Friday, December 28, 2012

Hold Your Fire

I went to the movies with the family last weekend.  Looking around at the posters advertising current or upcoming movies, I was struck by how so many of them showed the characters looking tough and holding guns.  There’s Django Unchained,  Skyfall, Brad Pitt in Killing Them Softly, our former governor in The Last Stand, Liam Neeson in Taken 2, Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters, Sly Stallone in Bullet to the Head, and more.  If you are a parent taking your children to see Monsters, Inc. or Wreck-It Ralph or Life of Pi, they are going to see these posters with cool actors striking poses with their guns.  You could also be at home watching a game on television and a commercial could come on advertising a new movie.  Clips of Daniel Craig or Bruce Willis shooting things up appear.  These exciting and inviting images make an impression on your children.  Kids will mimic things they see in movies and television.  My husband and I had to ban Kung Fu Panda when our kids were younger because they tried doing martial arts on each other and used sticks to hit each other and us.  If you have boys, you know what I mean.

There are many violent videogames out there.  Do you know what your child is playing late at night in his room?  How much time is your son spending playing games?  I know, I know, there have been studies…videogames in and of themselves are not a bad thing.  Many a geek relaxes after a long day at work or school by playing games.

There are youngsters who suffer from mental illnesses like depression, bi-polar disorder, schizophrenia and OCD.  Many of these children are prescribed medication to help manage these illnesses.  A diagnosis of mental illness doesn’t mean that child is going to be violent.  Some of the medications come with heavy warnings on the label.  Zoloft carries a risk of suicidal thoughts, especially in children.  Prozac is another drug that can induce suicidal thoughts.  Many young people who are prescribed anti-depressants or anti-psychotic medications do well with them and are able to live normal lives.  But a young person taking an anti-psychotic medication or two might start experimenting with alcohol or recreational drugs which could alter the helpful effects of the medication.  What if a patient suddenly quits taking his medication altogether without the knowledge of his parents or doctor?  Quitting some medications cold-turkey can result in relapse of the mental illness, often with worse symptoms and behaviors than the original illness.

 What happens when you have a young person with some sort of mental illness (maybe even an undiagnosed one) and a combination of some of the factors that exacerbates the illness, who sees images of Oscar-winning actors holding weapons and shooting things up as a hero, or spends many hours on his computer killing lots of people in some virtual world?  Can a young man have trouble distinguishing what goes on in a virtual world of a movie or game and the real world?  Does he understand what he’s doing when he packs up massive weapons and heads out to do what he’s going to do?

We’ve had some terrible tragedies recently involving young men with guns.  Innocent people have been killed and numerous families’ lives changed forever.  Some government officials have suggested stricter laws and even a ban on all firearms.  Some think more gun-free zones are the answer.  Others think if more citizens carried concealed weapons it would deter these shootings.  What about having armed guards at schools (like the elite school our recent presidents have enrolled their children in)?  Maybe the teachers and staff could be trained to carry weapons was another suggestion.

Suddenly, all gun owners and gun enthusiasts have become the villains.  A newspaper in New York, The Journal News, just published an article on 44,000 registered gun owners in two counties complete with names and addresses of where they lived.  There’s been quite a backlash against the paper.  Some have complained that now the criminals know which houses to break into - the ones without the guns.

What about Hollywood?  The industry has helped glorify guns and violence.  The actors wielding their assault weapons on the big screen are making millions of dollars looking like badasses to our young people.  Will lawmakers try to ban the filming of violent movies like the ones I saw posters for at the theater?  Will any of the actors come out with public service announcements condemning the real-life use of guns against innocent people? 

Someone commenting on an article I read brought up an interesting point that a few of these mass shootings may have occurred in so-called “gun-free zones”.  That’s something worth looking into.  Guns exist.  Criminals will find access to them ban or no ban.  They already do.
Look, there’s no one simple action that is going to eradicate these terrible killings.  People want immediate action taken to prevent our nation from losing any more innocent men, women and children.  That’s understandable.  We feel helpless, sad, sickened about what’s happened.  However, we need to examine all the factors and variables involved in each situation in order to prevent further tragedies.  Not every young person with access to firearms is going to go out and commit a mass murder-suicide.  Not every child with a mental or emotional illness is going to hurt other people.  We need to discover what these shooters in the 15 years since Columbine had in common, to help identify people who may be at risk of potentially doing something horrendous.

*Update*  I am including this recent video of Hollywood Celebs making a public service announcement condemning gun violence and demanding a plan to end it.  It wasn't the kind of public announcement I was hoping for.  The video creator found clips of the celebrities themselves using big guns in movies or tv.  The creator of this video gets it, even though his language is a little harsh.  Instead of taking any responsibility for making blood and guts and murder look cool, these actors who have made millions off of us, are telling us we need to demand gun control.  How about we demand they stop making these violent movies and television shows.  How about they denounce their participation in violent movies.  Ha, don't think that'll ever happen.

Sunday, December 23, 2012


Indifference is a word meaning lack of interest or concern, unimportance, of little or no concern, insignificant.  Which is worse, being treated meanly by someone, or being treated with indifference?  When person A (we’ll call her Sally) is mean to person B (we’ll call her Lucy), at least person A is thinking about person B albeit in a negative manner.  What if Lucy enters a room and Sally doesn’t make eye contact with her, or even acknowledge her presence?  That’s indifference.  Lucy wants to visit with Sally, but isn’t as talkative as many of the other gals, who Sally prefers to spend time with.

There is an event with many ladies expected.  Lucy sits down at her table hoping some of the “popular” gals will join her so she won’t be alone.  But they don’t.  One by one they pass by not even glancing at Lucy.  Hers is the last table to fill up.  A couple of “neutral” ladies sit at Lucy’s table and are pleasant and listen with interest when Lucy speaks.  Sally ends up at Lucy’s table but isn’t interested in Lucy at all.  Sally chats with her own friends.  In this community, there are several ladies like Sally and who are also close friends with Sally.  They too treat Lucy with indifference.  They don’t make eye contact with Lucy and only speak to her when necessary.  Lucy doesn’t know if she did something or said something to one of them that they didn’t like.  She would certainly apologize if she had.
Lucy had been in a social group with Sally and many of the ladies before and enjoyed getting to know them.  Lucy was asked to share personal details about her life to the group one day and she did.  But later comments were made and questions asked by various people that made Lucy feel she was no longer wanted in that group.  Lucy stopped attending.  She hoped that someone would ask why she wasn’t coming to the group anymore, but no one ever did.  Lucy came to the conclusion that Sally and the others just didn’t like her.  They were indifferent to her because they just didn’t like her.

This scenario sounds a lot like something from junior high or high school doesn't it.  Did you know a Sally back then?  Were you a Sally?  Maybe you knew or were a Lucy.  It’s sad to say this, but some things never change.  If you were a Sally, chances are you still are. Even in communities which are supposed to be loving, nurturing and inclusive, people like Lucy still feel unwanted by people like Sally.  Is there a sad Lucy lurking somewhere in your little world?  Reach out to her.  Look her in the eyes and ask her how her day is going.  Invite her to coffee.  Just don’t treat her with indifference.