Of Gun Violence and the Mentally Ill

Calling the perpetrator of a mass shooting ‘mentally ill’ is another way of saying ‘guns don’t kill people, people kill people’.  It is clear that anyone who comes to the point of killing dozens of innocents is by everyone’s lights, not right.  But calling them ‘mentally ill’ and simply ‘mentally ill’ does not go far enough.  The vast majority of mentally ill people are not violent.  Even fewer are in any way ‘deranged’.  A tendency towards violence may itself mean that a person is among the mentally ill, but that does not mean that the mentally ill are violent – much less deranged.

As someone who suffers from mental illness, it can be very difficult to determine what can be done to change the stigma but to go on living an honest life, while standing up for your rights and against the stigma.  But if there is any right that the mentally ill can concede, it is the infringement on their right to bear arms, in the name of peace. This may seem like a hopelessly paradoxical position to some who, under feelings of persecution or duress, believe that they are the ones that need protection more than anyone.  But a certain faith and intelligence must go far enough to overcome the fear and feeling of injustice.

Automatic weapons have no place among our citizenry.  They make violence too easy at critical moments and for anyone.  But those with mental illness can go further and be willing to give up firearms entirely, finding other, honest and non-violent ways to protect themselves.  In exchange, they should ask, as I have advocated previously, that there be a taxation on the sale and transfer of firearms, which goes to fund mental health care in our communities.  That seems the least society can do.

Just a Timely Observation

When you know a lot about a person, there is at least two ways you can approach them.  The first is as a human.  Compliment them on their positive qualities; compliment them on their good ideas and good actions; try to help them where they are failing, both in action and in principle; help them to help themselves with what they have to offer and by correcting where they are failing.

The second approach is to ask how a person may be used (exploited?); how can we take (steal?) from a person as much as we can while paying as little as possible; how a person can be made (coerced?) to agree; how can a person be made a non-factor by playing them against others or by stripping them of wealth, credibility, relationships, etc.

It goes without saying that a capitalism without ethics lends itself to the second approach, and breeds a species of men which are sad at best; but it must also be remembered that we cannot legislate ethics – it must come from us as a people.

Gun Control

There are no provisions in the constitution for attaining a warhead.  Yet we allow people to attain automatic weapons – legally – which can do the same damage to human life in a short period of time as a warhead.  We have a constitutional right to bear arms, but there is no constitutional right to human destruction.  The notion of a slippery slope applies equally in the other direction and if one has to choose, they should choose peace over mutual destruction in the name of ideological self-defense.  It is just not that difficult to realize that legislation against automatic weapons is not only appropriate but necessary.

Islam and Homosexuality

Homosexuality is a victimless crime, if it were a crime at all.  As such no self-respecting libertarian would consider making it a crime.  Additionally, homosexuals are a fact of life.  There are people who prefer the company of their own sex for sex.  So the short answer to anyone who does not like homosexuality is: deal with it.  The long answer is that we should welcome the day when we ask someone of their sexual orientation and they respond with an answer which we believe and have no reason to doubt – and have no real interest in unless we ourselves are sexually interested or know someone who might be.  Not only is this a reprieve from deception, but it would give those who wish to manipulate with what-does-not-matter-in-the-first-place less ammunition.  It is a sad fact that although the western world is largely able to see the progress in this direction, the eastern world does not.  The eastern world, at least as represented by the Arabic countries, largely allow for – if not dictate – the persecution of people based on their sexual orientation.

I have been a long time supporter of Islamic Americans.  They have quite clearly drawn the short end of the stick.  But there is a fact of intolerance in antiquated Sharia law which the Arabic countries must overcome in their quest to catch up to the western world.  And it should be said that despite the intolerance, there is this ambition.  The Islamic world has been trying to catch up and we should not hesitate to help them, but they remain woefully behind if this map from the Washington Post has any credibility.

But therein, too, is the problem.  The Washington Post does a lot to overemphasize the importance of homosexuality to the Islamic world.  They say nothing of the actual convictions for homosexual behavior and instead are inciting the flames against Islam at a very critical moment.  The shooting on Sunday of this week cannot be thought of anything but the worst of intolerance, but we cannot let the shooter himself speak for Islam – doing so stinks of the very kind of manipulation which the US is being accused of overseas.

The Narrative Of Dontre Hamilton

Dontre Hamilton was a Schizophrenic black man.  A Starbucks employee contacted police, presumably for his aberrant – a.k.a. ‘mentally ill’ – behavior  when he was trying to take a nap in the park.  The first pair of cops to arrive on the scene thought he was not a threat and just wanted a nap.  When officer Manney arrived to the scene – a situation which he apparently didn’t know had already been covered by different officers earlier – he antagonized Mr. Hamilton.  Officer Manney eventually caused a situation by striking Mr. Hamilton and entering close quarters combat – only to lose and subsequently pull his trump card, the gun… shooting Mr. Hamilton an unbelievable fourteen times.

This is not a matter for party politics.  Democrats – much less Socialists, much less Communists – do not own the high ground on this matter and neither does the Right.  This is matter of basic decency and understanding of the existence and legitimacy of people not like ourselves.  However, I did attend and spoke up at a forum on gun control, where Hilary Clinton was the lead figure.  I reminded the crowd that Mr. Hamilton was Schizophrenic in addition to being a black man.  It is fair so say that Mr. Hamilton’s being black and his being Schizophrenic, may have both contributed to the bias which officer Manney brought to the situation and led to the escalation which could have so easily been avoided.  But it should not be lost among the wave of ‘Black Lives Matter’ that Mr. Hamilton was Schizophrenic, and the Starbucks employee was likely not a racist.  Among all the torrential political spin, it must be said that Mr. Hamilton’s Schizophrenia was part – even the most prominent part – of what led to the injustice of his being shot.  14 times.

I suffer from mental illness and though with age and understanding it has become easier to deal with, it is quite clear from my own experience that the mentally ill are and will remain under greater scrutiny by law enforcement and homeland security.  At the forum I said that what the mentally ill need most is hope and opportunity in the face of what can feel like persecution.  In exchange for this scrutiny and infringement of liberties – and subsequent undue social resistance among the general public – they deserve the chance, with time, healing, and understanding, to be heard.  In addition to efforts to stop mental illness altogether, this is the least we can do for those who have suffered and endured without causing social harm themselves.

At the forum I also insisted that the mentally ill should not own guns, as it only puts the mentally ill in a more difficult situation should there ever be an incident.  But the case of Dontre Hamilton shows that officers of the law too must do their part to make it clear that the mentally ill do not need them.

Viva Barcelona

It has always been the will of the people to live free, but the enemy to such aspirations is elusive.  Should it be that one try to connect with the people and they, by hint and suggestion, are turned against as one who seeks to subvert their good spirits and intentions, then it is – from my first hand experience – the people providing the hint and suggestion who wish to subvert what is good and not the subject of accusation all.  It is the hint and suggestion from the social troll who will end the world in economic ice.  Their malice cold, as revenge is wont to be.

People talk, and that holds not for one group or the other, but it is easier to control the talk if you mascaraed as ‘of the people’ though you are against all that is open and good.  But in some places hidden malice cannot win.  The networks too intertwined, and you are free to be – not this that or the other – but just free to be.

Barcelona and the New Republic

In the Spanish civil war, the Communists and the Capitalists sided with one another against the Fascists.  The Fascists won, and led to a repressive regime that lived in relative peace without freedom until the death of Franco.  Spain, as a result, did not see the subsequent battle between the Communists and Capitalists, which was to define the latter half of the 20th century. They lived in a bubble of needs met and few aspirations attained, with true liberty – religion not least among them – thwarted.

But Franco did not stop the positioning.  He had to, after all, meet with every man’s fate and die.  And so the cold war lived in muted form, to the satisfaction of those who run cold – the communists – as opposed to those who run hot – the capitalists.  But in certain places the dream of the republic lived.  It would come to live in the hearts of former communists as well as capitalists, as the fate of a government of central command was realized in the USSR, not only Spain.

There are still those inclined to socialism, and sometimes they are in the right.  Nevertheless, the will of the people is freedom – civil and economic – and there is no place in the world where this will is stronger than in Barcelona.  Catalonia has been reluctantly paying dues and homage to Madrid for too long, and it is time for Madrid to realize that they really ought to be more like Barcelona.  I have been here for a short time, and I can tell the city is alive and open unlike any I’ve seen.  Despite occasional opposing forces at play, it is a city ready to shine to the world.  Madrid, you should play along – you have something to learn and gain.

Implicit Coordination

It happens everyday, but not least in the highest reaches of government.  In the highest reaches of government, people are quick to clean their hands of any potential wrong doing with a turn of phrase.  The matter does not have to be complicated.  If I am a diplomat and I say that we don’t like X, and if you do Y, we will do Z, this only constitutes a threat if the other side does not like Z and it is not to your advantage that they do Y.  But if you say it like that, your hands are washed of whatever wrong was done with Y, and if you do Z given Y, you can effectively establish trust – all under the guise of whatever protection Z feigns to provide (e.g. xyz=(Ukraine,Syria,Economy).

Matters are not as cut and dried as national broadcasts would like, and in relations, both domestic and foreign, such implicit agreements are the norm rather than the exception.  Still I cannot but beg to maintain that if there is to be integrity to the system – and if our leaders are to know the first as well as the last thing as to what is going on – then we need a system of coordination which is forthright and does not save face for the sake of future votes, protecting against future spin, and living in a reality of appearances which cannot be sustained given a more intelligent populous.

Why Treating the Mentally Ill as Suspects is Counter Productive

The mentally ill need care, not suspicion. Yet a visit with your therapist can occasionally feel like an interrogation as they try to cover their backs from the unknown. And it’s not like their performance goes undetected. The mentally ill are simultaneously some of the smartest people in the world; though they may be treated as minds of inconsequential validity, rest assured that they are observant and capable of unwanted inference. How to treat such talent while protecting society – that is a very difficult balance.

The foremost indicator of future violence is past violence, but all too often people are buried under suspicion without any past violence at all. Should there be a need to put someone under suspicion for their condition, it must be the result of an evaluation done without suspicion, since suspicion on the part of the doctor leads to fear on the part of the patient, which leads to suspicion on the part of the system. Once there is suspicion on the part of the system, it is often too late for a patient to lead a normal life, for they will face an uphill battle for most of their lives.

It is a fact that mass shootings put more power in the hands of psychiatrists, and these psychiatrists are not blind to the scrutiny they will face if – albeit a remote possibility – a terrorist slips their grasp. But we should not ignore the fact that mass shootings make up a relatively insignificant portion of the death rate, despite their sensationalism, and a far greater number of lives are lost to scrutiny than death by bullet – though their stories remain untold.