It’s easy to blame violence in America on guns. It’s an easy target after a long series of massacres waged upon kids. It’s easy to blame violence on people with mental illness—sick people are another easy target. Unfortunately, guns and violence are just symptoms of a democratic system that is broke and a sick nation that is under siege on many fronts. Before we can end the violence, we need to remove barriers to a healthier nation.
Other symptoms of a sick society include suicide among our kids, elderly and veterans. The list also includes homelessness, drunk driving, substance abuse, and child abuse. We can’t afford to overlook white-collar crime, mortgage fraud, and corruption. And we can’t ignore the battles waged against law enforcement officers and their families. Wars waged (and lives lost) for phantom enemies and the enrichment of banks and defense contractors. Don’t forget the terror felt by families that have no health insurance. Or the threat of contaminated food, air and water.
In my opinion, violence in America is a symptom of weak citizens and an unhealthy government–a government that no longer serves its citizens and perpetuates injustice and tolerates fraud. The U.S. has pointed at similar conditions in other countries as fascist. Therefore, let’s defend this great nation from such a threat–real or perceived. We can’t afford to let this nation devolve into a state where majority no longer rules and the will of the people is often ignored. Healthy capitalism and free-market competition are becoming myths and illusions. Further erosion of our economic strength and national health are unacceptable.
We can’t afford to fund our schools and healthcare systems, but we can bail out fraudulent banks. We can’t defend our citizens from Wall Street fraud, but we can buy bullets and bombs and wage war and spread our perverted version of democracy around the world. We recruit soldiers with lies and let them commit suicide on the streets when they return home. With values such as these, what exactly are we defending?
A handful of corrupt companies that our country defends so viciously are dictating the outcomes of elections and the agendas under our capitol domes. The people (including our kids, seniors and veterans) are caught in the crossfire of this injustice and the symptoms are exploding in classrooms, emergency rooms, neighborhoods and the workplace. Wall Street is creating a nightmare on Main Street. Only the stakeholders and shareholders can fix the problem. We need to demand reason, justice, fairness and a return to the American way–the values that our forefathers fought for so bravely.
I wish that guns were the problem and that gun reforms were the solution, but the current debate is off target, narrow-minded and reckless. In fact, this misguided discussion runs the risk of causing more harm than good. Given the present tone and ignorance, people who need to seek help with an emerging mental health issue are likely to suffer in silence to avoid being labeled “crazy” and “violent” or exposing themselves to bias, discrimination and possible violence. Anything that stands in the way of effective treatment will just compound the problems and contribute to an unhealthy country. Anything that stands in the way of a healthier nation must be confronted–whether it’s policy, greed, ignorance or funding. Obstructions to common sense and common will are unacceptable.
For example, people with mental illness are much more likely to be the victims of violence than perpetrators. Unfortunately, millions of our friends, family and neighbors with mental illness go undiagnosed and untreated because of the stigma generated by reckless and ignorant conversations. In addition, our healthcare system as a whole is too fragmented to identify most of our friends and neighbors with mental health issues and it’s improperly funded to help the majority of those who want help. Unfortunately, special interest groups have obstructed meaningful reforms that can save money, save lives and provide earlier intervention and better outcomes. Meanwhile, people shooting from the hip with reckless statements and solutions will drive people away from the behavioral health systems that can help them. We can’t afford any obstructions to a healthier America.
Furthermore, privacy laws protect the identities of a person who has been diagnosed with a mental health condition. Secondly, stigma, inadequate funding, poor integration of healthcare services and ignorance within our communities prevents millions of people with emerging or persistent mental health conditions from ever being diagnosed.
Therefore, universal background checks are not the silver bullet prescribed by some of those who are dominating the debate over responsible gun ownership. However, we should do everything within our power to keep guns out of the hands of all dangerous people, especially convicted criminals. Background checks and closing gun-show loopholes might help. I’ll let the experts wrestle with those issues. However, I challenge those who are rabid about defending the second amendment to defend our entire democracy, not just pieces of it.
I don’t have all of the answers, but we can use the gun-reform conversation to again highlight the problem with our government and with ourselves. For example, according to a CBS News/New York Times polls, a common-sense measure such as universal background checks on gun buyers is favored by 92 percent of Americans. And that number includes 89 percent of Republicans and 85 percent of households with NRA members.
Meanwhile, a handful of so-called leaders—our state and national legislators—are holding the nation hostage on the orders of special interest groups and corporations. Why is the will of the people no longer part of the deliberative process in America the Beautiful? Why are the people tolerating this obstruction to a reasonable conversation and a vote?
These same leaders are obstructing constructive reforms in many aspects of government, including sustainable energy, safe food and water, and other common-sense solutions to pressing problems. As a result, our nation is getting sicker and poorer everyday. People are slipping through the cracks of this unresponsive system. Have we all lost our backbone for better and healthier government?
We all have blood on our hands and we all are victims for mismanaging this great democracy. Homeland security is a myth if we don’t defend our rights and speak out for our needs and for our neighbors. Homeland security is a myth if we don’t hold parents responsible for their own homes, including the acts (and health) of their children.
Fortunately, in modern society, we don’t have to exercise the second amendment to get our democracy back on track. The pen is mightier than the sword (and the gun) in our pursuit of a healthier America.
If we take care of our nation, our neighbors and our own families, violence will take care of itself. Step up on all levels. Be a responsible parent and an active patriot. Sign petitions. Write to your elected officials and your local media. Run for office. Demand inclusiveness, accountability, transparency and reform on all fronts. Demand responsiveness and less favoritism. Don’t tolerate fraud or corruption at any level. defend the entire constitution and the entire nation.
If we want peace, health and prosperity, we must demand more from our leaders and from ourselves. Make elected and appointed leaders enforce the laws that we have and don’t let anyone stand above those laws. Silence is acceptance.