*Along with a lot of other ‘shoehorns’
Social media, the news media and other information outlets have lit up with discussion in the last couple of days about the tragic incident in Santa Barbara, Cal., in which a 22-year-old man killed six people, apparently selected at random, and then himself.
Need we say how predictable that discussion is?
After all, it’s largely the same discussion that we had after Newtown, after the Navy Yard, after Aurora, after Tucson … after every mass shooting we have. But let’s let Michael Moore, the left-wing provocateur and gadfly, offer the most representative sampling in a Facebook post.
It’s because of guns. Every single mass shooting ignites a new call for stronger gun control laws, just as Moore does here. This sentiment was echoed by the father of one Santa Barbara victim; he blamed the National Rifle Association.
But what’s interesting about the comments from Moore and from Richard Martinez is an almost throwaway, parenthetical thought they both added. It’s as if they both mentioned the real problem, but then chose to ignore it on the way to their other agenda.
On his way to calling for more gun control Moore notes that these shootings are carried out by “disturbed white males.” Disturbed. White. Male. Gun. Only one pattern matters to Mr. Moore, because it’s the only one he wants to see.
On his way to calling for more gun control, Richard Martinez asked: “When will this insanity stop? When will enough people say stop this madness …?”
Of course, the “madness” and “insanity” he’s talking about are that of the NRA and the politicians who protect gun rights. That’s the only pattern of “insanity” he notices – although as a grieving father he deserves slack.
So far, I’ve seen people complain that Elliot Rodger is emblematic of the “entitlement” attitude of young people “coddled” by overindulgent parents. I’ve read Rodger referred to as “spoiled and arrogant.” I’ve read the predictable calls for more stringent gun control laws. I’ve read the blame laid at the feet of “narcissistic media culture.”
I’ve even read the mental health angle of this story dismissed. There have been reports of Rodger’s diagnosis with Asperger’s. Some writers have noted that Rodger was getting mental health treatment, and that the police visited him after his parents complained about some of his writings and videos – but thought he was fine.
And on the flip side, I’ve read comments that say his writings and videos alone should have led to him being committed. “(I)n an actual institution with actual doctors who actually care enough to try to get him back to not being a danger to society,” one comment read.
Most of these comments – in particular, the ones related to gun control and/or permissive parenting – are from what I refer to as shoehorns. Mr. Moore is a classic example. It doesn’t matter what the shoe of the day is. He’ll find a way to shoehorn his foot into it. The only thing that would have been better for Mr. Moore would have been if the shooter had been poor and he had been bullied by rich kids – then he would have been able to fit both feet in.
All of these shootings are breakdowns of the American mental health system. But we’ll never fix it. Why? Because it’s a style of shoe nobody likes on his or her feet.
What’s even worse is that the cases that really bring home the crisis in mental health care in this country represent an incredibly small percentage of the people with mental health issues.
Twenty percent of Americans will, at one time or another in their lives, have some sort of mental health issue. Many of them will not seek treatment – because, according to most research, they would be embarrassed or ashamed to receive mental health treatment, or they fear repercussions. Just ask Thomas Eagleton.
The fourth-leading cause of death among Americans age 18 to 65 is suicide. More Americans die by suicide each year than are killed in motor vehicle accidents.
Yet what do we hear from people who have sought help for mental health issues? Probably something very similar to what Elliot Rodgers’ family is saying: we tried, but the system didn’t help us.
The system doesn’t – and can’t – help a lot of people. And that’s because too few elected officials consider it a shoe they want to spend any money on … after all, it doesn’t really fit their ideological foot.
It would be best for all of us if the policymakers – and the punditocracy – would stop being shoehorns and start to recognize the most important, obvious pattern – one that we can see not only in mass shootings, but in high rates of suicide, substance abuse, homelessness and a variety of other indicators that have a mental health component. When you recognize those patterns, it’s very easy to see that only one shoe fits.
Apparently, it’s not Mr. Moore’s style.