Sunday, December 16, 2012

Musings on Mass Shootings, Part 3: Being "Shocked"

I was chastised on FB for posting that I was not "shocked" or "surprised" about the shooting in Connecticut.

Things that happen all the time are not shocking. And, the more I've thought about it, the angrier I've gotten at everyone who has expressed "shock" at what happened.

When you say you are "shocked" about the shooting, you are feeding the myth that events like this are rare, unexpected, isolated events.

They are not.

Something that happens six times in one year is not rare. Gun deaths are not unexpected in this country. They happen so much, we don't even bother reporting them or talking about them half the time. When something big enough that it will make a good ratings-grabbing story happens, we plaster that all over the news (until something shinier comes along, which generally happens in a day or two). Dude, a bunch of little kids had something bad happen to them? Wow! People love that stuff!! Shove cameras and mics in some kindergartners'  faces STAT!! (I have purposefully avoided coverage of this story because, well, that coverage would be on the news, and I'm not playing their disgusting game, but given that this school was in Connecticut, I wager the majority of the people affected are, um, lighter-skinned, no? But that's another blog post.)

This was not something "shocking." It was something horrible. It was something tragic. 

But it was something that happens way too often.

We shouldn't be "shocked." Maybe the first few times, yeah. But by this point? If you're still "shocked," you're not paying attention, and I need you to pay attention.

By this point, you need to be enraged. You need to be outraged. And you need to DO something about it.

Holding yet another candlelight vigil isn't going to do anything. We've done those, nothing's changed.

Arguing about gun control isn't going to do anything either, because instead of talking about things, people start screaming about ridiculous extremes and we never talk about the actual issues, the actual problems, or the actual possible solutions. (Isn't it nice to know the reproductive rights debate isn't the only one who suffers from this particular ailment?)

Arguing about gun control isn't useful either because gun control (or lack thereof) isn't the only problem.

We need to talk about out attitude toward violence, particularly gun violence. What do we choose to put on TV? What do we choose to put in our movies? What do we put in magazines? What does our language reflect? What do our expressions reflect? How do we talk about violence?

We also seriously need to change how we talk about mental health. Can we please stop using "crazy" and "insane" as insults or pejoratives? Can we stop pinning "inspirational" crap about how if you're depressed you're holding on to your past instead of looking to your future, or that you're not praying enough? Can we stop telling people that they're only feeling "depressed" or "sad" because they don't eat enough organic food or aren't exercising enough or the right way? Can we stop blanket vilifying medication, or the need for it? Can we openly talk about mental health? About needing help? About getting help?

Or, and on that note... can we please give people access to that help? Insurance coverage for mental health, and enough time off from work to go to therapy weekly if that's what the person needs? Hey, I need to leave early one day a week, or come in late one day a week, or take an extra-long lunch one day a week. I'll be happy to make up the time by staying late one a day a week, but I need the ability to have that flexibility in my schedule, without you ridiculing me or harassing me about it. Because, seriously, what's going to change if I stay late on Wednesdays and come in late on Thursdays? How different is that from leaving on time every Wednesday and coming in on time every Thursday? I'm working the same amount of hours. Allow the flexibility. Find a time that works for the employee and the employer, but find that time without creating a hardship for the employee.

Don't be "shocked." When you're "shocked," you just stand there.

Be angry. Angry people get stuff done. Let's fix this problem.

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