Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Opinion: "I'm So Sick of "Crazy" People!"

I have a big problem with individuals with a past history of some sort of mental illness—diagnosed or otherwise—committing mass shootings or other crimes involving mass casualties. More to the point, it’s mass shootings involving “troubled individuals” that causes me to lose my objectivity and riles my dander.
In many cases, such “troubled” individuals seem to have an innate urge to inflict mass casualties on the youngest, most vulnerable of us—children or adults gathered public places such as schools, houses of worship, or other centers of public accommodation. Yesterday, another such instance was averted in Decatur, Georgia. During the incident, 20-year-old Michael Brandon Hill walked into the Ronald E. McNair Discovery Learning Academy with an AK-47 assault rifle and other weapons. Hill held staff members in the front office captive, all the while terrorizing the campus by firing his rifle into the air and at arriving police officers. One of the captives, a bookkeeper talked Hill down from what by all indications was his attempt to commit a mass casualty shooting at the school. He eventually gave himself up before going through with his telegraphed intent (See: “Michael Brandon Hill, Accused Georgia School Gunman, Threatened to Kill Brother, Police Say”).

Would-be school shooter and mass-murderer Michael Brandon Hill Booking Photo

During the time he held the staff captive, Hill indicated that he had wanted to die, and that he “was sorry for what he was doing.” And of course, it was revealed after Hill’s arrest that he had past issues of “mental issues.” I take umbrage with the issue of “mental issues” being the cause of such offenses. I simply refuse to believe that such individuals are not “crazy” as such. They have enough presence of mind to know that attacking children would tug at the heartstrings of most Americans in the worst way. They seem to have a sense that hurting innocent children (or innocent adults) inflicts emotional pain, outrage, and grief on their loved ones, and pretty much garners the nation’s attention. 
I would submit that this need to attention, even infamy, speaks to a reality that such individuals are not so divorced from reality or even lucid thinking that they are not aware of their actions.
We have become a nation mental and emotional hypochondriacs, ever-ready to blame our deep-seated unresolved emotional and mental/”mental” issues on whatever malady gives us a pass to excuse our own negative behaviors.
Growing up in the 70s and 80s, I can recall a time when people would embrace denial about mental and emotional issues that only slightly impaired their social functionality and ability to interact; most would do anything to avoid such labels (and their social implications). But somewhere along the line, we lowered our aversion to being stigmatized by mental/emotional impairments. It’s now gotten to the point where we as a nation are hair-trigger quick to use such impairments as an excuse for our lack of self-restraint and discipline. I can recall once during my years as a long-term substitute teachers working with at-risk (read: “mentally/emotionally-impaired”) youth where one such labeled student told me, “You can’t make me do that…I’m ‘Special Ed.’”
I would think that those with true debilitating mental and emotional issues would be offended by so many claiming to be so “impaired.” It’s like when a persistent man enamored with a woman pursues her for a date; many so pursued women will threaten legal action for being “stalked.” Labeling every infatuated man looking for a date as a “stalker” weakens the impact and legitimacy of the offense. It’s the same with calling every personal issue a debilitating “emotional-” or “mental issue;” it weakens the legitimacy of those who suffer from true mental impairment.
I’ve seen kids and adults with supposed “anger-management issues,” who “take drugs for my issues” manage to control those same supposed “issues” when confronted with truly angry individuals who have no scruples about teaching them their place on the social pecking order. It’s both laughable and quite annoying at the same time.
Bradley Manning, the former army soldier who was sentenced yesterday to 35 years in prison for leaking classified military information to the online whistleblower site, WikiLakes, asserted his "gender-identity issues" as a contributing factor for his actions.
In 2005, an armed federal air marshal shot and killed a man on an airplane in Miami because he had claimed to "have a bomb in his carry-on backpack," while running up and down the aisle of the airplane frantically. Despite his history of "bi-polar" issues (as revealed by family members), he had enough of a grasp on reality to know that saying "bomb" on an airplane in a post 9/11, still-alarmed America would garner a response of panic among those on board.
We truly need to stop allowing people to use supposed “mental” and “emotional” issues as an excuse for engaging in behavior which is fully within their ability to control. We tend to criticize those with self-restraint and discipline as being “uptight” and/or “prudish.” But there is a great deal we can learn from such individuals, such as self-control and personal responsibility for one's own actions.
There is “crazy” and there is crazy. What Michael Hill did Tuesday was not “crazy;” it was a calculated action, despite his history of bi-polar issues. “Crazy” would be Hill or some other “disturbed” individual walking onto a military base or inside a police station full of armed and trained men more than willing to shoot back if threatened in the same manner school children occasionally are.
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