This Memorial Weekend for me looks a bit different than years past. Gone are the days of Car Shows, Mule Days and the Narrows at Nac. I’ve opted for a much quieter weekend taking care of animals for friends and celebrating birthdays close to home. The quiet time has afforded me to monitor social media and local news outlets as more information surfaces about the tragedies in Isla Vista.
I’ll begin my thoughts by saying my heart is broken for the families and individuals affected by this horrific crime. There aren’t words I can say to comfort you or lessen the pain caused by these senseless acts. Just know that you are in my thoughts and prayers.
Today, more facts are out. 7 dead, 7 hospitalized. The shooter seems to be an early 20‘s, UCSB student and the son of someone of Hollywood importance. His statistics are irrelevant to me.
We live in a world where information is passed faster than the speed of light. We can understand what is happening thousands of miles away in the matter of moments. A Tweet, a YouTube video, a status update can tell stories and bring us closer to events than generations past could even dream of being. A social media acquaintance posted a video shortly after 9:30 last night stating that there was heavy activity and police presence outside her apartment. I took a moment to watch and the dread set in.
“Here we go again.” I thought. Before the video was complete, I made an assumption that nearby gang violence spread into a known college party town but somewhere in my heart, I knew a young white man had taken, what he felt, was unjust matters into his own hands. Now, victims lay dead and injured. How could this happen? The assumptions and finger pointing were immediate. Americans are most comfortable when we can explain tragedies and cast blame.
I guess I find comfort in understanding and assigning some blame as well. As a responsible gun owner and someone who suffers from mental illness, I feel my perspective on this subject may be unique. Over the last 15 years and probably long before that, I’ve been honest with those close to me about my battles with depression and anxiety – both are categorized as Mental Illness. They are managed well now with nearly 5 years of counseling and medication. It’s not my most favorite attribute, but one that’s with me every day and in some ways, defines me.
I engaged in a few discussions on Facebook with folks who had posted the shooter’s video or shared their thoughts. We all were horrified. One post in particular with my like minded friend Katie, broached the subject of mental illness and that the shooter was probably sociopathic. I agreed. But if we label him Mentally Ill, and categorically claim that folks with mental illness shouldn’t have access to guns, does this include me? Where do we draw the line? In all my years and through all my struggles with mental illness, never have I dreamed of turning to one of my guns as a solution. My guns have never killed anyone.
Is this shooter’s mental illness a product of parenting? Or modern society’s “everyone gets a trophy just for showing up” mentality? In one of his YouTube videos, the shooter expresses his disappointment as he is still a virgin and that he’s never kissed a girl in his over two years at college. Does showing up at college entitle you to sex? Did the shooter realize in our parents’ and grandparents’ generation, sex didn’t come until marriage? And in order to be married, you had to make effort to woo a woman. You had to be of decent character and be worthy of sharing a life with her. If this shooter lived 50 years ago, what would his destiny have looked like?
Then and now, love, affection and respect are earned, not demanded.
More details are surfacing as I type. His parents had expressed concern to the authorities and the authorities paid him a visit. He feared his plan was foiled. Is this the point where legislation can intervene? Can cries for help via social media coupled with family concern become just cause to intervene? I have no answers, only questions.
Our National Leadership needs to address 2nd Amendment rights with respect to mental illness. I pray they take a close look at this disease and it’s patients who are managed and high functioning. I hope that friends, family, law makers and law enforcers can take a more aggressive stance to stopping these tragedies. We can all agree that something must be done. We cannot afford to lose another life to mental illness.