Sad news to return to

Just back from a delightful three weeks with friends and students in Syam, I was greeted with the tragic news of yet another school massacre.

If you’re troubled by this — and what decent, caring person isn’t — not to mention street violence in Chicago and elsewhere, please consider the perspective of Mental Health Reform as Important as Gun Reform and others from

This article argues that mental health is too heavily framed as individual aberration and not a societal concern. Like cancer and many other on-going scourges, the individualist bias of the American Dream and self-made entrepreneurship prevents us from taking collective responsibility for society, environment, and planet. Sadly, despite lots of religious rhetoric, we are a selfish and narcissistic culture.

More broadly, Buddhism has long taught me that real life is more complex than silver bullet solutions pretend. I’ve long supported gun control, but that alone won’t do the job. Yes, there are too many guns loose in America, both registered and under the table. We also have the systematic dismantling of social services since the Reaganites dumped vulnerable mentally ill people onto the streets. Our prisons show we don’t care about the poor and powerless as we stressfully scrap and scrape to avoid such fate ourselves. Hollywood movies sympathetically portray criminals and thrill us with violence, as does the NFL. Video games blur the lines between violent fantasy and reality, while psychologically priming nasty emotions and behaviors. Pro-military brainwashing throughout the mainstream media and popular culture, while simultaneously treating returned vets like disposable garbage, fosters structural anger, delusion, and violence.These are some of the conditions we must contend with.

At root, why do we worship violence so readily? How might we honestly confront our class and racial conflicts? How do we begin to outgrow a violence saturated society and culture?

The disjointed priorities of this confused society need a good re-think. While we try to look strong and brave, we are collectively much driven by greeds and fears. Too bad that polticos and media shills will turn this latest tragedy into another black and white purple-faced argument about gun control or not. Can we outgrow such puerile simple-mindedness to look honestly at ourselves and our society? Given our track record with climate change, hope requires great courage. Perhaps the deaths of young children will awaken caring that outlives the news cycle.

I felt more safe wandering around in Syam than I do in the land of my birth. Aah, but I tend to forget the Biblical truth that we are the GREATEST NATION IN THE HISTORY OF THE UNIVERSE. So nothing is actually wrong. Yes, God said that somewhere. He must have. How else could it be true? With infantile religious misbeliefs on our side, who needs facts, science, or intelligence? (Apologies for the satire but this piece of the mess needs mentioning, too, and a satiric Facebook comment gets the point across.)

Do we care? Then it’s up to each of us to do what we can to dismantle violence in our lives. And it’s up to our groups, networks, and communities to do the same, which requires our participation. And, finally, we individuals and communities need to take back the political process to serve human beings rather than profits and the illusions of national security.

Lives are at stake.

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