Monday, December 17, 2012

The Wake

In case anyone missed it — perhaps your corner of the world wasn't so abuzz about it — we had yet another mass public fatal shooting here in the States this past Friday. This time it was in a very well-off, primarily white, far suburban elementary school. Hence, this time, people may actually talk seriously about guns and the people who obtain and use them. They might, they may, they could...will they?

So we've been having the inevitable few days in the wake where we ask in stupefaction, WHY? And my mind has certainly not been at rest. I've been quietly unraveling some thoughts the past day or two. Somewhere early yesterday morning, when I was about ready to go to sleep for the day and unprepared to write a full blog post, I quickly jotted down a note in the form of a Tweet: (something profound about the lonely outcast gunman stereotype and the increasing lack of sociability in today's world). And I think I'm ready to at least begin to expound on that.

Most of the "lone gunmen" we hear about are young white men. The common stereotype is that they were previously, as people, very quiet and kept to themselves. They've seemed pleasant in the past, maybe even intelligent. Many of them, from what I've read so far, have some family turbulence in their personal history and have struck out on their own. This last seems to apply to both Friday's Connecticut shooter and the one at the Oregon mall earlier this month. A certain number of them also may have a history of depression — understandable for people prematurely separated from their parents (also for intelligent people, it seems). So, to briefly summarize, for your average perpetrator of a mass murder-suicide, we have a reasonably nice, reasonably intelligent, young white guy who has known social isolation and depression and, therefore, thoughts of a very dark nature.

....holy shit. That's me.

....well, almost, anyway.

Reasonably nice: check. Don't you agree?

Reasonably intelligent: check. At least many people and supposedly indiscriminate tests have assured me of this over the years.

Young white guy: check. I don't much identify with any of those qualities, but, at twenty-six earth years, with my genitalia and sexual desires, and a neat comparison of my skin tone to that of others I've known and how those people identify, I guess this is right.

Now, to social isolation. I have perhaps exaggerated in the past about myself being socially isolated. I've lived with my parents all my life. Although they argue more or less constantly, they've never divorced or in some other way fully split. Aside from the occasional trip taken by one or two of us, we've always been together, "put[ting] the 'fun' in 'dysfunctional'", as my mother once put it. The three of us. Just over a hundred miles from the nearest reasonably close family. Mom with two fairly good friends that come over once in a while, or, more frequently, take her out for an evening. Dad with no friends or apparent desire for them at all. And me with my own picoscopic social life. And up to three small dogs at a time, which is absolutely not my thing (except this one). And zero cats.

So, social near-isolation, with bizarre tastes and not much ability to connect or identify with anyone in this college town in the cornfields. Fragment of a check mark.

On to depression. I'm not on any antidepressants now. But I most assuredly was for a time during my eight-year college tenure. I went through five different varieties of antidepressant from roughly 2008 — when I announced I wanted to drop from school and the family panicked — to 2012. The first one didn't do anything. The second one made me more depressed. The third one, I shall come back for. The fourth one lifted my mood but did nothing for my apparent lack of will to progress. ("Now I can wear a smile as I swirl down the john!", I semi-joked.) The fifth one at least got me through what I needed to get through, before my insurance ran out. I finally graduated shortly after that. I'm done with college now, and I feel fine, except that I'm still here in the tiny home of arguing and gracelessness. But, as I'm sure I've said a number of times now, I'm working on that.

Thoughts of a very dark nature. These are absolutely existent, surfacing in my brain on occasion. A few of them have even made their way onto this blog. Like here. And perhaps here. And maybe in a few other places in this archive. I seemed to hit a fever pitch of sorts in 2011. Depending on your interpretation, "Society's Waste", written that year, could raise a red flag in your mind.

The thoughts and fantasies are there, certainly. As a milder example, when the yorkie's annoying me, I sometimes fantasize yet about clocking her a heavy one and throwing her in the trash can. And I'll also admit to some sexual fantasies that completely betray the feminist notions I've put forth on here. I will honestly say that I've never fantasized about shooting up a school or any place crowded with so-called strangers. (Even if I did, I know and live with nobody who keeps firearms, at least that I know of.) But the dark and perhaps violent fantasies are there, in limited quantities. Now the question is, do I ever act out those fantasies in the flesh?

About that third antidepressant I said I'd come back to: It was while I was on that that my mother came home one day in her usual bossy, grating manner, and I punched her face. I didn't draw blood or break anything, but I did elicit a certain amount of panicked yelling and calls for me to immediately leave the house. In a panicked stupor, I hopped a train to my aunt's house early the next morning for the week to follow. I never touched that third antidepressant again.

It was also rather a while after I came back from that week at my aunt's before my mother and I spoke to each other again. Eventually we got to talking enough to move me on to the fourth antidepressant.

There was also, at some point later that I don't remember exactly, an instance where I was washing dishes, and "Bossy Boots" (a name she's been known to bestow upon one of the dogs vocalizing that they want a biscuit) was going at a hundred miles an hour, and I just took the knife I was washing, held it, and stared silently and menacingly. My memory of that moment is dim, but I believe she eventually went away for the moment, and I simply turned back and resumed washing. Nothing major happened, that I can tell, but the occurrence could be noteworthy, lest one day I somehow do lash out at a crowd of unsuspecting people, which I doubt.

I want and love peace, and love, and I cherish those things when I have them. I think this is true of many people. But in this cold, crazy world, I suspect that those primal, carnal, animal instincts that dwell within us get more difficult to contain as, with this global age, the world slings ever-increasing shit everybody's way. Certain people don't seem to know how to release stress and feelings, and the onslaught erodes at their outer human façade, unleashing the beast within.

I've revealed all of this information about me simply to provide an idea of where I'm coming from. And about now, my destination here shall begin to pierce the horizon.

There's been plenty of talk since Friday's massacre in Connecticut about gun control. Some people want a total absence of guns among civilians; some people apparently want to fight fire with fire and arm all the teachers. Some people want restrictions on the types of guns that civilians can obtain — presumably no military-style automatic assault rifles. (Why does an elementary schoolteacher need something like that, anyway?) And some people want background checks on potential gun owners. I say, given the American mindset, start with the background checks. If someone has a history of depression or other mental illness and has seemed withdrawn, it's probably wise to deny them gun ownership. It may not always help — the Newtown killer took his mother's guns — but it's perhaps a start. Maybe also minimize the damage with some of those aforementioned restrictions on types of arms. Of course, if we do that, someone may be tasked with taking the banned guns from people who will be quick to use those very guns on anyone who would take them away, and that could get nasty.

Indeed, this is not at all easy. But I do have one other proposition I'd like to make, and it takes on a rather broader scope of life than simply guns and gun control/rights. My mother made a remark during a telephone conversation over the weekend that "something is wrong with the basic mentality in this country" (paraphrased from memory). I'm not convinced she knows what it is, but I think she has the right idea.

I'm thinking of the quiet/loner aspect of the typical mass shooter. Humans are a social species; loneliness and "lonerism" are not at all healthful for an individual, and they are certainly not healthful for a people, or a country. Yet the general mentality in this country seems to be one of mandatory, aggressive self-sufficiency, often forsaking others just to get one's own self ahead in the socioeconomic ranks. Helping our fellow humans here seems frowned upon and apparently, in some cases, illegal. (I think I've mentioned this before.)

And it seems that contemporary technology is making it worse. We can use our devices, mobile or otherwise, to ignore and dismiss the people we're physically with while we discover via the internet things we don't like about other people whom, before the discoveries, we considered friends. For a lot of us, I think, cyberspace is replacing real, human friends. The more rapidly technology develops, the faster our descent. Even without technology, it seems that at least my own family, probably many others, never gather outside of certain major holidays, thanks to our jobs and whatever other obligations we feel cement us where we are. We, as a people, are becoming more withdrawn and forgetting who we are. We're lost and lonely, and we'll remain as such until we decide to stand up and guide each other.

Please: If just for an hour or two a day, twice a week, something like that — turn everything off — television, cell phones, computer, etc. — get together with family, friends, barflies, whoever's around, and just spend time talking. Maybe play a game together. Maybe exchange uncouth jokes or random anecdotes from your week. Maybe have a meaningful discussion about how things are and how they need to be.

Remember also to teach your children to help, to love, and to accept and be accepted as friends and human beings. Teach them attentiveness, togetherness, and positivity. And while you're at it, turn them on to arts: painting, writing, playing music on instruments, dancing, perhaps sports can qualify. The children may come to rely on those as a means of catharsis. I know I've benefited from setting myself loose on the writing board — even if it is virtual.

And, if you can help it, stay near a big city, where people and resources are available. And try not to move too far from other family.

I can't say that togetherness is the perfect solution for mass shootings, or for everything. But I think it can be a terrific start.

Peace and love be with all of you. Happiness will surely follow.



tess said...

Masterful self examination and meditations for my morning CA! When I had difficult times I tried to program myself to only think "SOLUTIONS", rather than fall into freak out, and I would/ will solve it. When you are a round peg, you have to work extra hard to fill the square-peg-society spaces with good things. Service is a great way to relieve focus on yourself, and can lead to very meaningful, if underfunded, work. You have too much hard earned compassion and sense to stay isolated, and that person who needs someone, anyone, even worse than you, is left wanting, too.

Cheshire Adams said...

Hi Tess! I unfortunately imagine that many people in turbulence don't know how to change their mindsets to relieve the cognitive dissonance. If the people around them can persuade them into volunteering or some such extracurricular, it'll be great, but that seems to not always be the case. Some people just seem to have a natural inclination toward "lonerism", however unhealthful that is.

I guess the gist of everything I'm getting at is, perhaps a more pleasant and unified society at large will chip away well enough at that inclination and, you know, actually be attractive to observant minds, not repellent.

Anyway, I'm still working on my own changes, myself. How's massage therapy life in Marion/Carbondale? Anyone hiring there? Is there a music scene at all?