Kadner: Living in denial of national madness
By Phil Kadner firstname.lastname@example.org December 14, 2012 10:02PM
People embrace at a firehouse staging area for family near the scene of a shooting at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., where authorities say a gunman opened fire, leaving 27 people dead, Friday, Dec. 14, 2012. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)
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Updated: January 17, 2013 6:33AM
Don’t tell me you care about those little children who were killed Friday at a Connecticut elementary school.
Just because you watched the coverage on TV doesn’t mean you care.
Exclaiming, “Isn’t that just the most terrible awful thing” to co-workers and family members doesn’t mean you care. Shedding a few tears doesn’t mean a thing.
Because if you really cared, if all of us really gave a damn, we would do everything we possibly could to make sure this sort of thing doesn’t happen again, just like we did after 9/11.
This is not a plea to end the profusion of guns in American society. It’s too late for that, and I’m not convinced that’s really the main problem.
The problem is that there’s a real sickness in our society, and we’re living in denial.
The fact that so many people feel the need to carry guns to feel safe on their streets and in their neighborhoods merely is a symptom of that illness.
There was a time when Americans felt a real need to make the entire country a better place to live. That was long before mass murders in movie theaters, schools and shopping malls became almost routine.
The people who wanted to find out what was really going on — whether it was a lack of education, poor parenting, malnutrition, child abuse — were dismissed as bleeding-heart liberals.
A good whack on the child’s butt, some tough love, some old-fashioned family values would straighten the problems out, said those who dismissed the idea of a national self-examination.
At some point, the country just gave up the fight to make things better. And that’s when we stopped caring.
Listen, if these murderous outbreaks were caused by foreign terrorist organizations, you better believe there would be a demand for immediate solutions.
All of our national resources would be devoted to stop the bleeding. “Never again!” people would say.
But when the terrorists are native born, when they are our neighbors, Americans just whine about how awful it all is.
It wasn’t long ago that I was trying to explain to people that the closing of the Tinley Park Mental Health Center was a very bad idea. It was the only facility that offered long-term care for the mentally ill.
But Illinois was short of money and decided to close the hospital, regardless of how it impacted mental illness.
For years, Illinois has cut funding for mental health. No one cared.
Hospitals have closed psychiatric beds. More people who were mentally ill ended up sleeping under bridges and cardboard boxes. No one cared.
There are people who will tell you that teenagers who kill younger children on the streets of Chicago are not mentally ill, just evil.
Well, that’s a nice way to end any conversation, but it’s just plain stupid.
Something is seriously wrong with people who shoot and kill other people for no good reason and show no remorse.
But the killing isn’t all inner-city street crime.
There’s something wrong with a culture where children are subjected on a daily basis to violent images through video games, movies and TV shows. You know that has to have an impact on the mind.
Companies spend millions on TV commercials because they know their images change how people think.
It all adds up. But we don’t really care.
It’s too hard for parents to find help for their mentally ill children. It’s too difficult for people to admit there’s mental illness in the family.
And we don’t do enough to assure parents that we will provide them with emotional support and medical help. There isn’t enough focus on identifying children suffering from mental illnesses in schools.
But again, that is only a part of the problem.
The main problem is that we just don’t want to believe that the problem exists.
Just like the parents dealing with a potentially murderous child, we refuse to see the warning signs that are all around us.
It’s awful. It’s terrible. How very sad.
But it’s not my problem.
Innocent children have died, and it will happen again. You know it.
So why act like it’s such a big deal?
Because it makes us all feel bad.
People read the stories and watch the TV news trying to figure out why the killer did such a thing. As if there’s some easy answer to explain such insanity.
“There’s just bad people in the world,” I heard someone say on a TV show.
There you go.
Only bad people didn’t used to walk into classrooms, movie theaters and shopping malls and murder a bunch of people. This is a relatively new phenomenon.
I keep hearing about how we owe it to future generations to balance the national budget. How about focusing on our obligation to the children who are living now?
We’re the grown-ups. We’re the ones who are supposed to make the schools, the streets and the neighborhoods safe for children.
We’ve failed. And we’re not even willing to take responsibility for that.
Putting locks on school doors, bars on windows, arming the civilian population and putting video cameras on every street corner is not the answer.
It’s all more evidence of a national madness. An acceptance that this is the only way to live.
Things will get better only when we refuse to accept things as they are.
Too many children have died. And for too long, America has done nothing about it.