Telling Our Own Stories

12.17.12


In blogging it’s sometimes difficult to know which stories are ours to tell. Victoria has been pushed into the unimaginable situation of burying a nephew, a child and you can see here on AC that she’s beautiful and eloquent and protective of the surviving siblings and of her own child. There’s a #LoveForNoah hashtag on twitter that folks might want to follow.

It’s unimaginable that as I write this a family is burying a child so small. We don’t have words for this. We have widows and widowers, we have orphans but we have no words to describe parents who have lost children. Perhaps because there is no single word that could describe the pain. It’s terrifying that a community would have twenty pairs of parents with holes in their hearts and as a nation we feel some of what they feel. It’s a grief so palpable it radiaties coast to coast and beyond.

But it’s not our grief. Our kids are okay and many of them won’t know about this for a dozen years or more because they are too small to comprehend what has happened so recently. Let’s not burden anyone unnecessarily, let’s fight the urge to co-opt the grief of others for pageviews or attention.

We have problems folks. We have big problems with our media. They’re doing a pretty good job of keeping the story to the victims but we’ve been warned by mental health experts that our obscene coverage of this tragedy will bring about more shootings. When I say that the coverage is obscene I’ve chosen my words carefully. If our 24 hour news stations were movies they would be rated R, and sometimes NC 17. I will once again suggest that parents everywhere turn the news off when their children are home. If your kids know the story already there’s no reason to beat them over the head with it. They are children and if this isn’t your hometown or your family it’s fair to let it go.

We have problems with our gun laws. A Bushmaster AR-15 is a weapon that our military uses in Afghanistan. It’s unnecessary for hunting or even home defense. The AR-15 is a weapon meant to spray down the enemy. I like that there are weapons in this house I’m not anti-gun, I’m anti-semi-automatic weaponry. Everyone should be, that’s just reasonable.

We as a nation don’t care for our infirm. We don’t care for folks who have cancer, we don’t care for children who have pneumonia and we don’t care for the mentally ill. We fail in healthcare in every direction and unfortunately the only reason mental health will be addressed in the coming weeks is because it hurt someone besides the mentally ill. You see, had he just killed himself (as people so often do) there would be murmurings and hand wringing but because this particular bout of mental illness collided with evil actions and killed so many people we are forced to deal with the suffering of hundreds, perhaps thousands who will be pained by the loss of their loves. We only pay attention to mental illness when it leaks out into our pristine spaces. This is an unspeakably selfish flaw in our society.

A mother wrote a compelling piece that millions have seen. She wrote about what it’s like to live with a violet and mentally ill teenage boy. It’s well written and had she done anything to disguise her child I’d share it with you now. She compared her son to a host of mass murderers. It’s unimaginable to me that mothers will exploit their own. Some say it’s her Hail Mary and that she’s sharing out of desperation. I know it’s a good discussion but I like it better when we discuss ourselves and not our children’s weaknesses.

I know that there are stigmas to mental illness. Perhaps the duty of breaking those barriers belongs to the mentally ill and not to those they trust.

We deal with the parts of illness we can see. We deal with cancer because we can see bald and frail and we can see death but we don’t deal with depression because that’s a quiet one that slips by us. On my corner is a man who stares into space all day. He’s homeless and there’s no good reason for it. He’s clearly mentally ill but he doesn’t hurt anyone so he doesn’t get help. He reeks of urine and feces and his legs are swollen and red with cuts that don’t heal. We don’t care for him and it’s a crime.

We as a nation have failed to care for our children, our elderly and our infirm. A great society would do these things before all else.

A victims relief fund has been set up for Sandy Hook and a fund to pay for Noah’s funeral and related expenses has also been set up.

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6 responses to “Telling Our Own Stories”

  1. Anne Smith says:

    Co-opt? Sandy Hook is not our tragedy? They’re not our children, but tomorrow “they” are coming for others and unless we face it, feel it and understand what is really involved…let the horror into our lives – the chances are high the laws needed to prevent/minimize future attacks will never come to pass . Today gun control and care for the mentally ill are on the table, again, and we should pray those who are in postion to make needed changes will “co-opt ” the tragedy – will finally move outside of their own safe, distant place and take care of business. This discussion reminds me of how uncomfortable I feel when a non-jew blows off the Holocaust as ancient history / not their problem. The Sandy Hook public shooting is everyone’s problem.

    • I was 100% with you until you went Holocaust on me.

      • Anne Smith says:

        :) it’s not “going Holocaust”on you …it’s the major tragedy*I* think of when there is any call to ignore, or distance citizens, from tragedy. The NRA does this blame / ignore / excuse tactic with gun control issues as do many citizens who do not support gun limits. Especially annoying to me are those who do not want to pay ( be taxed) for services to identify, treat and accomodate the mentally ill in our society. It’s the same lack of empathy and selfishness expressed by those who do not want to care for our most needy citizens. Calls for distance and minding your own business are the incidious and very dangerous methods of behavior modification used to manipulate for self interest – and it kills.

        • I completely disagree with you.

          We’ve seen a rash of copycat shootings and plots and I think that it’s directly related to the news coverage.

          • Anne Smith says:

            I agree with you about the copycats…but my statement addressed the comment about co-opting the Sandy Hook grief for page views or attention– not the craziness of the 24 hour news cycle that gives information about the shooter. Gun control and caring for our citizens at-risk are the issues that will benefit from the attention and broadcasting to the heart (co-opting grief ) is what is needed to move the block of the NRA. Thank you for the conversation.

          • Conversations are wonderful. Thank you for adding to this one.

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