In the aftermath of the tragic shootings in Connecticut everyone is playing the blame game. On the left they are blaming guns. On the right they are blaming the mental health system. Some people on both sides are blaming violent video games and movies. I think they are all missing the mark.
I blame our government. Not because they aren’t tracking mentally disturbed people, seizing guns and censoring TV and video games. I blame them for creating the conditions which trigger the mentally ill young men who carry out these shootings.
That young men in the 16-24 year old age range have a higher propensity towards adjustment disorders leading to true mental illness is nothing new. But there is a perception that members of this group are more prone to act out violently today than they did in the past. Assuming that this is true and acknowledging the facts that guns and violent entertainment have been around since long before this rise in violent outbursts, I think we have to look for another specific trigger.
When you put guards and metal detectors in your schools, when you invasively search airline passengers, when you begin to spy on your own citizens: you create an atmosphere of fear and the expectation of violence. The average citizen finds this heightened level of state security oppressive. Red light cameras, TSA checkpoints, random blood draws, internet data mining and new security laws like the warrantless indefinite detention of citizens in the NDAA all contribute to this environment. For someone who is troubled and prone to paranoia this creates a world which is directly threatening.
In addition, the ongoing economic crisis and the uncertainty it creates puts stress on everyone. And again, this is a problem which has its origins in government policy, a government which is not only increasingly intrusive, but also clearly irresponsible.
We all react to it stress differently, but logic suggests that in those already prone to irrational violent impulses the high level of stress we are subjected to and the threats posed by government can lead to the heightened paranoia which triggers violent action.
This isn’t just speculation. The writings, statements and behavior of these killers consistently express a fear of government as one of their overriding concerns. Even in the sane community this has been responsible for increased political radicalism, higher gun sales and an increase in harmless paranoid behavior like “Doomsday Prepping.” It’s about time we admit that the actions of government play a major role in encouraging this violence.
Ironically the reaction to these incidents is invariably to try to implement more security and take away more rights. They’ll want to seize guns, fortify schools and other public places, track the mentally ill,. monitor more of our communications and take away more of our rights. None of these will be very effective at solving the problem and all of them are likely to contribute to pushing more volatile people over the edge to violence.
Everyone is proposing solutions, but they are not listening to what the perpetrators of these crimes are telling us. Political agendas are driving us to the wrong answers when the real answer is pretty simple. We have created an environment which justifies the fears of the paranoid and drives them deeper down the rabbit hole. Put the blame on us for looking to government to solve social problems it can never really address effectively.
Heightened government security and economic uncertainty are the only variables which have changed. It’s time to put the blame where it belongs and stop implementing government solutions which actually make the problem worse. Before we make more changes and take away more civil liberties, we should think long and hard about whether it is better do do nothing than to do more harm.