Last night the deadliest mass shooting the United States has ever seen took place. I think most of our country is still processing the tragedy. I cannot even fathom the magnitude of this shooting; tonight, when my son asked how many people died, I had to be vague. “Um, I don’t really think they’re sure yet,” I said.
Because I could not bear to tell my ten-year-old the numbers.
Our country needs to have a conversation about gun control–a conversation that doesn’t simply contain knee-jerk reactions on either side. We need to listen and learn from each other. We need to respect opinions that differ from our own, admit that we have a problem (the first step is always admitting that there’s a problem; curiously, our country continues to exist in a state of denial). And then we need to figure out how to make our communities safer. We need to do this together.
I don’t know anything about the shooter’s mental health, but I do think it’s safe to assume that he was not mentally well. So I can’t make any conclusions about his particular situation, but I do think in general we must de-stigmatize mental illness.
If my child were diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes or cancer, I would spring into action. I would learn about treatments, consult with doctors, research options, pursue plans. I would do anything I could to give my child the healthiest life possible. Our community would rally around us to help us during our time of need. Our church would pray.
Mental illness is illness. It deserves prayers, treatment plans, community support, medications, and options. And no one suffering from mental illness should be shamed. Do you shame a Type 1 diabetic?
The other issue that a (male) friend of mine pointed out is that we need to start figuring out what’s wrong with men. What’s the root cause of this type of violence? Sandy Hook, Virginia Tech, Columbine, Aurora, Las Vegas, Oklahoma City…..why is it that men are violent in this way? As the mother of a son, I find this question urgent and important. Is it due to cultural expectations? Are we not raising our sons to be compassionate and kind? Are we disconnecting from them at key developmental points in their lives–when they need caring and involved parents? I don’t know.
Can we have conversations about gun control, mental illness, and raising boys? And can we do it respectfully? Can we set aside our own prejudices and ideologies long enough to listen to what our aching culture is saying?