Mission Impossible

Every time another psychopath takes the path of least resistance with their illness and succumbs to their darkest urges, Americans begin another round of “I’m Right And You’re Stupid”, an awful game that’s quickly shadowing baseball as our national pastime. The mass murder committed at Sandy Hook Elementary School lit off another round of this last week.

You’ve all seen it; our Facebook and Twitter feeds are full of righteous indignation over guns, mental health services, and the old stand-by about someone’s god not being “allowed” in schools (so much for all-powerful huh?) Friends and followers lists are undergoing mass purges, and I’m betting some of us can’t even get away from it at our holiday parties.

I’d like to take a moment and explore all this. Is there a reasonable proposal on the table concerning gun legislation that would have prevented the murder of those 20 kids and 6 adults? Because I haven’t seen one. A ban on “assault weapons” is overly vague and encompasses far too many weapons to be practical, especially considering that similar bans in the past have only resulted in gun manufacturers making changes to their high-powered weapons to avoid the restrictions.

I’m also not ready to jump on board with the idea that if more people were armed this wouldn’t have happened. While I grant the universal possibility that another adult, armed and properly trained, could have mitigated the damage here, they almost certainly wouldn’t have “stopped” it. Also, the chance that a competent, properly trained person would have just happened to be there at the right time and place to stop this is astronomical. Considering how lazy the American public is, it’s more likely that anyone packing that day would be some dude with the latest fancy handgun and only 20 hours of firearm safety training (if that) under his belt. It’s extremely unlikely they would be properly trained to deal with a situation as chaotic and frantic as this one must have been. That kind of training is usually only found in the very small populations of law enforcement and the military.

Better access to mental health treatment, while a worthwhile goal I wholeheartedly support, also would have done nothing to stop this. Assuming the news reports are accurate, this young man’s mother received $200,000 a year in spousal support. Financially she was in the top 10% of society, and fully able to afford good mental health care for her son. I have no idea if she sought help for her son (there are at this moment some reports she might have been considering committing him, but those reports are extremely preliminary), but she certainly could have. So either she did provide care for him and it didn’t work or she chose not to despite adequate resources available to her. You can’t force mentally ill people to take care of themselves if they, or their responsible party, choose not to.

(I won’t even address the “gods in school” argument. Silliness is not my forte.)

I think we have to explore the possibility that maybe we can’t stop all these things from happening. It seems like every time something like this happens we all start shouting at each other about what we should be doing to “stop this from happening again”. So far it doesn’t seem to me that any of  proposals are adequate to the task of “stopping” mass murders by mentally deranged people, at least not in any reasonable fashion that most of us would accept.

We could do ourselves a great favor if we stepped back, took a deep breath and accepted that sometimes awful things just happen. There is little to nothing we can do to stop it, and the constant arguing over solutions to an impossible situation only add to the discord we’ve all been forced to live with lately. I’m no defeatist, usually, but here is where I might be willing to wave the white flag and say “Sometimes bad things happen. It’s not in our ability to prevent all bad things from happening, but I can control how I react to those things.”. Life is messy and sometimes cruel, and often there is very little we can do about it.

So it’s time to accept the facts – there is no balance to nature, and sometimes bad things happen that can’t be stopped. It’s important for the adults to recognize this and learn how to discern between what we can effect and what we can’t. Otherwise we end up focusing on the impossible and ignoring all the things we can change, all the while alienating our friends and loved ones. Meanwhile, our kids pick up our bad habits.