Common Sense II – A Father’s Love

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A young woman sits in a mental hospital this morning because finally, someone showed some common sense. Her classmates are headed to school, safe and sound, because, finally, someone showed some common sense. No grief counselors, no memorial services, no flowers and teddy bears stacked sky high on an eerily empty sidewalk…because, finally, someone showed some common sense.

In recent years we have been treated to a disturbing parade of school shootings. Young people, feeling empty, hopeless, frustrated, bored or whatever it is young people feel when they are detached from society and suffering emotional turmoil, have too often turned to that one device that contemporary culture tells us will give them power and authority — a firearm.

What had once been a tool of convenience…for hunters, sportsmen, cops, and those who simply wanted to protect hearth and home, has become a symbol of dominance and potency, courtesy of a little industry known as “Hollywood.” Not that our pals in Hollywood ever take responsibility for their role in the growing body count. Nope, they just scream that law-abiding citizens should be separated from their legally acquired firearms — while they go about their business of making films that intentionally promote and glamorize violence.

Not that Hollywood is completely to blame here, but their smug arrogance just chaps my dumplings. A lot has changed since I was in high school and my male classmates pulled into the school parking lot each morning with hunting rifles mounted on the back windows of their pick-up trucks. A lot has changed since the generations before me actually learned gun safety IN school! A lot has changed since families sat down at the dinner table each night and discussed what was happening in each other’s lives. And, yes, a lot has changed since faith, personal responsibility, and discipline spent more time in the home than self-esteem, personal empowerment and parents in search of their bliss. Not that there’s anything inherently wrong with the latter qualities — except when they are deprived of equalizing values and standards; then they breed selfishness and narcissism, which often leads to detachment, entitlement, and a pervasive feeling of not getting what one is owed by ones peers or society in general.

The common denominator behind most of the mass shootings in recent memory has been one simple (or not-so-simple) issue: mental health. Firearms, courtesy of our friends in Hollywood, have provided a convenient “cure for whatever ails you,” however momentarily. But the root cause — even when abundantly obvious to others — goes unacknowledged. Until last week.

A father in Maryland did the toughest thing a parent could do when, on March 23, he turned his daughter over to the authorities, after discovering disturbing entries in her diary and a plot for an April 5 attack on her school. In her room, police found bomb-making materials, a shotgun and ammo, shrapnel, fuse material and other items uncommon in most teen-aged girls’ bedrooms.

The family was apparently aware that she was struggling with mental health issues — but did not realize how badly her mental state had deteriorated. Perhaps one could argue that her parents might have spoken up a tad sooner, especially as the magnesium tape, flechettes, shotgun rounds, fuses and pipes made their way into her room (I think my folks would have noticed an influx of that nature…) BUT, I am thankful, at least, that her dad was willing to speak up and place his daughter where she would not only be unable to hurt others…but where she can find resources and support to fight her own demons.

This story is tragic enough in its current form, but it would have been far more heart-breaking had her father not shown some long overdue common sense and taken the appropriate action.

Contemporary society seems to find it easier to blame an inanimate object (especially a scary one like a gun) than to take responsibility as individuals and as a nation.  Like frantic, aging hippies, we encourage everyone to “do their own thing” while we pay as little attention as possible to whatever that “thing” is, lest anybody think we are judging them. We’ve fought hard to detach the stigma from mental illness even though that stigma often allowed people to get the help they needed. We’ve deliberately diverted our eyes from our neighbor’s activities (heaven forbid we be accused of being a “busybody”), even if it means that they gather under cover of darkness with like-minded thugs bent on terror, and we’ve virtually walked out of our children’s lives and sacrificed them on the altar of independence, self-esteem and personal freedom. The problem is, before we left, we forgot to teach them the simple truth that “S#*t Happens” in life and you’d better be prepared for it with mental, emotional and spiritual tools that will not only allow you to weather said S#*t, but to grow and learn from it, as well.

Perhaps this young woman in Maryland now has a chance to find peace, to undo the knots in her head, and to lead a productive life. I pray that is so — and I offer a prayer of gratitude to the courageous father who not only gave his daughter the chance for a normal life, but a lot of other kids, as well.

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