Don’t Go There… Really…

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I thought I was over this. I thought I could stop writing about this, but I can’t.

There was a brilliant Op-Ed in the NY Times about the confusion these days surrounding the link to autism and other spectrum disorders as being contributing factors to the slayings in Newtown, Connecticut, not even a week ago.

Please read it. Here is the link: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/18/opinion/dont-blame-autism-for-newtown.html?_r=0

Please digest it. Here is the link: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/18/opinion/dont-blame-autism-for-newtown.html?_r=0

Please share it. Here is the link: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/18/opinion/dont-blame-autism-for-newtown.html?_r=0

I have introverts in my extended family – I’m sure you do too. Are these people evil? I have a family member with autism. I have two sons who are introverts and all three of these boys are some of the most sensitive, kind, insightful and smart people I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting. I know lots of quiet kids. Are we really going there? Autism? Have you seen the movie “Temple Grandin“?

The Week magazine ran this article about Asperger’s syndrome and how it affects people who have it.

The thought that these children could ever be linked into the kind of rabid and senseless thinking that engenders fear, hate, confusion, misunderstanding and prejudice – based on the conjecture and armchair (swear alert) bullshit coming out of the media and any psychologist or its ilk to garner attention in the wake of these terrible, terrible shootings is indicative of our own inner need to blame something, anything – anything at all – to separate ourselves and our loved ones from the atrocities committed not even one week ago.

Think about yourself. Think about your own fears, and your own rages and your own capacity for violence. I’m not quiet; I can be. Does it mean I’m plotting evil when I’m quiet? No. Does it mean I’m awesome and super cool totally dependable when I’m not quiet? Uhhh… no.

To all the people who will now and forever look askance at the quiet or mindful people: open your minds.

To all the people who view sadness or moodiness or outbursts as the flawless, pinpoint, and laser-guided accurate harbinger of mass violence: open your hearts.

If you’ve never had a moment ever in your life when you’ve been Just So Mad You Could Break Something, nor can you relate to someone who has, please leave this blog and never come back.

If you’ve never felt (or have suppressed or denied ever feeling) betrayed, ashamed, alone, misunderstood, confused or self-destructive as though you wish the world never existed: go away; you’re too cool for me.

If you’ve never had a day, where nothing seems to go right and you just want to start all over or wipe it off your data banks, again: please leave this blog and never come back; you clearly have all the answers.

I have no time to try to reach you or to get you to understand how awful some people feel sometimes. How utterly alone some people feel, how completely disposable some people feel. How your neighbor might want to hurt herself; or drink too much; or cut himself. Or you: if you tie one on or pop a couple pills to get over your pain or forget about your sadness yet you deny it. Please, go away and please don’t come back. Really: go. I don’t need you to read my stuff or to “get” where I’m coming from. You’re in your place where everything is … of your own concoction; your own cocktail of bliss and denial.

For all our supposed connectivity in this world, we are vastly isolated in our iPods, iPhones, iPads, iLives – I have esteem for Steve Jobs, I think what he’s brought to the world is great but what he brought to the world is only revolutionary because he told us it was. But iRonically, what these devices also engendered to an iNcreasingly diSconnected world is iSolation, iNdifference, iNdependence, iNadequacy. From these protective iMembranes, our little worlds, we get to separate, point fingers and do anything but relate. We get to blame.

Now is not the time – no, you know what? Never is it the time to blame other people while forgetting that you too possess sadness, feelings of isolation, feelings of despair, feelings of woe.

I pray for Adam Lanza and people like him. I’ve seen people and I’ve known people who are mentally unhealthy. I’ve thought, “Wow, s/he’s really screwed up, this must be really hard for her,” but I’ve never thought that because of this: that his impotence, or being left-handed, autistic, a loner, a genius, on the spectrum, illiterate, right-handed, connected, disconnected, a hard-rock music lover, an introvert, a blues lover, a scientist, an idiot, mentally disabled, mentally abled, bald, tall, skinny, short, fat, white, black, green, purple — makes him or her a killer in development.

Because guess what? At times, I am sad, I am disconnected, I am skewed, I am lost. I do go inside my head. I do wish some things didn’t hurt so damned much. I want to give up, not hurt myself or others, but you know: just walk away. Throw up my arms. Screw the cat boxes, forget the stupid project.

I have those super deep and sad feelings. But I attend to them; I have the tools to attend to them, overcome them. I have experience from years, people, years of therapy to overcome those thoughts of isolation and sadness.

But for people who possess those dark feelings and they go unattended, they grow. I have read blog entries by people whose children and their capacity for rage and violence frighten them. They are terrifying. I hear this: she was a gun fanatic, so naturally, this was Mrs. Lanza’s fault for having guns in the house with a kid who is having problems. Blame?! Are we really going there?? She’s dead and so is he. So uh… STOP the blaming. It’s just another tool to wedge (it’s called “comparing out”) between ourselves and the reality that people everywhere are hurting.

I don’t think we will ever ever ever be in a place where we can assign blame. Those days are over. Blame is in the past. Blame is last week and it solves nothing. And this matter is not ours. Comparing out and preaching our suppositions that the mentally ill need to be “locked up” and the autistic need to be watched and suspected and “put away” and “taken out of our society” robs the honor and memory of those beautiful people who died and were called home. It makes it about “us” and “our needs” and “our” fears. Well, if you’re afraid: ADMIT it and talk to someone, anyone. I’m sure you’re not alone.

You know who’s allowed to be afraid right now? Children are allowed to be afraid right now; students and teachers are allowed to be afraid right now: we must tend to them. You know who’s not really allowed to feel afraid right now? Me. I am concerned, I am anxious but I have to get out of my own head. So we must be leaders: we must listen to those who are worried and scared and concerned and do our best to help them stay in the moment, see that nothing is happening to them right now. Build on that. Give them hope. Give them the confidence to Be OK With What Is.

We can not stop these events – there was no way anyone could ever predict this type of thing in classrooms at Virginia Tech, at the high school in Columbine, at the movie theater in Aurora, at the mall in Portland, at the temple in Wisconsin – we say these things are unimaginable. They are not unimaginable to those who commit them. They are all too real. Those people need our help: these things don’t happen until they happen. These people are those killers until they kill.

compassion |kəmˈpaSHən|

noun

sympathetic pity and concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of others: the victims should be treated with compassion.

There are signs: we must be willing to be compassionate enough to reach out and help them. You know who would tell us what to do? Those first graders: they’d tell us to get up and make a friend. Talk to the kid who’s all alone at the lunch table. Offer your hand in friendship. Sadly, the most honest people, the most fearless people — the ones who know everything that we can be doing to make this world a better place: the little kids, are the ones we sometimes listen to the least. Because we’re grown-ups, because we have all the answers, because we’ve got experience. Because we are afraid of being vulnerable.

Another great piece in that liberal rag is this one: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/18/nyregion/25-lessons-about-first-graders.html

What we need to do is look inward and find compassion; look inward and dissolve our fear of vulnerability.  Take that step, be that strong. It takes guts to show our hearts. The mental health care system in our country needs changing. This is obvious. That it took those little kids to be the emblem for new and intelligent legislation and change makes me deeply sad. That all the other events weren’t enough to get people out of their seats and demand change and that those little kids and their teachers had to die is the proverbial grand piano crashing on to the sidewalk outside the apartment building.

The thought that “introverts” and “loners” are being categorized for this type of stuff makes my head dizzy:

Larry Page, Rosa Parks, Marcel Proust, Eleanor Roosevelt, J.K. Rowling, Charles Schulz, Steven Spielberg, Steve Wozniak, W.B. Yeats, Warren Buffett, Dale Carnegie, Frédéric Chopin, Charles Darwin, Albert Einstein, Mahatma Gandhi, Al Gore, Sir Isaac Newton, and George Orwell were not murderers. If Ludwig Von Beethoven were around today, he’d be locked up and drugged. What about Helen Keller? She’d be the same. We need to open our eyes and our hearts. One reported “statistic” based on wild and baseless conjecture does not a murderer make. Jesus, people. Wake up. I am  so sad for those people with spectrum disorders and their caregivers. It’s so wrong. What’s next? Should we tattoo them like the nazis did with the Jews? I know I’m being rhetorical and extreme, but my heart is sad.

The change begins with us. The change is there: for us to reach out, ask how people are doing, help them with their bags in from the store. How hard can it be to reach out? Pretty hard apparently. If you need help: ask for it. If you know someone who needs help, give what you can.

I hope I have gotten this out of my system for now. Newtown has forever changed me. Instead of making me afraid, I am more convicted than ever to live and be kind. Please go here and sign this petition: http://www.wearebetterthanthis.org/index.cfm

Thank you.

21 responses »

  1. Kind I can be. Less angry? Not so much. I need to see real change in how we handle violence in this country. It’s not just the guns, but it is the guns. It’s not just mental health issues, but it is mental health issues. It’s not just the glorification of violence in the media, but it is the media. Our best hope is to come together in kindness. I will try.

  2. My son is believed to be, but never officially diagnosed as being on the spectrum (he also is severely ADD). I also worked in special education for three years, and it sickens me to think that they would even think for a second that autism would make people violent.

    This is wonderful Molly, well written and thought provoking. Thank you.

  3. I think for some people, finding the bad guy and placing blame helps them move on. I am reminded of people getting convicted for crimes they didn’t commit. Even though evidence shows they didn’t do the crime, people feel better because they can say “so and so” (even if so-and-so turns out to be a gun or mental illness or a divorced mother) did it / caused it and put it behind them. It’s weird. People want it to be neat and tidy, but it really isn’t. They want the answer to be easy.

    I mean, Autism and introversion aren’t even the same thing. Also, even if one mass murderer is on the spectrum how does that explain all of the other mass murderers who weren’t? I don’t get how people can be blaming this on Autism. It’s not slightly logical. We might as well say having brown hair or being male or preferring snow cones over ice cream caused this to happen). Instead of placing blame on the mother, guns, Autism, introversion, video games…lets talk about how we are going to change things to help people access the healthcare that they need. How are we going to become the village that raises our children into healthy, happy adults? How do we change the gun laws to reduce this kind of violence? How do we help people feel less alone, cut down on bullying…give people options and a hand out of hopelessness? Each piece may play its part. Really, the blame rests on all of us. Our whole society. We must be doing something that isn’t working. We need to start experimenting. Maybe gun laws won’t change anything, but maybe they will. Maybe more support and mental health access for teenagers won’t change anything, but maybe it will. I keep thinking of that AA saying, “If you do what you always did, you’ll get what you always got.” We need to try something different (and not just one thing either). People feel isolated and angry and lonely. I think we need to work harder to foster a sense of community. Sometimes I think our culture is too focused on obtaining material goods and we don’t focus enough on togetherness and laughter and relationship building. I am just rambling. I don’t have any answers either really, but I think you are so right. Focusing on Autism isn’t going to solve this. It’s just scapegoating at its worst.

  4. I believe that almost every person on this planet has needed, needs or could benefit from therapy at sometime in their life. Some probably could even use meds……….Unfortunately, many people(close minded) in our society believe that it is only for the weak and would not be willing to go there………I as I am sure most people would agree, Adam did not get the help he needed. I am not sure why, but it is so sad that we are where we are today, because he did not……..We need to help people that are like him, because I am sure there are many “Adams” out there and I fear it is only a matter of time, if “something” is not done to prevent it. What that “something(s)” should be is the million dollar answer……………So until we have it figure out, I will try and live each day with more gratitude, compassion and kindness 🙂

    Thank you for your poignant words!

    Hugs,
    AC

  5. Thank you for saying all of this. It needs to be said. Yes, people do always think they need to place blame or find the reason rather than accepting that sometimes we will never know or be able to predict who will snap. Sometimes, I surprise myself with my reactions to my children – both positive and negative. We all have the capacity for evil, but thankfully, most of us have the moral filter and emotional control.

    • Hi Kathy, thanks for commenting. I find blame to be a primitive response and the older I get, the more I think it’s mostly male. I have yet to hear a female look for someone to blame in this, but men… they want to blame someone, something, somehow, in order to feel safer or to justify their anger or vigil. Sometimes, as you wisely said, we just don’t know. I would hasten to add my own paranoia: I never know. That’s the only thing I can count on. And like you, I do also surprise myself with my reactions to my kids. These days, I’m firm but loving. I’ll take that…

  6. Molly I was with you until “We cannot stop these events”. As individuals you probably can’t but you can all pressure your elected representatives for gun control.

    I live in Australia, and we had a terrible mass killing in 1996. (Google “Port Arthur Tasmania”). The government reacted immediately by introducing tighter gun control measures that banned everyday people from owning assault weapons and saw 700,000 weapons bought back, surrendered and destroyed from the community. Number of mass killings since then? Zero. I know there are many, many, many times more weapons in America but it has to start somewhere. As a society, America has to stop with the guns.

    Yes, the core issue here is helping people with mental illness. However from a practical viewpoint, when people snap it’s just a bad idea for them to have access to guns.

    These events can be stopped but it will take a groundswell of voices to make it happen. Be a voice all of you. The second amendment is hokum.

    • Danielle, thank you so much for your comment and you are right, so right. We do have the power to stop this. Congress is not in session any more for the rest of the year, but I read an article just now that stated that Diane Feinstein from California is introducing a new bill immediately after the break. Also, a number of NRA-backed representatives are changing their tunes and are preparing to back Obama’s measures to ban assault rifles. Stocks in Luger and Smith & Wesson are down. Cerebus, a company that owned a majority in Bushmaster, the manufacturer of the weapon used in Connecticut, has yielded to pressure by the California Retired Teacher’s Union to divest its interests in the company. More than 1,010 firearms were bought back in New Jersey this weekend. Things are happening and I am heartened (and saddened) by the chain of events. I very very much appreciate your chiming in. And yes, the 2nd Amendment is hokum. -Molly

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