Treat the Cause, Not the Symptom… or Tragedy Ain’t A Political Football

I woke up this afternoon to the news about the Batman shooting. It’s a tragedy. It’s horrible. And it’s already being turned into political fodder about gun control on both sides.

I think you all are missing the point.

First – and foremost – I stand behind the sentiment of this tweet: Leave the families alone. Whether you’re a “social media” journalist or a “real” journalist, leave them the hell alone. Let them grieve.

Second – I get that we want to keep this from happening again. Or as often. And that’s where the politicization of the tragedy, particularly regarding gun control, is a pile of distracting bullshit. The guns are a tool, a symptom. They amplify underlying problem by making it so easy to kill, but they do not cause it. Arguing about gun control is not going to make the problem go away – it just makes the problems easier to ignore.

Ultimately, I think the research by E. Durkheim (while having some problems) points in a significant direction: our social fabric is being rent apart. The fewer social ties we have, the more likely we are to act in (dangerously) deviant ways. Forcing political divisions, by the way, only makes this worse.

That’s a large, grand, social problem that will take a good amount of creativity to work on. It’s not really something you can advocate for (“What do we want? Everyone to feel connected!”). So where’s the middle ground?

This tweet really kind of captures it:

I question our priorities when James Holmes owning an assault weapon is considered an absolute right but his access to mental health is not.

Let me assure you of something: Even among those of us with insurance, mental health is still poorly covered. Need more than an hour therapist visit once every other week (once a week if you’re lucky)? Good luck with that.

I know this from personal experience. My oldest son (whom I rarely talk about, and mention only occasionally in blog posts (Pictures of You, Greeting Cards of You, Eighteen and Life) was discharged from an inpatient mental health care facility (after one of his many stays after homicidal or suicidal ideation) not because he was better, but because my insurance wouldn’t pay for him to be there any longer, no matter how much the doctors said it was necessary.

They called me the next day to ask how satisfied I was with their service.

Those events (the ancillary costs around which still ended up putting me tens of thousand in debt, something from which I’ve yet to recover) have really formed my opinion about health insurance companies. When we actually needed them, they weren’t there

And I have better health coverage than most of the people I know.

Shortly thereafter, his threats and plans grew intense enough that the state took custody of him for the safety of myself and my family.  Maybe more intervention – not limited by artificial insurance constraints – would have made more of a difference.  We’ll never know how it could have turned out.

But I know how it did.

To this day, I actively worry that some day I’ll see my kid’s name in a headline like this.  It won’t matter if he uses a gun, or a knife, like the one he’d hidden as part of his plan to kill my family in our sleep.

He’s out there.  Somewhere.  I don’t know where.

I hope I’m wrong about him – I really do.  But every time I hear a story like this, I scan the headline to make sure I don’t see a name I recognize.  As the perpetrator, not the victim.

And it all could have been different, if we gave more of a damn about treating people instead of treating our bottom line.  If we gave more of a damn about helping everyone instead of turning tragedies into political footballs.

So the question for all the would-be political activists is this:  Do you give more of a damn about people, or about your political “team”?

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