Misinformation 101

Calm! by Pennywise http://morguefile.com/archive/display/178142
Calm! by Pennywise

Reading through the paper, I came across an article that I just had to take issue with.  My issue is that it spends the first three paragraphs seeming to imply that those with mental disorders or disabilities (including such “diagnoses” as being “socially awkward” and having anxiety”) are more likely to snap and go on a school shooting spree.

The title is that there is “no simple formula to identify dangerous people,” but then the first three paragraphs review three people and incidents.  Scary! Scary! “Those” people are dangerous!

Except…except that in the fifth paragraph, the article says – for those who have bothered reading that far – that “attempts at profiling run the risk of misidentifying individuals who may only be suffering from depression or a behavioral disorder.”  In fact, the article went on to say, “only a third of the attackers had received a mental health evaluation” and “most of the shooters – whose ages ranged from 11 to 21 – came from two-parent families, socialized with mainstream students, had no history of violent or criminal behavior, and had never or rarely been in trouble at school.”  Basically, there is no way to predict that those people would commit those atrocities.

So why the seeming subterfuge?  Why spend the beginning – the part that’s most likely to be read – giving the idea that there is something “at fault” with these people?

Well, I hate to keep harping on it (no, I don’t), but once again, it’s that need to separate ourselves.  The need to make sure that anyone capable of such acts isn’t “one of us.”  As was repeated over and over in an episode of Life:  “There’s us.  And there’s them.  Us.  Them.  Us.  Them.”

We like that division.  But it isn’t real.

I remember one evening about 20 years ago, around 6 p.m., my at-the-time-boyfriend-and-now-husband and I were going out on a date.  We were driving down the main drag of my town, over by the train station that everyone commuting to New York rode out of and into daily, and this guy, carrying a briefcase and wearing a suit, was walking down the road, obviously one of the previously mentioned commuters.  Then, he stumbled a little and started to jog.  Then run. All the while pulling at his tie, shedding his jacket, and first muttering then yelling, “I just can’t take it anymore!”

And it scared me.  Because it hit me: we’re all on that edge of not taking it anymore.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m not saying that I feel myself on that edge now.  I don’t think I’m going to run down the street, stripping off my clothes and screaming.  It’s just that I accept that it could happen.  And for some people, it does happen.  And we should know that and accept that and be less judgmental of those who seek help to fix their problems and try to find help for those who need help and don’t know it.



The Fear

“The Fear” by Pulp
This is the sound of someone losing the plot –
making out that they’re okay when they’re not.

You’re gonna like it, but not a lot
and the chorus goes like this:
Oh baby, here comes the fear again.
The end is near again.
A monkey’s built a house on your back…
and here comes another panic attack
Oh here we go again.


My son is ten.  But if you ask him how old he is, you may have a fifty-fifty chance that he will tell you that.  Instead, he may say he is six.  Or he may say he is good.  Or he’ll just stare at you and repeat something from an episode of Blue’s Clues or Dora the Explorer. He sort of knows his address.  And he does know his name.  But he’s autistic, and we have no idea if he will ever be able to answer those questions correctly all the time or get along by himself.  Yes, it’s a fear.  But it’s something that we have to deal with.  And it’s something we will continue to deal with.

But there’s another fear.  And it’s one that was made very clear in a story on CNN yesterday.  In Tennessee, the mother of a nineteen-year-old woman with a severe mental disability decided that she couldn’t deal with her daughter anymore, and she dropped her off at a rural bar to use the bathroom.  Then drove off and left her there.  The girl couldn’t share her name, her address, or any information.  Doctors who examined her discovered that she had a vocabulary of only 30 to 40 words.  When the police finally tracked down the mother, she told them that she “could not and would not” care for her daughter. So the nineteen-year-old has been put into a home because she is unable to even care for her basic personal needs.  She is supposedly “doing fantastic.”

Now let’s get back to the fear.

What’s life going to be like in nine years for us?  Where will Simon be?  As a nineteen-year-old, what will he be capable of?  What will he be able to do?  Will we be at the end of our ropes, wanting to leave him at a bar to be put into a home?

No, I don’t think that’s what will happen.  I can’t imagine any scenario that would have me doing that.  But it’s happened.  It’s out there, circulating in the air that we breathe and the world we live in.  Someone felt so alone, so overwhelmed, that she decided that her best possible option was abandoning her daughter.  She couldn’t have known that the outcome would be good.  What if no one helped her?  What if she had just wandered off,  got hit by a car?  Died of exposure or some other issue?  Are we back in ancient Greece where we pierce a baby’s heels and leave them on a hillside?  Because, while this girl may be 19, she was, for all intents and purposes, a baby.

There’s no way for me to know what drove that mother to toss her “baby” by the roadside, and all I can do is try to make sure that the same thing never happens to me or anyone I know.  And maybe if everyone else goes around with the same mindset, it won’t happen again ever.