In the United States of 2012, it is easier to buy a gun than it is to get comprehensive mental healthcare.
This is where we are; this is what we’ve become, where the right to own a gun has become more important than the right for our children and our friends and family members who work in education to go to school and not have to fear for their lives in doing so. Owning a gun has become so holy to some that the price of needing security guards at elementary and preschools is not too high to pay.
When the US Constitution was written in 1787, wars were fought with muskets (which had to be reloaded for each. shot.), cannons, bayonets and swords. There were no automatic weapons, no .223 caliber rifles. Even after independence, the US, a weak, new-born nation, risked invasion from outside foes. Guess what? Almost two and a half centuries later, the US is the only reigning super power, and probably the last country on earth that will risk its destruction from an outside force.
I have had more than one friend come to me and talk of difficulty in getting treatment—and acceptance—for their mental health needs. It’s a bigger problem than just trying to find a doctor accepted by your insurance, assuming you’re lucky enough to have insurance. Playing video games and watching violent TV shows are not responsible for mixed up genetics or brain chemistry. They say in AA that the first step to solving a problem is admitting you have one; too many people are afraid to come forward and ask for help, to acknowledge that maybe you need it. Think about this: if you had a physical disability/chronic condition, such as carpal tunnel would you hesitate to put that on your job application? Now, what if that disability was a diagnosed psychiatric disorder? Would you eschew contact with someone if they told you that at one point they’d had pneumonia or strep throat? What if they told you that at one point they had been suicidal or even attempted it? Answer honestly.
We did nothing after Jonesboro.
We did nothing after Columbine.
We did nothing after Virginia Tech.
We did nothing after Aurora — which happened less than six months ago.
Can we do something now? Please?
Can someone have the balls to stand up to the NRA and say ENOUGH ALREADY, say that Your right to own a gun does not come before everyone else’s right to ensure their children can come home from school?
Can someone have the balls to say ENOUGH ALREADY, say that access to mental healthcare should not be a privilege but a right, say that schizophrenia, bi-polar disorder, depression are not joking matters, that you almost certainly know someone with a mental illness who is too afraid to talk about it for fear they’ll be stigmatized and lose their friends and loved ones?
Can someone have the balls to say to the media, It is no longer good enough to just be first, regardless of accuracy? I don’t know Ryan Lanza and I won’t presume to know what he is feeling, but I’ll ask you, dear reader, how well would you handle it if you were falsely outed as the instigator of a massacre?
Don’t sit there and say that you can’t do anything, because you can.
Write your congressman and senators. Do it by hand, because one handwritten letter was worth 500 emails when I was in middle school and a lot more people have the internet now than they did in 1999. Demand that your representatives in Congress have the balls to stand for something other than partisan hackery. Tell them that mental healthcare is every bit as important as physical healthcare and that owning a gun should not be more sacred than the ability of the children born in a country founded from the ideas birthed during the Enlightenment to go to school and come home safe, and yes, this applies to every schoolchild in every school district in the country, regardless of race, religion, sex, sexual orientation, mental or physical disability or socioeconomic status.
Don’t fetishize automatic weapons or the names of those who use them. Read news from responsible media outlets who do not interview children in the immediate aftermath of a traumatic event that they are most likely too young to be able to emotionally handle.
Ribbons in your facebook profiles and retweets of ‘pray for the victims’ accounts are nice, but they won’t do anything. If you want to do something, DO something. Donate blood. Learn First Aid. If you can afford it, donate to victims’ families or their schools (and do not restrict your donations to just the Newtown families; many other school shootings garner far less media attention). Write your congressmen and women.
Because the tragedy isn’t so much that we knew the victims; most of us didn’t. The tragedy is now that none of us ever will.
Charlotte Bacon, 6;
Daniel Barden, 7;
Rachel Davino, 29;
Olivia Engel, 6;
Josephine Gay, 7;
Ana M. Marquez-Greene, 6;
Dylan Hockley, 6;
Dawn Hocksprung, 47;
Madeline F. Hsu, 6;
Catherine V Hubbard, 6;
Chase Kowalski, 7;
Jesse Lewis, 6;
James Mattioli, 6;
Grace McDonnell, 7;
Anne Marie Murphy, 52
Emile Parker, 6;
Jack Pinto, 6;
Noah Pozner, 6;
Caroline Previdi, 6;
Jessica Rekos, 6;
Avielle Richman, 6;
Lauren Russeau, 30;
Mary Sherlach, 56;
Victoria Soto, 27;
Benjamin Wheeler, 6;
Allison N. Wyatt, 6