before we knew anything about him, we knew he was a psychopath. People keep talking about "Aspergers", yet it seems he had no official diagnosis, despite seeming psychiatrically ill to pretty much everyone who knew him. Why are psychiatric illnesses so stigmatizing that no teachers ever referred him for care? What if psychiatric care were free and available to all like it is in Denmark? I can't help but wondering.

Forgive me, but I NEED to pose these questions otherwise I will never forgive myself. I would never forgive myself if I didn't fight for what I believe in and one of my children is killed when we move to the US.

We all believe different things. The most important thing is we stand up for what we believe in, even if we fear it might offend others because it's "political".  No democracy is healthy if its citizens don't stand up for what they believe.


Lisa said...

Those are important questions to ask! If we had the answers, we wouldn't be talking about a mass shooting of babies (and teachers) in CT.

Keep asking....

cherelli said...

Many outside of the US ask these exact same questions SLG - realistically why should ANYONE other than a farmer on land threatened by wild animals - be allowed to have a gun??? NO other person of a populations (barring I guess the police) should have access to a gun. Also in these circumstances I question the media's role. Every time there is a mass shooting they devote DAYS to the topic, sensationalising and dissecting to the nth degree just to keep people tuned if you then have a kid with psychological issues observing this amount of attention and wanting some of their own, well.....there's plenty of resources now out there thanks to the media. Truly, for an "advanced" country in so many other ways, the US is particularly backward with their heads in the sand on issues such as gun control and attitudes towards change.

PiccolaPineCone said...

i don't understand where the controversy is iun what you are saying. these are important and good questions to be asking.

sea legs girl said...

PPC- if there were no controversy, BIG changes would have been made a long time ago.

Rebecca said...

As a current US resident with definitive plans to eventually leave this country, I completely agree with what you've said. There's a sick irony in the passing of the Michigan law just before this horrible tragedy. And the issue of mental health care is absolutely a major factor. Yet who are the ones against universal health care? Often that discourse comes from the same place as the pro-guns rights b.s.

The argument, for anyone who's levelheaded enough to not understand it or has never heard it from an American, is that gun ownership is a "right" and any government infringement on that "right" is an overstepping of gov't boundaries, a threat to people's "liberty", a way to leave Americans powerless in the fact of (real or perceived) danger or violence. The solution, from this side, is simply to make arms MORE available so that everyone can defend themselves. It's an argument I hear from members of my own family and it makes me sick. The answer to gun problems is NOT to give everyone a gun!

Perhaps the biggest practical issue for reform is that the right to bear arms is written into the constitution, making it extremely difficult to effect change, there's so much legal red tape involved.

Furthermore, and I've read a few investigative articles on this, it is astoundingly easy to acquire guns, legally or illegally. The problem is so huge that I cannot even wrap my brain around what it would take to get it under control. Maybe since Obama doesn't have to worry about re-election he can make a move on it and not worry about pissing anyone off.

phew! I'll end my rant. I'm going to have to keep my mouth shut about it while I'm home for the holidays so I've had to get it off my chest this way!

pernille said...

14 friends lost?
What's that in terms of percentage of your US friends?

On one hand, I'm shocked and feel a bit guilty for my potential contribution to upsetting your friends (by making a remark on correlations and thinking, which in hindsight could be interpreted as arrogant) .
On the other, if people in a democratic state cannot tolerate a debate on how to avoid or at least down scale these tragic events.

That scares me most of all.

That and the graphic in your post.

This is so much more than just a "loonies shooting at a school problem".

Meghan said...

I am American.

The US is a sick country. We have many ailments. Most of us here, in some way, understand that. It's, in my opinion, because we are losing the ability to decipher between personal beliefs and fact.

What infuriates me most is that, amongst a demonstration of how many problems we have, people stay so tied to their personal belief systems. They think what they believe is truth. Precisely, I have never been more angry than I am at people who are preaching, "Guns don't kill people. People kill people." Fact is, FACT is (Two mass shootings in one week are two factual examples of this.), people with guns kill people, no matter what people BELIEVE is true.

None of this is to say that taking guns out of Americans' hands will solve our violence problem. Our issues are deeper and multifaceted. But fact shows us that this is part of our problem.

What pernille said, that it's most scary to observe people living in a supposed democratic state who have no ability to debate, I couldn't agree more. Humans, if we are the evolved, advanced species we think we should be/are, should we not be able to throw up belief systems, even if it's so hard to do, to learn about truth?

Allison Chapple said...

I saw your Facebook comments and am baffled why they were controversial???!!!! Youve said many outrageous things ( ;) ) but that was not one of them

I am a mental helth professional and agree with you 100%.

Allison Chapple said...

Oh, and btw - this is my other blog , not The Chapple's

Anonymous said...

I am American and a mother and I find this sickening especially since it's so close to home (I'm in New England). There's this idea that random killings can't be avoided and I think it's true. However, making it more difficult to get guns or certain kinds of guns (assault rifles for civilians--really?) would decrease the human toll of such a tragedy.

Think of the math. 26 people dead. This guy was no cia sniper so he likely fired in excess of 100 rounds to hit that many people. Why does any civilian need access to that kind of weapon? Not for self defense or hunting.

I know I'm not from the "real America" where everyone loves guns but I know people who hunt and use guns for sport and they're for gun control also. I don't relate to American's outside of the liberal northeast I guess.

Karen said...

I didn't delete you as a friend, but the problem I had (and noticed one other said the same thing) with your Facebook post was the timing. Not one hour after the shooting, you had your post up. Most people hadn't even heard about it. It was shocking and heartbreaking for all of us, no matter if we knew someone there personally or not...and at a time like that, your post seemed insensitive.

I agree that something needs to change in both areas. All the pros I see to owning guns pertains to rifles and hand guns, not assault rifles. It shouldn't be legal to own mass destruction weapons. Ever.

I think that as long as mental illness is stigmatized as it is (I have a BiPolar family member, so I know how truly uninformed people can be), a lot of people will go untreated. Further education in this area is key.

Did you hear about the plans for another school shooting in Bartlesville, Oklahoma? One student was planning a mass killing and tried recruiting classmates, one of them told school officials. Kid is now in jail waiting trial.

Seems like a simple solution: speak up when something makes you feel uneasy. It's a good place to start anyway, no?

maria said...

While much of what's coming in on my FB feed on this issue is a total embarassment, reading the New York Times comments on articles about the shooting has been mostly heartening. There are (many?) Americans who support very restrictive gun controls, some even suggesting prohibiting anyone but military and police to carry guns.

I hope we can get politically motivated enough to change. But with Obama saying things like "now is the time for grief, not politics" (um, WRONG), I'm not sure that anything will happen.

Good post.

SteveQ said...

I had to check: you still have twice as many Facebook friends as I do; you're just cutting out some of the deadwood.

Frankly, I'm surprised that this particular shooting has got so much press compared to some others. Maybe that's because I don't have kids (well, just to keep PPC guessing, maybe I do).

Ana-Maria RunTriLive said...

If you lost friends because of openly talking about an important topic, well, maybe they were not friend you wanted to keep anyway.

I completely agree about gun control. The congress has stopped a gun controlled bill for a long time now....people blame Obama, but he can't change things on his own. Lanza killed with his parent's guns which he took from their house. He could not have killed that many people had he only had a knife.

ABout mental illness. It is easy to say in restrospect that Adam Lanza was a psychopath, but from what I read, there were no clear signs of that. Many kids are quorky, have aspbergers or other typically mild conditions and do not go and kill people. We are not very good at predicting violence. There is stigma, sure, but there is also a 3-6 months wait list if someone wants to see me for therapy. And because of this, I am also going to be picky about who I get in my practice. This is just the truth.

This is a serious and complex issue. The gun control seems as a logical first step. The mental health issues are more complicated. WE need money for research on predicting violence and we need better access to mental health. We also need better programs for kids who do show signs of violent behavior that makes parents feel threatened; therapy is not enough here. In the current system, there is no place for these kids but jail (if they commit a felony).

Stationary Runner said...

That's a really good point about the shoe situation at the airport... Or how about the way they started installing those new x-ray machines that strip us of our privacy and expose us to extra radiation? I don't recall Congress even being involved in that decision. It seemed to happen very suddenly and no-one really listened to public complaints.

So the fact that we can't even ban automatic assault rifles for public use seems... illogical. If nothing comes of this, I don't know if anything can change it.

I am so anti-gun. I will not allow my kid to play with even the most innocuous-looking toy gun, nor is he allowed to watch TV shows that involve guns. Where I live, people think I am such a bleeding heart liberal for this, and they've told me it would be better for my son to understand guns and know how to use them properly. Uh, no.

This is one of those things where I don't understand the "other side" of the argument at all. We do not need guns, unless we are hunting. You want to hunt, fine. But other than that, no.

Anonymous said...

Am I the only person confused by the graphic?? Everyone keeps positing it - but how old is it really? West Germany hasn't existed for a while.

(Maybe I'm just missing something....)

sea legs girl said...

Cherelli- my only problem with blaming "the media" is that it takes attention from (the most important issue) gun control. Here in Denmark half of the movies and tv are American and it doesn't seem to have changed anything here, so I have to wonder. I chose not to watch Morgan Freeman's talk since I was so pissed off when I saw he blamed "the media". Ok, another rant. I still love you ;o).

sea legs girl said...

Karen- yeah I did hear about that planned shooting in Oklahoma AND the shooting in the mall in Portland on Monday. Things are a wreck right now!

I certainly did not know about the Newtown shooting less than an hour after it happened!! It was 2pm over there when I read about it and it happened at 9am. I guess I don't understand why the number of hours is so important!?

sea legs girl said...

"deadwood", Steve Q. Seriously, I could not stop laughing.

sea legs girl said...

Anna Maria- I just have to say that there is no way Adam Lanza had only Aspergers. It takes a psychosis to kill kindergarteners, and that is not part of Aspergers. I hope you wouldn't turn someone like him away who had never had a single friend. This kid was not just and Axis II, let's put it that way. But there is a lot we will never know about him.

sea legs girl said...

Stationary Runner, just to rub on the irony even thicker - they actually DO regulate TOY guns in the US, just not the real ones ;D.

sea legs girl said...

Anon- I was similarly confused and almost wrote a caption about "West Germany" then non-country, but it became bigger than the graphic. Anyway, I assume they had statistics only from the former West Germany, but it is quite a funny detail!!

Tango Zulu Imports said...

For what it's worth, Morgan Freeman says he didn't make the statement being attributed to him all over Facebook, so you can still watch his movies! The graphic is also a bit misleading because it doesn't account for population. Gun deaths per capita is a more honest measure. That said, we clearly have horrific problems in the U.S., and I think this is a defining moment for us.

sea legs girl said...

That is fun information, Tango! Thanks. And what a relief. Life without Driving Miss Daisy is no kind of life :-).

Tango Zulu Imports said...

Morgan Freeman and wanky graphic aside, I completely agree with your overall stance. I want to do something and don't know where to begin, and it's very frustrating. We need strong leadership on this, but the national politicians have been oh-so-silent so far (excepting Bloomberg and Feinstein and a few others.) The NRA has been silent too. It's like an eery standoff where they are all holding their breath waiting to see how upset the public really is. ~ Tracy Zhu

Diana said...

I know what you mean about being more patriotic now that you live abroad. I love America most of the time, but I loathe gun control arguments.

I completely agree that gun control needs a lot of reform. After surrounding myself with liberal, academic friends for years and moving to the Netherlands, it's a wonder that I believe people should be able to own firearms at all. I don't know, maybe it's because I did some hunting with my dad as a kid and can respect those who understand correct firearm safety and usage, but I do firmly believe that Americans have the right to own certain firearms. That being said, there is absolutely no reason on the face of the planet that a civilian should be allowed to own a semi-automatic assault rifle or have access to certain types of ammunition or magazines that can hold more than a few bullets. It angers me that there is so little regulation for firearms. And don't get me started on concealed carry laws. Grr.

I also agree that there need to be some frank discussions about the state of mental healthcare in America. You asked why Lanza was never referred for an evaluation. It's possible that he was referred, but it's ultimately up to the parent to agree to have a child tested. My mom has been an elementary school teacher for years, and she has told me that parents are often hesitant or flat out refuse to have their children evaluated for learning disabilities/psychological disorders. I don't know if the stigma of mental illness would dissipate if mental healthcare treatments were free, but it would be a good way to start.

I'm sorry that you lost some "friends" on Facebook. Maybe they just weren't up to the task of debate. You're right, these issues need to be discussed and channeled into real legislative change. I hope all the internet and media chatter brings about some real good.

Kate said...

As far as I'm concerned, you should not keep your mouth shut. No one should. Only by keeping this topic alive in discourse will real change occur -- Congress needs to see that everybody is serious this time, finally.
Judging by my FB friends, this shooting may have been the straw to break the camel's back. The moms in particular are fed up, myself included. Go angry moms! (I'm sure the dads must be, too, but for some reason are less vocal on my feed.)
Anyway, you should definitely read Kristoff's NYTimes article comparing gun regulation and car regulation in the U.S. -- very interesting and persuasive.
I also thought this article was enlightening.

SteveQ said...

Today the NRA came out with a statement that the solution to the problem is posting armed guards at all schools. Now I'm angry.

sea legs girl said...

Kate - thank you for the article. I have actually been doing quite a bit of reading lately about Aspergers and Autism, but still found the article to be an interesting read.


sea legs girl said...

Steve, there was like this 0.0005% chance you were joking. So I checked the NY Times and what is the headline? Are they joking??? What a mess. I am kind of sick of being mad, so I am moving to sad now.

Ana-Maria RunTriLive said...

SLR - I did not say AL had Aspergers. I said that many kids have it. I said it is easy to look back and say, yes, he was a psychopath, but there was no indication that he was. He did have friends and was part of a nerdy computer type league. People who knew him had no idea. It bothers me when everyone seems to be an expert at diagnosing after the fact. Read any scientific article and you will see that we do not know how to predict violence. My main point was that having the guns in the house when you ahve kids is a huge mistake. With or without mental illness, the brains of 20 y olds are not fully developed yet (particularly executive functioning).
With regard to my practice, I would never take on a psychopath bc I have no experience with severe mental illness bc I chose not to specialize in it. Psychologists do not have enough support in working with severe mental illness, at least in the US. I hope this clarifies bc I think you missed the point of my comment:)

Anonymous said...