Recent events compiled with historical massacres such as Columbine and Virginia Tech have caused quite a stir in local communities and struck up intense conversation about gun laws, mental health, and the overall moral underpinnings of our society. Sifting through the tragedy, emotion, and rage for and against gun laws, I am left with a bad taste in my mouth at the “general public’s” response. I really started thinking about this last night as I heard news that a 26-year-old man was shot outside the grocery store that is a five-minute drive from my parent’s house in Nashua, New Hampshire. I watched the story unfold via friends’ statuses on Facebook about helicopters soaring overhead and Sheriff’s with shot guns scouring the streets looking for the assailant. I saw people saying, “there are just too many bad people in this world.” I woke up this morning to breaking news that there was a shooting right outside the Empire State Building and as many as 10 people have been shot, including the gunman who was shot and killed by police.
As much as my heart breaks for the families and the victims who lost their lives while trying to enjoy the last movie in the Batman series in Aurora, CO. As much as my heart sunk when I heard there was a shooting just five minutes from my parent’s home and the victim was 26 – just a year older than myself, making it more likely to know him. As much as I feel angst and passion to eliminate gun violence on the streets of Chicago – a place that has been compared to War in Iraq. As much as tragedy strikes me just as heavily as the next news-watcher seeing these stories unfold and hearing the stories of innocent victim’s, I cannot jump on the bandwagon to generalize that there are too many bad people in this world. Instead, I would agree that there are too many troubled people in this world. But that is not the be-all-end-all, we need to change it in order to see a more peaceful, healthy society.
People are not bad. Humans, in my opinion, are inherently good and that goodness is often tainted by biological conditions, genetic make-up, and environmental conditions. We, as a society, do a really bad job of accepting these conditions, genetics, and environmental conditions as impactful in the development of a person. Instead, we judge their behaviors, disabilities, and disfigurements. James Holmes, the gunman who opened fire at the premier of The Dark Knight Rises causes tragedy and chaos and justice needs to be served, but he is not a bad person. Society told him he was a bad person and overlooked his need for professional help to work on his mental health problems. Had someone reached out their hand to help, perhaps he would not have murdered innocent people in Aurora, CO. Seung-Ho Cho, the shooter who opened fire at Virginia Tech, causing the biggest massacre in U.S. history. As the story unfolded, the news began to report more and more on Cho’s troubled history: autism, depression, anxiety, and bullying in middle school. I could continue into the troubled lives of murderers that have struck tragedy on our country. But I think you get my point.
By labeling these people as “bad” without any discussion about their troubled lives negates a solution to the problem. In fact, it feeds into the problem. There are many James Holmes and Sueng-Ho Cho’s out there who are experiencing severe mental illness and are watching these news stories unfold. By calling Holmes, Cho, and all the other shooters “bad” people, we are preventing others with mental health problems from coming forward. Mental health in this country is so stigmatized and resources are so scarce. The conversations right after these tragedies always go directly to gun laws and the NRA is always fighting for our “rights.” Gun laws have been sporadically discussed on the campaign trail as many tragedies have taken place during Obama’s Presidency and during this election year. But why are we not talking about the lack of services for those with mental health problems? Why are we not trying to fix the environmental conditions that lead to aggressive behavior and perpetrate depression, anxiety, and other mental health problems? Why are we not pouring money into services to prevent the next James Homes or Seung-Ho Cho?
It is because we want to believe that none of this could ever happen to us, in our backyards and certainly our friends and/or family could never be the perpetrator of such horrific crimes. So of course, those that do have this in their community and those who commit these murders are labeled as bad and worthless.
So President Obama, Mitt Romney, Senators and House Representatives, please consider as you propose to reduce budgets, cut Medicare and Medicaid, and restrict services to vulnerable people in our country, the detrimental and lethal impacts it will undeniably have on the people of the United States of America. Shift your focus on how taxes will impact the middle class and the rich for a moment and consider the more than 15% of people who are living in poverty and the impacts that has on their lives, decisions, and behaviors. Take a stance to help those who are in need and avoid labeling people as bad without first considering the conditions and factors that shaped their lives. We can all learn a lesson from this.