Friday, October 02, 2015

Gun Violence: The Big Lie About Mental Illness

The Roseburg, Oregon gunman
I had to run to court today and, therefore was in the car more than usual listening to a satellite radio political channel and once again I wanted to scream and/or throw something as I heard Republicans blame the latest mass shooting on anything and everything except America's insane gun laws that allow individuals to own guns that no law abiding person needs.  The NRA pretends to represent hunters and sportsman yet what hunter needs to own an automatic rifle or semi-automatic hand gun?  None, obviously.  Yet local yokels and loons like the late Charlton Heston - who likely got paid nicely - continue the charade that they merely want to continue the "real America" sports of hunting and fishing.  Meanwhile, the favored GOP meme this time around is that all of the mass shootings really are due to mental illness and not the insane number of guns loose in the American public.  As Barack Obama noted yesterday "We are the only advanced country on Earth that sees these shootings every few months."  The difference isn't due to higher mental illness in America, it's because of our ridiculous gun laws.  A piece in Salon looks at the big lie the gun lobby and GOP political whores are pushing in the wake of another totally avoidable tragedy.  Here are highlights:

I get really really tired of hearing the phrase “mental illness” thrown around as a way to avoid saying other terms like “toxic masculinity,” “white supremacy,” “misogyny” or “racism.”

We barely know anything about the suspect in the Charleston, South Carolina, atrocity. We certainly don’t have testimony from a mental health professional responsible for his care that he suffered from any specific mental illness, or that he suffered from a mental illness at all.

But the media insists on trotting out “mental illness” and blaring out that phrase nonstop in the wake of any mass killing. I had to grit my teeth every time I personally debated someone defaulting to the mindless mantra of “The real issue is mental illness” over the Isla Vista shootings.

“The real issue is mental illness” is a goddamn cop-out. I almost never hear it from actual mental health professionals, or advocates working in the mental health sphere, or anyone who actually has any kind of informed opinion on mental health or serious policy proposals for how to improve our treatment of the mentally ill in this country.

What’s interesting is to watch who the mentally ill people are being thrown under the bus to defend. In the wake of Sandy Hook, the NRA tells us that creating a national registry of firearms owners would be giving the government dangerously unchecked tyrannical power, but a national registry of the mentally ill would not — even though a “sane” person holding a gun is intrinsically more dangerous than a “crazy” person, no matter how crazy, without a gun.

We’ve successfully created a world so topsy-turvy that seeking medical help for depression or anxiety is apparently stronger evidence of violent tendencies than going out and purchasing a weapon whose only purpose is committing acts of violence. We’ve got a narrative going where doing the former is something we’re OK with stigmatizing but not the latter. God bless America.

We love to talk about individuals’ mental illness so we can avoid talking about the biggest, scariest problem of all–societal illness. That the danger isn’t any one person’s madness, but that the world we live in is mad.

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