Our Collective Responsibility in Ending Mass Violence


America’s misguided attachment to guns, the industry’s lack of regulation must be addressed in the wake of these mass shootings, but there are other societal factors at play.

American culture fetishizes dominance, violence and fear. Take our action movies, for instance — they are vastly unlike the ones I grew up with — they include a scene of horrific, cruel and graphic violence but no nudity or lovemaking. That’s seriously effed-up. We chafe at intimacy but glorify cruelty.

Add to that, we are experiencing an epidemic of social isolation thanks in large part to to our device-dependent culture. Creating a culture of stranger paranoia — just shutting out those we deem “crazy” — could possibly makes things worse in the end, leading to more copycats.

He is a terrorist and human. What next?

Think about it: Devon Kelly lashed out at a church, a refuge for love, peace and comfort. Somewhere in his brain he did not connect with this common perception and detached from the innocent, well-meaning children, parents and elderly people inside. We need to ask why. We need to start by examining our own behavior toward one another when we are not in fellowship or in the company of others.

“It is undeniable that persons who have shown violent tendencies should not have access to weapons that could be used to harm themselves or others,” writes Jonathan M. Metzl, MD, PhDcorresponding author and Kenneth T. MacLeish, PhD in “Mental Illness, Mass Shootings, and the Politics of American Firearms.” “Notions that mental illness caused any particular shooting, or that advance psychiatric attention might prevent these crimes, are more complicated than they often seem. Evidence strongly suggests that mass shooters are often mentally ill and socially marginalized. Enhanced psychiatric attention may well prevent particular crimes. … By addressing gun discord as symptomatic of deeper concerns, psychiatry could, ideally, promote more meaningful public conversations on the impact of guns on civic life.”

We must strive toward becoming a better society — stat. Make eye contact. Offer a benevolent gesture when you can. I’m not recommending you let random people crash on your couch, but consider this for a moment: Lashing out violently is rooted in paranoia of “the other.” Ask yourself, “What can I do to set an example of compassion, a sense of community?”

We need to educate, understand history, become more enlightened. The more we learn about world history and science, the more we understand how much we are alike as humans. Prevalent misconceptions about race, ability and personality call attention to the fact that we have to raise the bar higher for civilization. We can’t just continue worshiping at the altar of consumerism. Money doesn’t measure human value.

This isn’t about being politically correct. This is about survival.

Don’t chalk up violence to “human nature.”  People are as wired toward compassion and altruism as aggression and cruelty. Science backs this.

Casting off people with major problems presents numerous ramifications. These aren’t personality issues or simply “evil deeds.” No one should be left to his or her own devices to plot and acquire an arsenal without attention. There are faulty misfires in the brain that can be examined with a brain scan that many insurance policies — certainly Medicaid and Medicare — do not cover. These individuals hole up in their rooms or homes in an alternate reality. This should not be happening.

Lack of care on an individual and societal level coupled with an epidemic “other” anxiety and, the biggest factor of all, the U.S.’s gun romance and lack of arms-purchasing regulation are going to create a domino effect of more alienated souls lashing out and committing copycat crimes; that is, if we don’t start making major changes to how we approach and care for one another now.

Some recommended reading and resources:

Directions for Living provides services ranging from counseling to workshops. Here’s a training program titled “Act Against Violence for Parents.

“Things You Can Do Today to End Social Isolation” — Sandy Hook Promise

“Forget Survival of the Fittest: It Is Kindness That Counts” Scientific American

“Social Death Penalty — Why Being Ostracized Hurts Even More Than Bullying” — Alternet

“Buiding a Culture of Inclusion” — Diversity Journal

“Mental Health Care Access Care Data” — Mental Health America

“Mental Health Reform” — National Alliance on Mental Illness

“Mass Shooting Analysis” — Everytown for Gun Safety




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6 thoughts after the solar eclipse

Extreme fatigue today but here are some semi-coherent thoughts to document this historic day.

1.) Have the sun and moon let all this attention to to their big heads? They are so 8 hours ago. Wish they could put on their act without requiring the purchase of accessories to view them. So high maintenance. Prima donnas, I tell you.

2.) We didn’t stare up through cardboard glasses to watch the eclipse. We gazed at the weird light and little shadow wonders around us. I shot; Danny edited photos of the successions of mini crescent-shaped eclipse shadows shimmering up our front yard like glow-in-the-dark fish scales. It was a pleasant surprise, somehow unspoiled by the tsunami of pre-event news coverage.

Brads_Status_2607173.) I saw the trailer for the forthcoming Ben Stiller vehicle Brad’s Status the first time today on an all-trailers cable channel (thanks, Frontier; how did I live until now?). It seems Hollywood is establishing the Gen X midlife crisis genre to capitalize on the current batch of middle-agers’ First World lamentations. Making this prospect more tantalizing is the inevitability of identity crises large and small brought on by the amplifications of social networking. Those crafty studios are appealing to us older folks with a coming-of-age subplot for the millennials. Aging ungracefully with technology. A win-win, say the suits. In the film, Ben Stiller drives his college-bound son (Austin Abrams) crazy. The boy points out the dad’s rich friends are dicks, which I’m sure will be therapeutic for many folks my age. If you are around my age in the Gen X bracket, you be inundated with Boomer midlife ennui from movies like The Big Chill. It’s our turn now. Torturing millennials with our collective existential whine is a necessary rite of passage. I’m also especially glad to see Jemaine Clement in another film.

4.) My mother is experiencing sundowning, a form of aggressive behavior that people with Alzheimer’s and dementia experience when night falls. It gets a little Mommie Dearest in here from 8 to 9 p.m. She used to fall asleep and stay asleep but since removing her Lorazepam, she doesn’t have that sleepy calm anymore (which was doing more harm than good). I now have to be judicious with evening activities.

5.) Listened to Everything Now, the new Arcade Fire album. I love this line in the title track: Every song that I’ve ever heard/ Is playing at the same time; it’s absurd. Maybe you have to be my age or older to get this one.

6.) Thank you WUSF for your travel escapades on Monday night– a stroke of genius public TV programming. So shrewd and necessary. The golden-voiced Rick Steves may as well be the Sandman. I gently take hold of the cashmere sweater breezily draped on his shoulders and fly away with him.  An hour later, a show about driving Route 66 is giving me a vicarious ride elsewhere. It’s a drive I’ve always wanted to take heading west but in combination with other two-lane routes. There and back, I’m setting the pace old-codger-with-an-old-Ford-Pickup style.

One more from my friend Nastasya, who offered a toast on Facebook to the karaoke DJs dealing with an unfortunate uptick in selections of “Total Eclipse of the Heart.” The song has seen a ridiculous surge in popularity because of yesterday’s astral event.


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