I woke up this morning to a painful email about this post, one so painful that I have been weighing whether or not I should take this post down. Occasionally as a writer, I fail. My words are not received in the spirit which they were intended and cause pain to a reader. I live my life with a “do no harm rule” and when my words cause pain, I need to evaluate my intentions. The intent of this post is not to belittle or push anyone struggling with a mentally ill child into the closet, clearly this country needs some serious discussions on how we deal with mental illness as well as our culture of violence but my concern is timing on when that discussion happens. In the end, I have decided to let this post stand because I believe in speaking my truth and only hope that future readers understand my intent is not to hurt and ultimately yes, while it’s about you neither is it about me.
Let me start off by saying this isn’t a “dialogue.” No, kids…this is a rant, a vent, the babble of one very tired Black Girl in Maine who just made the holidays brighter for over 250 people. So give me a chance to just let my hair down, all three inches of it and say what I want to say in my personal space. Worse case, I lose a few readers. It’s okay, I only started off with two so if in the end I only have the original two, it’s okay. I figured out a while ago, that this space is not my ticket to fame and fortune.
It seems that in the days since the horrific tragedy in Newtown, CT at the Sandy Hook school, everyone wants to add their two cents. In some ways talking makes people feel better and generally I am all for people saying what they need to say, but let me just say, sometimes…it’s not about you. Let me repeat that, sometimes it is not about you!
This weekend this piece went viral, for those not inclined to click, the BGIM short version is that a mother with a mentally ill son wrote a piece entitled “I am Adam Lanza’s Mother” Really? I think he killed his mother and frankly while Adam Lanza probably was suffering from some type of deep psychological disturbances, we really don’t know. Investigators may need weeks if not months to figure out why this young man did what he did. However since he is dead, his mama is dead as well as twenty precious first graders and six brave adults, why don’t we let the investigators do their jobs, let these people bury their loved ones and hold off on assuming we know shit. Because we don’t.
Look I like to speculate and run off at the mouth as much as the next person, hell, why do you think I have over 60,000 tweets? I talk a lot. However there is a time and place and for all the pieces I have seen since late Friday with people using this tragic situation to discuss their personal lives and push their agenda, enough is enough.
Maybe it’s the fact that I have a few friends in my life who always take my shit and find a way to take my situation and bring it back to them, but frankly people who feel the need to make everything about them, drives me batty. It really does. Empathy doesn’t mean that every story, every tragedy needs to be personalized to you and your shit. Despite the fact that empathy exercises may have real value in a work setting, in real life they make you look like a narcissistic fool.
Sometimes to support people means to support them, not create scenarios based off unknowns or co-opting other people’s tragedy for our own gains. Some years ago when my mother was dying, I had a real life friend try to downplay my family’s misery and make it about her. Needless to say she is no longer in my life, I needed support not comparisons or someone to lessen my pain.
The internet in many ways is still the Wild West where the rules of polite society seem to go out the window. Yet this amazing technology has been in our lives long enough that really we need some rules and manners. I look at it this way, if you wouldn’t say that shit to a person sitting in the same room, don’t write it down. Really, trust me on this.
As online communicators, there is a huge tendency to latch onto whatever the current event is and personalize it then market it to our audience as part of our brand. However, sometimes, some shit is so big, that it needs to stand on its own. The recent happenings in Newtown is one such instance, it’s big, it’s bad. We need to have many discussions but let’s not confuse our personal baggage and issues as part of that discussion.
7 thoughts on “It is not about you! A rant…a large rant”
I’m with you. While I am certain that the woman who wrote that post is in desperate straits, and I agree that we need more mental health support, it is inappropriate to use a tragedy that has nothing to do with you to further your own agenda – even if your agenda is a reasonable one. I feel for this mother, even as I disagree with what she wrote. I deeply, deeply disagree with the people who pushed this post to going viral.
There is zero connection between a difficult and violent childhood and a premeditated act of violence like this one. Children are individuals and troubled children do get better. We have no way of knowing what causes something like this to happen, but it happens to all kinds of people – sane, mentally ill, and everything in between. The large proportion of people in those three groups never do anything like this, and it is not an indicator any more than is their hair color or the hospital in which they were born.
The “I am not..” post is doing the equivalent of violence to those of us who have troubled children. The stigma against our kids is deep enough without associating them with a murderer. This post, while couched in a request for help for families in trouble, is much more likely to cause these families harm than good.
If you want the perspective of someone who has lived through being a “scary” kid and how it affects their life, I recommend this post. http://crackedmirrorinshalott.wordpress.com/2012/12/17/i-was-one-of-the-scary-kids/
I think there are a lot of conversations we have to have. I feel for this mother, I really do. I know a few mothers who have experienced very similar circumstances. We do not know the full picture of Adam Lanza. And despite the writer’s reference to Mother Jones, Dylan Klebold was not mentally ill.
What I am saying is that we need to be careful of sweeping generalizations based on sensational media accounts of the common denominator. Mother Jones is a respected publication that I trust, but first person accounts need to stand for what they are: first person accounts with every little to do Newtown, CT.
There is far too much to unpack here in terms of one blogger. It’s true that our prison system is broken, yet incredibly profitable. It also has racist tendencies. The mentally ill should not be in prison. Guns kill and semi-automatic guns should not be on the streets. And poverty should be dealt with. And I can go on forever. One step at a time here. Unfortunately we spent a decade in two countries — one of them we should have never been in — and we are paying for that decade because we went nowhere and did very little of the hard work that had to happen after April 20th, 1999.
Right on, BGIM. I am a strong advocate for Mental Health/Behavioral Health (personally and professionally), and I am a parent. And, I understood every word you wrote.
In my own little world I have been holding off saying anything about the young man or his family until we know exactly what they went through before this happened. Once we know their story, it may or may not add to the dialog on the need for mental health care.
Right now I feel sad for the families and the community and angry about the weapons and ammunition access. And, yes, that’s my own stuff, my own fear.
But, on the whole, we should give space and time to grieve and celebrate the lives.
Then see what lessons emerge as the facts are discovered.
I agree it isn’t about me. Liza long’s piece isn’t about the massacre. It isn’t about seeking care for the mentally ill. Her piece is inflammatory and damaging to the conversation. She changed the original post title. That action speaks volumes about her motives to me. She took a national tragedy and made it about herself and her problems. I agree with Judy that the parents of Sandy Hook want something done, but an attention seeking blog post probably wasn’t it.
Actually, I thought the title was changed with other outlets picked it up. I think it’s the original title on her blog (nope, haven’t checked, just going on what a friend said so don’t even listen to me on that.) I think her piece did at least open up a discussion that I think needs to be had. The title the Huffington Post gave it — her being Lanza’s mom — changed the direction I think she originally intended. She wanted to bring light to how difficult it can be to raise a mentally ill person and I believe she successfully opened the conversation to that.
I have to admit that my posts about the tragedy did start off self-centered. I said something like when I found out I was…and had to stop myself with an emphatic, YOUR BABIES AIN’T DEAD, DON’T NOBODY CARE WHAT THE HELL YOU WERE DOING WHEN YOU FOUND OUT. It’s hard to not get sucked into how we are affected by a situation (especially if that’s not how we intended to come across.)
It isn’t about you either. And I normally like your posts. Forgive those of us who notice the number of incidents and number of deaths. And believe that a dialogue is necessary before these incidents occur more than twice a week…in a day care and with babes in cribs. And at least 50 children. “I am Adam Lanza’s Mother” was about the complications of raising a mentally ill child. Which may be germane to the discussion of inadequate mental health treatment. Wacky gun control. And a country in love with violence.
Funny, I think that from what I have heard…the parents of those children WANT to see something happen with these senseless deaths. Like a dialogue and changes that will prevent it from happening to other families. Sorry if our discussion offends you.
I sent you an email response.
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