Final Article in our series on Gun Violence in The Media
Our lives get so hectic, we forget to recognize that someone who is next to us. We are somewhat aware of whom they are yet we understand they might or might not share our schedule. Who are they? They may or may not frequent the places we go. Do we know them? They may or may not be on a first name basis with these people. Regardless of familiarity do we really identify with them at all? Regardless of how acquainted we are, what is our response to them just the same? Do we consistently neglect to acknowledge them? Or can we claim to know them? This article is dedicated to those very people who make up some aspect of our physical environment whom we have yet to become familiar with. Whether we acknowledge they are our neighbors or not we have to (at some level) admit we share something with them. Until we get to know them better this paragraph will encourage us to make our eventual introduction to them so much warmer.
If you’re aware of the LIH’s series on “Gun Violence in the Media.” you may think after reading the first paragraph this article might be supportive of the kind of people we typically call serial killers. In case you are wondering the article will not argue whether either James Eagan Holmes or Adam Lanza deserve our rage, pity, or sympathy. If you are unaware, during a midnight showing on July 20, 2012 the only man suspected of the mass shooting Holmes entered a Century movie theater in Aurora, Colorado then teargased, killed 12 people, and injured more than 58 others . On December 14, 2012 Lanza entered the Sandyhook elementary school of Newtown Connecticut and killed twenty children and six adult staff members . Before the school shootings, Lanza began the murder spree by shooting his mother at their home in Newtown. The booby traps left for police, by Holmes at his home clearly demonstrate premeditation and a clear desire to add more killings to the initial event. Lanza’s assault on the Connecticut elementary school and subsequent suicide distinguish immeasurable cowardice. As much as we know, both men acted without remorse when they took the lives of individuals that didn’t know they were in danger. It’s also evident that the killers were aware the body count would play well in the media after the event was over. When the slaughter, investigators would find that Lanza was obsessed with the social impact of other serial murders . But this is precisely why neither one of these individuals are us. We the chroniclers, mourners, survivors, and many still too traumatized to respond to the event, are left with little we can sympathize with and possibly less we understand.
Unlike us they were not able to understand that walking into a public space with those weapons was an immediate assault on the living privileges of others. Unlike us they were unable convict themselves before the horrific events they would execute and find themselves wrong and guilty and or pragmatically seek a preventative intervention. Unlike us they were unable to identify with the likely traumatized families who would out live their loved ones and never overcome these massacres. These practices of empathy illustrate the compassionate norms that healthy individuals, unlike the ones we are discussing, are fully able to exhibit.
Organizations like the University of Cincinnati, the Ohio State University and Case Western Reserve University attempt to define the causes of mental Illness this way on their website http://www.netwellness.org/healthtopics/mentalhealth/mentalhelp.cfm. They say:
“If you have symptoms or a formal diagnosis of mental illness, remember that it is not your “fault.” Mental illnesses are not the result of character weakness. True illness cannot be overcome by willpower alone or by ignoring the problem.
Instead, mental illnesses are thought to result from the following contributing factors:
- Biological factors – Mental illnesses are often hereditary, meaning that they tend to run in families like other forms of illness. Research into mental illness has also suggested the biological and medical roots of such illnesses.
- Psychological factors – Various psychological factors, such as trauma suffered as a child or the loss of a close loved one, may contribute to mental illness in some cases.
- Social factors – Certain social or environmental stressors may also contribute to mental illness. These may include life events such as moving to a new place or divorce and chronic feelings like low self-esteem, loneliness, or anger .
Ultimately anyone can suffer from mental illness, everyone has had some brush with mental illness and most of us will be lucky if we never are overcome by mental illness. Some of us have fought mental illness and won brilliantly; others have succumbed miserably and have left a canyon of tears, misery, and pain in our wakes. That being the case we should probably do all we can to support organizations as big as the American Psychiatric Association  or as small the wounded warrior project . Gawking at crazy killers, wiped out victims, firearm stockpiles, and combative politicians will do little to keep the Aurora’s and Sandyhook’s (and all of massacres in between) from happening again.
Guess what; unbalanced people can do really unspeakable things.
But if we do our duty, we can catch the Holmes, Lanzas and the other pitiful souls we see in the media before they spin too far out of control. We know life is filled with stresses, disappointments, obstacles, unfairness’s, poverties, horrors and struggles. Does life need to be as cold, combative, competitive and cruel? No. But what we should do is be more attentive to our neighbors, donate our time, talents, and resources and testimonies to the people we encounter, and continue to invest in the notion that we all owe each other the best we can possibly offer.
Also view: Hollywood Morals on Violence