It is not about you! A rant…a large rant

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.

 

Discomfort is a good thing

“I went to high school at Danbury High School and I worked at Danbury Hospital for five years. Needless to say, I’m a little shaken by what has happened so close to that city today. I’m at a loss for words, there is no understanding the mental instability that leads someone to kill anyone, much less children. The only thing I can say is, as you go about your day today, try and look a little deeper into the hearts of the people you interact with on a daily basis. If you have the slightest indication that one of those people are unstable enough or are outwardly emotionally damaged enough, to have an inclination to create a tragedy of the magnitude that is continuing to unfold in Newtown, CT today. Please be proactive. A former man friend of BGIM

I guess it’s no surprise that in a world that runs on a 24/7 news cycle that despite the fact that for the families affected by the horrific tragedy that came upon Newtown, CT only two days have passed but already everyone thinks they know what can stop the next mass murder from happening again. I had not been planning to write on this so soon because frankly it feels wrong. Parents haven’t even buried their children yet, but in a nation with a short attention span, I suppose now is the time to say something.

Already after 48 hours of coverage, many of us sitting on the sidelines attempting to wrap our brains around this tragedy are feeling uncomfortable, can’t take it and need to unplug from the horrors of this situation. Yet when I look back in my relatively short life, I can’t help wondering if maybe we need to be uncomfortable, we need to feel this, we need to not let this go.

Since the 1990’s, mass murders have become common place, I fear that frankly they have become so common place, that when we hear them of them, we get upset, shed a few tears and move on. Unless they affect us directly, while we feel for the victims it’s simply too much and we move on. But not before we declare that the lack of gun bans and access to mental health services are the real culprits.

Clearly America has a love affair with guns, continuing to believe that our founding fathers meant for us to own the equivalent of our own private armies within our individual homes, no matter how nonsensical that is in modern times. We absolutely have a mental health crisis, my work with low income folks has intersected many times with the mental health community and access to services is a true crisis. Yet I believe our issues with mass murders and violence in this nation involves more than a lack of gun bans and access to mental health services, there is a lack of us. It’s even easy to blame the school systems, after all bullying is almost a norm in many public schools in the US and we all know that bullying can create situations where young people are brought to their breaking points. All of these factors and many more I do believe need to be addressed if we are going to stop this cycle of violence in this country but I also think to make these heinous acts a thing of the past, it will require even more…it requires us and our active participation in our society.

We all live intense lives and more and more of us are living without community and support, many of us are not connected to the world around us in any truly meaningful way. Instead we go it alone and I am not sure we are meant to go it alone with no one other than our nuclear families and a handful of friends. Obviously no one knows what made this young man do what he did and sadly we may never know his reasoning. The media reports that are emerging and that are even conflicting at times seem to describe a young man who had his own challenges and if I am extrapolating correctly, a mother who may have been his only support. Aside from a random aunt, and a statement released by the Lanza family I am struck by the lack of people coming forward to say anything about this family. Then again I am not surprised, many of us live isolated lives, and I most certainly have been guilty of it myself.

Am I saying that community support could have stopped this tragedy? No, but I do believe when we allow ourselves to be isolated and choose when to feel or not feel for larger events we are all playing a role in the culture that creates people who reach the breaking point where these heinous acts occur. I believe that when we feel truly uncomfortable and realize that the kids of Sandy Hook could be our kids that we will feel led to say enough is enough. We will do whatever is possible including letter writing, contacting our legislators, and knowing the people around us in a meaningful way so that we know that mom grappling with the challenging son and can assist. Will it make a difference? I honestly don’t know but I know that when we declare we can’t take it anymore and simply unplug from the pain or rant online or at the office water cooler with no actions to back up the rants that nothing ever changes.

As the mother of a 7 year old, reading the list of victim’s names stung me as I realized these kids are the same age as my kid, they could have been her playmates. Kids at 6 and 7 are filled with joy and wonder at the world around them, and to even imagine the terror that they felt in their last minutes is hard to think about it. But I never want to forget the children of Sandy Hook because I never again want to hear of small children being killed at a school, I don’t want to hear of kids being killed at all. Even learning that the killer was a twenty year old young man disturbed me as I have seen people refer to him as a monster; yet as the mother of a twenty year old young man I know that is an age where yes they are legal adults but they are still finding their way in the world similar to that of a small child. In this case, something went wrong and I need to feel uncomfortable so I don’t forget and I hope others don’t either so we can be proactive at creating a world where mass murders become a thing of the past.

Accusations and anger won’t change what happened, questioning a higher power won’t change things either but we can work towards change. Let’s make that happen.

No words….

My heart is heavy both as a human and a mother as I think about the tragedy in Newtown, CT. This is not the time for words, but for some reason this song was on my mind this morning. Blessings to all affected by this tragedy and the world.