Every now and then, I feel the need to expand on my level of knowledge or experiences to create a change in myself, whether major or minor. The easiest way for me to do this is by reading an article, blog, or book that I normally wouldn’t find myself reading, but I also enjoy going somewhere that I haven’t been yet. When I do this, I set off a mind bomb and become more aware of myself and my surroundings.
Me, Mind Bombs: The Need for Self-Renewal
As the year draws to a close, I am having a difficult time focusing on my needs and wanting to set out New Year resolutions.
After the tragic events in Newtown, CT a few weeks ago, I have found myself following the white rabbit down the hole wanting to read and understand the policies in play. It has been a terrifying experience in many regards to discover what “the other side” believes, and read more about the history of the gun control laws and their impact in countries. The worst part for me has been reading some of the thoughts from “the other side” and find myself nodding my head. I’m a pacifist at heart, I don’t think I have ever hit someone in my life even (maybe my little brother, but does that really count?), so to find myself nodding along to some of the arguments for more guns makes me want to smack myself around.
I could never really get into this topic completely because I don’t have a complete understanding of it. Unless you have been living and breathing these topics for your life, I don’t think it is ever fully possible to understand the full scope of things. Everything is complicated these days. The economic impact, the social impact, the political impact. I continually feel buried under the weight of all the information being presented to me.
After each article I seem to read, the only thing that becomes more clear to me is how ridiculously fucked the United States is. They are fighting an impossible fight (much like they are with terrorism). If gun control legislation was passed tomorrow, there is no way they could get their systems in place in time to save another school shooting or other mass murder. And with the amount of drug trafficking that happens in the United States, one could only assume that the amount of guns being trafficked in are of an equal concern. Same goes for controlling the bullets being released into the public.
If someone is set in their mind about causing harm, they will find a way and will work around the rules in order to make it happen. There are too many examples in recent history to point at, from mail bombs (Unabomber) to truck bombs (Timothy McVeigh) to complex plans (World Trade Center bombing and 9/11). The only clear solution (to me) is to get a better handle on the mental health situation in the United States.
Even then, I’m not sure if that will solve anything.
Mark Ames wrote a piece in NSFW Corp, Three Heads, We Lose: Gun Control without Equality Means More Massacres, Not Fewer that does an excellent job of describing the situation in the United States.
There are two take-away paragraphs for me:
… When Clinton signed a federal law banning 19 assault weapons. Not only did employee workplace massacres — a new type of mass-murder crime that first appeared in the late 1980s — continue unabated after Clinton’s ban, but they spread a few years later to another setting once thought safe: middle America’s schoolyards. A few years after Clinton’s assault weapons ban, school kids — mostly white, mostly middle-class — were massacring their fellow students, most famously in Columbine.
And this one from an article in Businessweek, We’re Back to Serfs and Royalty published in 2001:
’The huge disparity between the compensation of CEOs and the people who really make most companies function is starting to raise questions of fairness. For instance, look at how CEO pay has skyrocketed – by 434% since 1991, according to BusinessWeek’s annual survey of executive compensation. Meantime, the paycheck of the typical worker grew only 34%.”
Maybe it is because I matured in the Bush era (having graduated high school in 1998) that I associate the higher wages of CEOs stemming from Bush, not Clinton, but it appears Clinton put in place policies that made income inequality worse than ever before. The inquality between the workers and the managers makes for a dangerous social situation when work is steady and the economy is growing, but toss in some recessions and things become much more tense. Here is another paragraph from Ames’ story that scares me:
Studies prove the obvious: that greater inequality leads to higher rates of mental illness. Psychiatric drug prescriptions for children and adults have been soaring over the past few decades — between 1987 and 1996, prescriptions doubled for children; and from 1996 to 2006, psychiatric drug prescriptions for children jumped another 50% (while prescriptions for adults soared 73% in that same 1996–2006 period). Meanwhile, the adolescent suicide rate soared 400% from the 1950s through 1999.
I would think income inequality isn’t the main reason for the jump in drug prescriptions jumping so much, regardless, it is a frightening statistic.
Let me step back a bit and back to the purpose of me writing.
Had I not been subject to the darkness, I could not have seen the light.
— Midrash (translated from Hebrew)
I wrote that quote last December, at the end of the year, when I was thinking more about what I wanted to change with myself. Those words are more meaningful to me now than they were then. They relate perfectly to how I have been approaching the Newtown massacre – exploring the darker side of thinking about the massacre and the full story behind it all . Only after being exposed to the tragedy was I and countless others able to fully understand the problem the United States is facing. I can only hope that this was the last straw for everyone and they can work on developing some real solutions to fix the myriad of problems in the country.
Newtown was also a wake-up call for myself.
For whatever reason, November and December have been a few dark months for me. My writing on here basically stopped – before this week, it had been over a month since I last wrote. I stopped working out, because I ended up injuring one of my elbows. Having it fully extended or contracted hurt, so I limited its motion and stress placed upon it. My diet has also been non-existent, having returned to where I was several years ago. The combination of all these things has pushed me into a slight depression – not full blown depression since I was still active with my daughter and functioning during the day – and knocked me off course. I feel like I have gained twenty pounds in the past few months- not muscle gain, either.
After watching the events of Newtown unfold, it made me stop and realize who I was at the moment: nobody. I am not in a good position to be protecting my own daughter, nor to find and take care of a partner. That needs to be fixed.
In the coming year, I need to do a mind and body cleanse, get working out harder than ever, and really push to become somebody rather than rot away doing nothing meaningful in my life. Outside being a good/great father to my girl, I don’t feel like I have accomplished much. Hopefully, after a year of giving myself a reboot, I hope to keep that going for years to come. Neither myself, nor my daughter, should ever have to face that darkness again.
On to 2013.
Here is a short list of articles I came across that have helped me understand this situation better:
- Arming Teachers and Administrators – Free the Animal
- No, Really, Regulate the Bullets – Philip Bump, The Atlantic
- The Freedom of an Armed Society – Firmin Debrabander, NY Times
- Making Gun Control Happen – Patrick Radden Keefe, The New Yorker
- Happiness Is a Worn Gun: My concealed weapon and me. – Dan Baum, Harpers
- Why the NRA is Still Winning the War on Guns – Elspeth Reeve, The Atlantic