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An article donated by Contributing Editor, Susan Humphreys:

2019-SEP:
More hate-motivated mass shootings

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There has been another mass shooting. This one in Odessa, Texas. When the previous one happened, the first reports said it had been committed by a domestic terrorist or white supremacist. There have also been several arrests made recently of people contemplating mass shootings before they carried out their plans. As always, people ask WHY?

Some people are calling for gun control legislation; others for better mental health care; some blame Trump and his racist and hate filled rhetoric; some simply offer prayers and condolences. 

We need to look at mental health care and gun control legislation. Prayers and condolences are no longer enough.

I think we all need to start speaking out against hate speech everywhere it occurs -- whether from our President, or a Politician, or Preacher, in online chat groups, at a neighborhood or family gathering. Some will howl that their freedom of speech is being violated. I remind everyone that good folk also have the right to free speech and that includes voicing their disapproval of the hate speech of others.

President Trump and others seem to think that mental illness is at the root of the problem. We know that the mass majority of those diagnosed with a mental illness are not dangerous to themselves or to others.

Blaming the problem on mental illness is a convenient scapegoat. Many think that for a person to kill innocent strangers they would have to be mentally deranged. Yet these mass shooters don’t see their victims as innocents, they see them as the cause of their problems. And they seem to have done some complex planning, something a mentally ill person probably wouldn’t be able to do.

People can be mentally unhealthy without having a diagnosable mental illness just as people can be physically unhealthy without having a diagnosable (and easily treatable) physical illness. For example someone who smokes may find themselves out of breath with moderate exercise long before they actually get lung cancer. 

President Trump also is fond of saying that the “Gun didn’t pull the trigger; a person did.” AND people need to respond: That is absolutely correct AND this is why we need gun control legislation that will keep guns out of the hands of people that want to use them to kill other people. We need to get smart and turn his and the National Rifle Association's (NRA's) arguments “Guns don’t kill people, People kill people” against them.

Another simplistic answer to what is a complex psychological problem is fear. Some people feel threatened, their self-identity is brought into question, by the “others” -- all of those that are different from them. They can’t blame themselves for their problems. They look for a scapegoat, the person with “different” clothing, or skin color, or religion, or political persuasion, or who are simply enjoying themselves at a public event.

Some people blame the problem on President Trump’s rhetoric: His inflammatory tweets and speech at his rallies that confirms the fears of his base. His promises that he will fix the problem by stopping illegal immigrants or by showing China who is boss. 

Some have blamed violent video games that desensitize violence and TV programs that promote the he man, thr "tough guy who saves the world" image of manhood.

Some think that our problems will be solved IF people will become Christians. Yet we know that Christians have committed hate crimes against Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs, women who seek the services of a Planned Parenthood clinic, homosexuals, transgender persons, and others. Today’s evangelical Christians seem to many folk to be a significant part of the problem, definitely not the solution to our problems.

None of this helps us to understand what is really going on in the minds of any of these mass shooters or of any of the hundreds that commit acts of violence every day.

One thing I have noticed from friends and relatives of the shooters is that they are dumbfounded. They claim they had no idea the person was stockpiling weapons, or visiting white supremacist websites, etc. I wonder if one clue that they miss is “secrecy”. The person starts to hide what they are doing, keeping a parent out of their room, closing down a computer when a parent walks into the room, lying about where they are going, no longer having friends over, stop talking about their dayly activities. I suspect there are signs, but parents who are themselves struggling or feeling overwhelmed and caught up in their own issues. And so, they miss all of them.

Researchers study those with a pathology in an attempt to figure out what they have in common. I think that those without a pathology should also be studying -- those folk that are healthy, happy, productive, non-fearful, generous, compassionate, tolerant human beings in order to understand what has helped them become healthy.

I have noticed over the years that there are some people that collect grudges and grievances. Every slight (imagined or real), is one more weight they carry around on their shoulders. An acquaintance may fail to notice them at a store and they take this is a slight, an intentional snubbing. Whereas the acquaintance may have been preoccupied and failed to notice others as well. Every person who disagrees with them is seen as being disrespectful, or as the ENEMY and as an EVIL that must be vanquished.

Each slight is like those proverbial straws on the camel’s back—each weighs practically nothing but the weight builds and builds until the load is just too much to bear and the person decides that something has to be done. 

Every angry denigrating word spewed about the “other” by our President or other politician, preacher, or on a White Supremacist website is a confirmation that their grudges and grievances are real. Some take this angry language as a call to do something, to be a man (most of these mass shooters and hate attacks are carried out by men), and save society from the menace that is about to destroy all that is good about America -- and, in the process, reclaim their own lost unhealthy self.

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I think it is important to note that often the bully creates situations that lead to the slights and ostracism that adds to his collection of grudges and grievances. He becomes his own worst enemy. We see this clearly with President Trump. The more he is criticized, the worse his behavior becomes. This brings more criticism down upon him. In schools the “good” kids often stay away from the bully and this ostracism adds to the bully’s rage.

Most of us have days where one thing after another goes wrong and we might say to ourselves that it seems as though someone is out to get us. Some take these everyday difficulties of life as proof that someone is actually out to get them. I think that some folk have simply never learned how to deal in a healthy manner with life’s problems and difficulties. 

Most of us carry a few grudges and grievances. But we also carry more happy and joyous memories and feelings. For lack of a better word -- and for the sake of simplicity -- I will simply call these Joys. Joys are weightless, think about a clear balloon filled with air, the more we gather and hold onto the more they lift us up and we learn we have no room to carry those few grudges and grievances and discard them as useless baggage.

The person who is happy in their own skin and filled with Joys isn’t afraid of the “other” -- of all of those that are different. They don’t need to stockpile weapons in order to feel safe and strong. They can deal with life’s ups and downs without getting overly exuberant, or angry, or frustrated.

When I was diagnosed with breast cancer and was getting one of my chemo therapy treatments, another patient asked me how I dealt with what was going on. I replied that I realized that there are many things in life that we have absolutely no control over. However, the one thing we can control is how we choose to deal with whatever life sends our way.

We can deal with things in a healthy productive way or in a self-destructive way. The choice is ours to make. AND we need to teach others the tools they need to deal with life in a healthy and productive way.

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Original posting: 2019-SEP-02
Author: Contributing Editor Susan Humphreys
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