Our Readers on Newtown
I am grateful for the educated, intelligent comments of Katherine S. Newman in “Roots of a Rampage,” and the cautionary words of Melissa Harris-Perry in “Newtown and the Perils of Fear-Driven Lawmaking” [both Jan. 7/14]. They are the best writing on that tragedy I’ve seen.
I work in a small, rural crisis center, and we have a bystander intervention project that is almost a year old and has good support in the schools. I wonder if it would be more accurate to say that spectacular school shootings happen in small towns that are transitioning to being suburbs. In very small towns, parents of children exhibiting disturbing behavior will surely hear about it. And if your school is so small that a bout of the flu means your football team must forfeit games and your blue-haired, chain-from-the-nose goth girl can be a cheerleader, difference is not automatically insularity.
I can easily see this going wrong with a flood of new residents who would think of the small town as a “safe neighborhood,” not a community that requires years to fully join. How would they know the protocols of who must tell whom what kinds of news? Established folks might stop seeing difference as individuality and associate it with community disintegration, ossifying stereotypes. How quickly can they learn to increase reliance on specialized programs, instead of personal networks, to manage conflicts?
I want to thank Melissa Harris-Perry for acknowledging that we do not need a national registry of those with mental illness. This is a particular fear for the psychiatric survivor community. After the Newtown shootings, there is a rush to increase aggressive mental health screening and to ramp up the national registry of people labeled as mentally ill, which already exists for the purpose of denying gun permits.
Few voices in the media question the stereotype that violence is connected with “mental illness,” despite the absence of evidence for this premise and despite the fact that it is disability profiling and discrimination. Furthermore, it is a dirty little secret that the mental health system actually contributes to violence by prescribing drugs that stimulate urges to suicide and homicide in ordinarily nonviolent people.
N. Muskegon, Mich.
A few decades ago we had hospitals for the treatment of people with mental illnesses, as well as places for homeless people. All this changed when President Reagan closed public mental health facilities and homeless shelters. Isn’t it about time to reinstate these services?
DOMINIC P. SONDY
Katherine S. Newman focuses our attention on our society as the problem in tragedies such as Newtown. I suggest a discussion of what kind of society we have created that makes it possible for people to move toward these actions.
Where are the strong values we are presenting to our youth? They are not held by presidents who lie about weapons of mass destruction, or by bishops who cover for pedophile priests to save the name of an institution. They are not held by a bank that sells mortgages it knows will put people out on the street, or by a company like Walmart that hires only part-time workers so it doesn’t have to pay for health insurance. We have to find a way as a society to show our youth that we honor the values of honesty, altruism and community before it is too late.