Saturday, March 27, 2021

Mass Shootings & Stigma

 In under the span of one week, two mass shootings occurred.

Eight victims lost their lives in one shooting; ten victims lost their lives in another.

One massacre appeared targeted, the other random.

Most victims in one in one shooting were of color, most victims in the other were not.

In both shootings, both gunmen were Caucasian.

One shooting may be terrorist or a hate crime, the other may be escalation from uncontrolled mental health issues.

In both shootings, the lives of multiple families were turned upside down.

In both shootings, a community was devastated and a county left stunned.

Again, two massacres leave us without answers.




Two tragedies occurred in less than one week's time. Two mass shootings. Eighteen lives have been lost. Eighteen families have been devastated. Many other people have been forever affected. They can never forget. Again, many tweet or post their condolences: "Thoughts and prayers for the families of the victims. Our hearts are broken." Again, many call for a moment of silence. Once more, we are asking "Why?" to a question that cannot be definitively answered. 

We live in a society where, to be frank, life has become cheap. In this age, people tend to turn to death to "take care of my problems." Instead of filing for divorce (which in itself points to some sort of failure), spouses may choose to "get rid of" a spouse by snuffing their lives out. Rather than reach out for help with alternatives, women go to places designed to "terminate the unwanted or unplanned pregnancy." Instead of turning to family, friends, or counselors for help, too many people desperately end their lives.

What is the cause of all this? It is complicated. Lack of available or affordable mental health services is a big issue. The legalization of abortion as a "right" has been a major factor. The glamorizing of violence, thanks to video games, some movies, and, more recently, the former President, have played major roles. It does not help that guns have become more widely available, even assault weapons meant for military, not civilians. Many people of faith would say that being driven by hate and rage is the main cause of all violence.

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The motive for one mass shooting appears to be rage and hate for one group. Authorities are still investigating this scenario, though proof of a hate crime appears doubtful. At least, they seem to struggle with proving a hate crime beyond a reasonable doubt. In the first shooting, six of the victims happened to be women of Asian descent. It took this shooting to make violence against Asian-Americans as a group, a topic of national conversation.

Our former President has stirred up much violence against Asian-Americans by calling COVID-19 "the China virus." He has repeated this phrase over and over. His inflammatory rhetoric created an atmosphere where those with implicit bases against those of Asian descent, feel empowered to attack them. Yet Asian-Americans tell us that violence or discrimination against them pre-dates the former President. But because of the former President's inflammatory rhetoric against any minority groups, he created an atmosphere where many people felt emboldened to act out their hate or rage.

Yes, I understand the frustration of many people with what is known as "identity politics." Often, it seems like many on the Left care more about representation in leadership positions than they do about finding the most qualified persons for positions. Certainly, those from protected minority groups can qualify for leadership positions like anyone else. Frequently, it seems like many on the Left act like racism and race relations define everything. However, most of those on the Right have ignored and even dismissed racism, especially systemic racism. Many on the Right need to pay much more attention to racism, including when it may motivate or fuel mass shootings.

stigma


The motive for the second mass shooting appears to be random. The shooter, according to authorities, has a history of "mental health issues." This raises the question of the stigma of mental illness. This happens in many crimes. Sadly, it seems the time mental health comes up as a topic is when a crime is committed. And the only measure toward those with mental illnesses often seems to be proposals to keep guns out of their hands. 

I cannot count all the times when mass shooters have been profiled as shy, quiet "loners" without social skills. One of the shooters was said to be diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome, which is no longer an official diagnosis, nor was it a mental illness then or now. (It was replaced with Autism Spectrum Disorders--ASD'S). Sadly, that was one of the rare times the media covered anything about Asperger's (then) or ASD'S (now). Yes, I know that, too often, mass killers and other violent criminals tend to fit the profile of the "quiet loner" who is actually a "ticking time bomb."

Sadly, the media tend to cover these senseless shootings and mental illness and related disorders like ASD'S, get mentions mainly when perpetrators are profiled. Yes, I realize that the media must cover these crimes and must do so accurately. They must focus on the victims and devastated communities. I get frustrated because they place far too little on prevention. And they place way too much stress on what to do when the crimes are committed, lives are lost and communities are traumatized. That is too late! 

Legislators, fund mental health services!
Lawmakers, work together to enact sensible gun safety laws!
Churches, help those who seem different feel welcome!
Young people, get into into the field of mental health!
Citizens, organize or participate in events for mental health and gun safety!
Pastors, address the root causes of violent crimes in your sermons and Bible studies!
Parents, make sure guns stay out of the hands of children!
Gun owners, takes responsibility for your guns!
Everyone, treat all suicide talk seriously! 
Everyone, reach out to the "loners" among us!


This is an article about gun violence in relation to school shootings. Read this article.

This is an well-researched article about gun safety and mental illness. Read article.

This article addresses gun violence and mental illness from a health perspective. Read article.

This article provides the timeline about the former President's long history of inciting hate and violence. Read article.

Hate crimes increased over 200 percent in 2016 alone. Read article.

According to this article, the former President and Western media are to blame for the surge in anti-Asian hate crimes. Read article.

Hate crimes surged 20 percent under Trump. Read article.

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