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Misinformation 101

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

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.

 

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Part II of Why I Don’t Like Mondays – Mental Illnesses and Disabilities and Mass Killings

Walking a tight rope.   Image courtesy of chanpipat/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Walking a tight rope. Image courtesy of chanpipat/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

It’s all just a question of crazy.  What makes someone snap and do it?  How is a single murder less horrifying than a mass murder?  Can we argue the point that anyone who can make the move to kill another person is in some way mentally ill?  Why do we feel the need to classify and explain? 

We need to see killers as different than us, as out of our mainstream.  Because then we can wave our hands and do our magic and pretend it’s not us, it can never be us.  But here’s the thing.  It is us.  It’s always us.

So my son is 10.  And autistic.  Does he sometimes respond violently due to frustrations?  Yes.  Like any 3 or 4 year old would because that’s where he is.  But being bigger, he’s more dangerous.  We do all we can to mitigate and fix the situation, but do we have to worry about this forever?  Yup.  Hopefully something will work sooner or later, or maybe we’ll have a break-through and he’ll learn to communicate instead of pinching and squeezing.  Maybe.  Maybe not.

He’s different.  And, to be 100% honest, he may be dangerous.  But who isn’t?  Who’s normal?  Who’s safe?

“Normal” and “safe” people snap all the time.  Being diagnosed as different doesn’t mean that we should be more or less afraid – we should just be aware.  Aware that everyone has the potential to go in any direction and making assumptions doesn’t help anything, doesn’t fix anything, and doesn’t change anything that’s happened. 

After the school shooting in Connecticut, groups had to come forward to tell others to not blame autism for the shooting because there was a report that perhaps – perhaps! – the shooter might have been somewhere on the autistic spectrum

He might have also had other conditions, as well.  But everyone focused on his disabilities and tried to blame them; they were his reason for snapping.  They made it happen.

But let’s look at this again.  It anyone capable of violence somehow different or disabled or mentally unstable?  Or are we all there, on an edge we don’t even recognize, ignoring what’s staring us in the face every time we look in the mirror and try to tell ourselves that it’s okay because it’s not us; it’s someone different.