Changing Consciousness

I’m not going to write about curing spinal cord injury today, not after the horrific events in Newtown. Like you, I am shocked and grieving and wanting to find a way to stop this. I’ve read a number of insightful and eloquent blog entries these past few days that have helped to clarify my own thinking. I see three major components in our society that contribute to mass shootings:

  1. Our attitudes and treatment options around mental illness. Perhaps you read the heartfelt, thought-provoking piece by Liza Long, “I am Adam Lanza’s Mother”. Ms. Long has a 13-year-old son who suffers from a mental illness that has her entire family living in fear, and despite their best efforts our health care system has not been able to offer any solutions. She knows her son is capable of a massacre on the order of Newtown.
  2. Violence in the media. I’ve been around long enough to witness a sea change in how violence is depicted in the media. It started back in the 60’s with the release of “Bonnie and Clyde”, where for the first time you saw on the screen people shot in the face at point-blank range. At the time it was shocking, but it sold tickets and started the inexorable march to the kind of senseless, gratuitous violence we now see portrayed in movies, TV shows, and video games. Whether we admit it or not, we’ve become totally desensitized to acts of violence in the media.
  3. Lack of gun control laws. It’s harder to buy a car or adopt a pet in this country than it is to buy a gun. Special-interest groups continue to rant about individual freedom and liberty as they refuse to acknowledge how lack of regulation holds all of us hostage to the fear of an assault rifle in the wrong person’s hands. Is this really what’s best for the common good?

At the end of the day, I find myself asking, “What can we do?” I can’t stand the thought that we’ll go through a week or two of grieving, and that will be the end of it. The opportunity is here to take on the challenge of changing consciousness. It’s the best way I can think of to honor the memory of the innocents who were slaughtered.

What if we chose to invest in services for the mentally ill, to agree as a society that we need to take care of this suffering segment of our population?

What if our media moguls agreed that the depiction of gratuitous violence was not healthy for our society, and decided to leave murder details out of their productions?

What if we demanded, at a minimum, a ban on rapid-fire weapons? In the face of the 2nd Amendment and a polarized Congress, I believe action on this front will have to come from a grassroots movement.

There is a precedent for this kind of action with Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD). It began with one woman’s heartbreak and grew to an effective organization that has seen drunk driving fatalities drop by 40% since its founding. They challenged a society that viewed drunk driving as acceptable, even laughable, and engineered a change in consciousness. We are long overdue for such a change in our attitudes toward guns, violence, and mental illness.

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