I have been uncharacteristically silent on the tragedy in Isla Vista a few months ago. It is not because I do not have strong feelings about what happened. I have a policy to not name those who hurt and mangle others, and I will stick to that. But there are important issues to address that this tragedy brings into painful relief.
In part, my silence was provoked by the tremendous amount of attention this young man garnered. I won't lie, I didn't turn away from the coverage from that Saturday morning when it hit my radio. I watched his video and checked out his google+ page. I was horrified to read people sympathizing with the gunman's sentiments and blaming blond young women for the rampage.
I am not going to say that there aren't frustrating people in the world who are self-centered and stuck up. However, it was clear to me that this was not the issue that kept the young man from connecting with anyone. In fact, I was convinced after viewing the now infamous video that he had never approached any of those women, therefore, he was never actually rejected. I stand by that assessment after everything I have read and heard about him.
This young man lived in a paranoid, reclusive state where every problem he had was blamed on something or someone outside himself. And, yes, his parents noted the problem, early, and tried to get him help.
Here is the problem in a nutshell. When everyone is trying to get someone help, and there is no appropriate help forthcoming, what do we do?
I support the efforts to get legislation that will get the cops to pay attention to parents and other family members say that their loved one is a potential danger to him/herself or to others.
I support finding more ways to integrate compassion training into our society – to replace the rampant teaching of bullying that exists. I have written about it before – but we glorify tv shows and political opponents who openly use bullying as the path to success. Every time you have watched and participated in making fun of someone, you have been part of the problem.
If you can make the effort to understand where someone is coming from when he/she annoys, irritates or even amuses you, then we might be on a better path to getting where we need to be.
The fact is that there are many people in the world that are atypical neurologically or chemically – that they are doing what they can to make it in a world that doesn't accept them, or even make sense to them most of the time.
This does not excuse violent behavior from anyone. And this young man's acts are not only inexcusable, they are unspeakable. As unspeakable as the acts perpetrated by another young man who needed help that was not available.
I think what is called for given these sets of circumstance is to completely review and change the way that we make mental health care available to people – all people. It means looking at how we provide mental health as well. If we knew that everyone needs to be mentally healthy for our society's well being, then maybe we could figure out how to not make it stigmatized.
There are no easy answers, but the fathers in this most current tragedy are talking some truth through the fog of grief. May they continue to bring light to this situation. May they find some peace in this work.
In the end, maybe all we can do is learn from this family about compassion, forgiveness and acceptance. All of these three sure would go a long way to helping us live together more peacefully without the need to resort to violence with a gun or otherwise.
Here is a quote from one of the father's that struck a chord:
"Grief can come in messy stages — in bursts of tears in public places, in anger over things that never made you mad before, in learning that some questions won't give you answers."
P.S. As I was still contemplating this post, we lost one of the first people to stand up against guns in this country – it should be noted that he did it because he was injured, technically now murdered, by someone with mental illness and a gun. May we continue the work Mr. Brady started and may he rest in peace.