Sudden outbursts of rage have always existed in society and I know that. But, it just seems that I am hearing more and more about this. Maybe it is that it is reported more due to the News literally being 24/7 or is it that people are just in a constant state of frustration and anxiety due to this insane world we live in now. The most recent outbursts have occurred on airplanes due to people being inconsiderate by sitting down and immediately reclining their seats onto someone’s knees or people putting a device preventing them from reclining at all. When I rode the NJ Transit bus from New Jersey to Manhattan every morning, this would happen every so often. I was annoyed but I simply quietly asked the person in the seat in front of me if they could please just move the seat up a little bit because it was hitting my knees. Most of the time they just moved it up and that was the end of the story; incident averted. Conversely, I would do the same if I were the person reclining the seat (although I never put it back where it would hit someone’s knees). But, now some enterprising individual has invented a device that attaches to the seat in front, thus preventing the seat from reclining at all. That is ridiculous because everybody who buys a plane ticket has a right to be comfortable and I think most people are polite enough not to slam the seat back. But, I was not surprised when I heard that a fight broke out severe enough to divert the plane the other day. Then recently another one was reported as well. At first I thought that this was a gross overreaction to something that could’ve been fixed diplomatically but I think the cause is just RAGE; that this was “the last straw.” We live in a society where we often feel like victims of some sort. Most of the time we have no control of situations concerning bureaucracies such as the Healthcare Marketplace, Insurance companies, or other large entities where they call the shots. An example of this is with my own Medical insurance which was inadvertently cancelled last week. Trying to reinstate this has been a monumental chore, having endured endless arguments over the phone and no matter how much cajoling, threatening, crying or whatever I do, nobody can expedite the process without the required red tape. Years ago the famous scene in Network where Peter Finch yells out of an office window, “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore” still resonates with most people. In the movie, when everybody opened the windows and started yelling out the same thing, I wanted to scream, “Right on.” Every day the average person is bombarded with life’s little indignities, and are often forced to just accept the injustice of it all. But I do think that most people are like “sponges” and can only absorb just so much before the inevitable slow leakage occurs. The media only covers the horrific acts of violence such as mass killings that are often the result of years of “just taking it”, as with bullying in school. But what gets overlooked are the average Joe or Jane, whose years of “just taking it” are manifested in high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, and mental health issues. Most people have an edit button that prevents them from perpetrating violence (and there are degrees) but some don’t. How many times have we heard people being interviewed after a hostage or mass shooting situation where they say, “I don’t understand it; he was such a nice person. I never even expected this.” The thing is you don’t know what is boiling under a person’s skin. I think that with all the recent insanity in the world (beheadings, ISIS, plane shootings in the sky, HAMAS) and all the little indignities we face in our own lives, it is not unreasonable to expect to recline your seat in a plane and enjoy the solitude away from LIFE for a while. So when an inconsiderate passenger adds yet another measure of indignity to something that should have been pleasurable, we just explode and in our heads we simply say, “Enough is enough. I don’t have control of the world, or my health insurance, or my job, or much else, but I sure as hell have control of whether or not I can recline my seat.” So, I cannot blame the woman who went ballistic at the inconsiderate oaf who decided that he was more important than she was and took that one little pleasure that day away from her.
Mass killing; I watched the News with horror about yet another rampage from a severely mentally ill young man. A father of one of the victims gave an emotionally charged interview and said, “When will this stop? When will we say enough is enough?” My answer to him was, “Probably never.” Welcome to the 21st Century, where mass killing has become almost commonplace; where we barely blink an eye when we hear; where once the dead are mourned, it becomes business as usual. It seems that every other week there is another mass killing. Then the News agencies have a field day, trying to come up with a motive, and rehashing it over and over. Yet, nothing changes, regarding gun laws or the available treatment for the mentally ill. I don’t know what the answer is because unless you can keep someone in a hospital for a period of time, against their will, they will not get the help they need. In this case, this 22 year old was a child of privilege, who had been receiving mental health care since age 8. But I know that unless someone is actually self-aware and admits that they are mentally ill (which most people will not) and is compliant, they will not take their meds, or even seek treatment, which is key. When someone is an adult, they are not obliged to continue their treatment and so often refuse and go off their meds. In all the recent cases of mass shootings, the news media always plays Monday morning quarterback, analyzing over and over how all the “warning signs” were missed. Then they all discuss how the mental health care system is broken, and needs to be fixed by identifying when someone is in trouble and potentially violent. But, since mental health care is a low priority in our society, violent people often fall through the cracks. The problem with the mental health care system is such that when a severely disturbed person is sent to the ER and “evaluated” by an overworked psychiatrist, the “red flags” are often missed because they are often very adept at “acting” their way out of staying. They know all the right words to say in order to appear “normal”, and voila, they are magically sent back out in the world. I know that if they don’t appear out of it, or disoriented, they will be released within an hour. It is a shame when a disturbed individual is a danger to themselves, but even worse when they are potentially violent. I know that deputies interviewed this young man and without real proper training or checking his house, deemed him not to be a threat. Yet, the fact that his parents were so alarmed to even call the police should have been reason enough to take him in. But, true to form, he put on the “act” and seemed contrite, polite, and even shy. It is a shame that family members’ hands are tied because of the HIPPA laws. Once your child is an adult, you may know for sure that he is in trouble, or even headed for a violent outburst, but you cannot do anything about it other than send the cops out, who are not trained in that capacity. I do know for sure that there is so much prejudice and misinformation out there, and maybe education is the answer. People equate violence with mental illness, when the fact remains that most mentally ill people are NOT violent and more often than not, they are the victims. The tragic fact remains that this young man, who had a powder keg working, fell through the cracks and 26 innocent lives were snuffed from this earth. However, I feel such sympathy for this young man’s parents who I know are totally devastated and probably did everything possible to help him. But, the problem is that you can only do so much for an adult child and anyone with a mentally ill loved one can relate to the anguish of his parents.
Every time there is gun violence, and innocent people are killed, the police search for a “motive”. I always find myself yelling at the TV that there probably is no motive, at least one we can understand. If you speak to the shooter (if they are still alive) their explanation makes sense only to them. I’m not talking about a family dispute–I’m talking about random, mass killings of total strangers. In the case of the Sandy Hook shootings, I was just as horrified as the next person, and my heart ached for those beautiful children and their families, but I couldn’t help wonder what sort of grief and shame Adam Lanza’s family felt too. I do place lots of blame on his mother for making poor choices with her decision to buy him an assault weapon. When you hear that he had his windows blacked out and only communicated with Mom by email, I am sickened. I ask myself “why did she not get him help?”, and I don’t really know. Maybe she was doing the best she could, and maybe she did try over and over to get him hospitalized. That I do not know, and her decision to give her mentally disturbed son guns may have been her way to connect with him. Unfortunately that cost her her life as well as twenty-six innocent people. What I do know from my own experience is that it is amazingly difficult to get a loved one mental health care, no less hospitalized. It is a travesty that after entering a psychiatric unit, a patient is summarily dumped out in the street to fend for themselves, to wander homeless. The shrinks give them a cursory interview and if they are shrewd–like most paranoid schizophrenics are–and appear “normal”, they are released. This happens over and over. So, who’s to say that this woman did not try to get him help?