Posts Tagged mental illness

“Let’s Not Demonize a Man’s Tools”

“In the wake of the horrific Orlando shooting that claimed the lives of 49 people and saw countless others injured, “Pink Pistol“, an LGBT self defense and gun rights organization, issued this utterly ridiculous statement:

GUNS did not do this. A human being did this, a dead human being. Our job now is not to demonize the man’s tools, but to condemn his acts and work to prevent such acts in the future.”

Gwendolyn Patton, First Speaker of the Pink Pistols.

Demonize a man’s tools.

Wow.

Now we are hurting the feelings of guns, it would appear.

This is nothing but the old spiel about how it is not guns that kill people, but people that kill people.  Which is bullshit and a fallacious, not to mention overly simplistic, argument.

While it is true that it was a person who picked up the gun and made the decision to mass murder those people, it is  easy access to guns that is ultimately allowing such mass shootings to take place in the first place.

I have said this before and I will repeat it again: banning guns does not make us a less violent society. It is just that guns allow violence committed to be more brutal, more violent and bloodier. It is much harder to mass murder people with knives and machetes than it is with guns, especially assault rifles.

So while it is true that people carry out the attacks, the tools used to carry out those attacks do matter. If they did not, then we would just not regulate arms or ammunition of any kind at all. Then ordinary citizens could own tanks and grenades and machine guns and missiles and nukes. Because ‘hey, it is people that kill people’, right?  And not missiles/tanks/bombs.

Wrong. They are banned because overall they pose a public health and safety concern and therefore must be regulated. Like food and pharmaceuticals and safe child seats and clean water and air etc. All those things exist becasue of regulation.

Now it was about time that gun follow suit and also got banned. Overall, the cost of public gun ownership is too high and does not justify the rather meager benefits.

At the PBS Newshour last week President Obama assured a concerned audience member that he or Hillary do not “want to take away [our] guns.

That is when I realized just how utterly powerful the gun lobby has been in this country that no matter how horrific the gun violence incidences, including the mass massacre of children,  no one, no one, is willing to stand up to the NRA and even suggest the radical notion that maybe we should consider banning all guns while reexamining the validity and benefit of the  Second Amendment on American society today.

“We dont want to take your guns away” is not the right answer Mr. President. We have to ban guns. That is the only way we will significantly reduce gun violence. It doesn’t matter that people can still get them illegally. Being able to get something legally versus illegally makes a huge difference in terms of the number of guns circulating. Making something illegal just makes it harder to obtain. It is no ‘no big deal’.

And fuck the Second Amendment. Really. It was written for a different time and for different reasons and for a different peoples and a different America and the only reason it is being cited by gun nuts as a right today, is because of gun manufacturers and the  gun lobby leading to the misguided interpretation of the Second Amendment by our equally misguided Supreme Court. 

It seems like we are just going in loops: a shooting happens, some hack steps forward whining about  why “the good guys” like them, who allegedly use guns responsibly, should be “punished” for the mistakes of others, saying trite shit like ‘people kill people, not guns blah blah blah’, just so everyone shuts up like they had a point, just so we can repeat the same discussion next time around. And again. And again. And again…and then we wonder why nothing changes. 

Thing is: there is no such thing as responsible gun ownership. That is a myth. Guns are tools designed to kill. They serve no other purpose. A responsible, decent person doesn’t need guns in their everyday life to begin with. And  I have this suspicion that anyone who thinks they are a decent guy who needs to own guns to get by, is secretly hoping to have to use them one day.

Finally, background checks (and mental illness checks) don’t work: Mental illness reporting and “checks” (whatever that is supposed to entail) are a gross violation of a person’s privacy and with it dignity. And background checks don’t work because a lot of the shooters did not have police records and thus a negative background. The Sandy Hook shooter had a clean background and would have fallen through any kind of radar and so would most of the mass shooters of late. None of them had shady, criminal backgrounds. They were not the “wrong” people to own a gun, until they were.

So background checks don’t really do anything but give people on the other side a false sense of security and that someone is being held accountable here, when in reality these checks are so pointless in reducing gun violence, we may as well save ourselves the money and not bother with them at all.

And mental illness checks will do nothing but add more stigma to mental illness, further demonizing the already vulnerable, stigmatized mentally ill who, by the way, are more likely to be the victims of violence than its perpetrators.

The only way we can and will put an end to this fuckery is by BANNING ALL GUNS. Everything else is just self aggrandizing bullshit while pandering to the stupid masses and the damn gun lobby that’s turned gun ownership into a virtue and necessity via vile propaganda, lies and scapegoating.

If we don’t stop “demonizing” that man’s tool, the gun, as PInk Pistol put it oh so romantically, then nothing will change and we’ll be having the same discussion for another 50 years. 

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Oh No

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I am truly gutted about the news of Robin Williams’ death.

Williams was found today at his home in Tiburon, CA  and it’s been reported that he committed suicide due to asphyxia – i.e. from probably hanging himself. The Marin County Sheriff’s Department released this statement:

On August 11, 2014, at approximately 11:55 am, Marin CountyCommunications received a 9-1-1 telephone call reporting a male adult had been located unconscious and not breathing inside his residence in unincorporated Tiburon, CA. The Sheriff’s Office, as well as the Tiburon Fire Department and Southern Marin Fire Protection District were dispatched to the incident with emergency personnelarriving on scene at 12:00 pm. The male subject, pronounced deceased at 12:02 pm has been identified as Robin McLaurinWilliams, a 63 year old resident of unincorporated Tiburon, CA.

An investigation into the cause, manner, and circumstances of the death is currently underway by the Investigations and Coroner Divisions of the Sheriff’s Office. Preliminary information developed during the investigation indicates Mr. Williams was last seen alive at his residence, where he resides with his wife, at approximately 10:00 pm on August 10, 2014. Mr. Williams was located this morning shortly before the 9-1-1 call was placed to Marin CountyCommunications.

Robin’s rep also released a statement:

Robin Williams passed away this morning. He has been battling severe depression of late. This is a tragic and sudden loss. The family respectfully asks for their privacy as they grieve during this very difficult time.”

I am sad beyond belief by this. Not only for him and that he was in such a dark place that he felt the only way out was taking his own life, but also for his family who has to find a way to get through life in the wake of this devastation.

If you need any further evidence that depression is a powerful, soul sucking lying sack of shit disease, look no further than the tragic death of Robin Williams, a man that dedicated his life to making other people happy, yet couldn’t find a way out of the darkness himself.

The insediousness of depression just scares the hell out of me. It torments even the most seemingly happiest of people. Such an indiscriminate, hideous disease.

For some reason, all I can think about right now is this line he said in Dead Poet’s Society, which, looking back, seems prophetic (or maybe not. Death is a certainty, after all. It, however, does take a lot of insight to recognize that about life: “Carpe Diem. Seize the day. Make your lives extraordinary[…] because believe it or not, each and everyone of us in this room is one day going to stop breathing, turn cold and die.”

What a short life we all live.

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Consequences of Apathy

The Huffington Post, every now and then as part of a PSA or something, dedicates a post to the “Faces of Drugs Arrests” – supported by Rehabs.com as a follow up to its anti-methamphetamine campaign “Horrors of Meth.”

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“Faces of Drug Arrests,” is a series of shocking images, depicting the decline of different “suspects” (suspects of what? drug abuse?)  physical appearance over the years via their mugshots. The individuals shown were all arrested for drug and drug-related offenses involving meth, heroin, cocaine, and prescription drugs.

The ugliest thing about this post is not so much the ravaged faces of these drug addicts, but the comments section of the Huffington Post where people admonish these individuals as “disgusting” beings who hopefully never have kids.

One commentator, who neither knows any of these individuals or their stories and backgrounds and thus their experiences and how they came to be where they are, writes quite presumptuously that “they no longer care where they are or whether they’re about to die.

Others casually “other” the people depicted in the images, commenting on how “irresponsible” it is of them, especially when “these people” have children of their own.

One reader had the following to say “There’s NO REASON for anyone to continue to abuse themselves to this extent – help is readily available pretty much everywhere. These types of addicts just don’t want to take the effort necessary to clean themselves up. Yes, I know that’s not the case with some addicts, but in these cases…..?” 

“They are disgusting.”

“They are irresponsible.”

“They don’t care.”

“They don’t want to make the effort.”

Yes, because clearly mentally healthy, stable people enjoy becoming emotional and physical wrecks as a result of heavy drug use. Because, thank the spaghetti monsters that be, drug addiction is not a disease at all.

No one in these comments has even noted the fact that these are mug shots taken from arrests, as in these people whom everyone is summarily dismissing, judging and spitting on as disgusting, irresponsible, worthless wrecks have been criminally persecuted and incarcerated for their drug use.

And neither does anyone – neither the HP article nor the commentators – find it either problematic or acknowledge the fact that drug addiction is an illness that requires medical treatment of those who are using drugs, instead of criminal retribution.

No one is wondering, or is the least bit bothered, that instead of health and treatment these people are being treated to prison instead. “Hell [typo and I am keeping it there] Help is readily available” one commentator casually states. When in reality, no actually, help is not readily available.

The fact that these people have been booked and charged with a crime instead of being sent to rehabilitation to treat their illness should have given you a clue. That, and that in this country trying to get insurance companies to pay for meaningful drug rehabilitation programs is almost impossible, not to mention that government-run rehab programs, as far as they do exist, are terribly funded, ineffective and hard to get into.

So no, it is not “readily available.” Where have these people been? Canada? Germany?

Most importantly, there is a human being behind every mug shot depicted in this PSA; a human being with their own life’s stories, paths and trajectories. No one knows what has taken place in their lives leading them to resort to drug use and the addiction that comes from it. To judge them as if one did is mendacious.

Sending someone who suffers from the disease of addiction to jail is no different than incarcerating someone suffering from cancer or Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s.

Moreover, since low-income and/or racial minorities are disproportionately incarcerated for drug use, this undertaking has, essentially, become another way of criminalizing the poor for being poor.

Now what if all the taxpayer money that’s used arresting, processing, trying, probably public defending and jailing drug addicts  were instead used toward social programs that would support such people in the first place? What if instead of jail time, we offered help? How about trying to find out what those ills were that got them into heavy drug use in the first place, instead of making this ridiculous, callous assumption that they are there because they enjoy being there, because they made that choice and because they devalue their lives?

Although I do wonder how people who have been outcast and thrown away by society as disgusting, irresponsible worthless wrecks are going to “love themselves.”

People in this country tend to criticize “government hand-outs” and talk about the social safety net like it’s a giant waste of taxpayer money—a “wealth redistribution program” to steal rich folks’ money and give it to the poor. And they do not see the moral failing in such an argument because the same people that talk about social safety net programs as being a waste of money have no problem seeing that very money be used to send sick people to jail (or support defense contractors, oil companies, corporations, banks and the wealthy in the form of tax exemptions etc).

Unworthy of Help

The thinking that one needs additional negative consequences for harming one-self assumes that whatever situation one finds one-self in is not sufficient consequences. Even if someone is in an incredibly terrible situation of their “own making” (which is an extreme oversimplification as no one lives in a vacuum)  somehow that’s not enough punishment in and of itself.

The thing I truly abhor about this kind of rhetoric and way of thinking is that even if, given the same set of circumstances, I or Joe Green over there, would have emerged differently than someone else: So what? Different people are different.

And even in cases where someone is in a terrible situation because of their own making and bad choices: So what? Why is that justification to not help them?

I fully understand the value of consequences for harming others. I will, however, never understand the alleged value of consequences for harming oneself.

This calculated, cultivated lack of empathy in our society for anyone who isn’t successful, healthy, wealthy and “wise”, is very disconcerting and quite visible in the face of every person in these mug-shots.

Love, empathy and compassion are necessities if we are going to make it as a peoples and nation. They are not luxuries.

I wish people who just casually judged, blamed and dismissed a person in peril like that, praying self righteously to their “God” that the drug addicts in the mugshots may not have any children, would, instead, pray to their “God” that these people who are undoubtedly suffering, get the help they need – which would necessitate voting for programs that aide such people as opposed to voting for policies and politicians that do everything they can to dismantle the programs that aide these people.

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I Am Not Religious Because…

There are many reasons people are religious: fear of death, existential uncertainty, the desire to control and manipulate people, ignorance, intellectual laziness, or all of the above

But there are many more reasons why someone ought not to be religious or why yours truly is not religious. And those reasons are manifold. It is around us every day – from the mundane to the earth shaking, from the trivial to the deeply philosophical – there really is no reason to succumb to fairy tales, anecdotes, half cocked theories a fifth grader could disprove, stupidity, fear, bigotry and coercion as a way of life or as a way of conducting ones life.

So I am gonna start a series called “I am not religious because…” and cite for you why I am not religious and why given those facts I cite no rational human being ought to be religious.

So without further ado, and to slightly paraphrase Galileo Galilei :  I am not religious because I do not feel obliged to believe in a god who has endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect and then expects us to  forgo their use.

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