The Cost of Pain

by: Chris Blask

Sat Dec 15, 2012 at 10:26:45 AM EST

This week our nation suffered a tragedy of perhaps unprecedented scale. The age and innocence of the victims leaves us all speechless. While we all try to come to grips with the reality our minds shy away from the pain. Every other instance of similar tragedy in America pales in comparison.

When I heard about the incident yesterday morning my first reaction was "oh god, not another school shooting" and I shunted it aside so I could focus on doing the work I am responsible for. In the evening I finally allowed myself to turn on the television. I could watch the first few minutes with a cap on my emotions, calloused as they are by past experience.

Then the person on the screen said it was a school that only covered children from Kindergarten to the fourth grade. The information caught me off guard, my mind stopped working.

I broke down and wept uncontrollably, face in my hands and wracked with sobbing. Donna came and put her arm around my shoulders while I slowly brought myself under control again.

There is still too much pain in my mind to allow myself to do more than think past the thought, what that really means. I cannot be the father I need to be if I allow myself to look into that pit. This morning I can sit here and write this, wiping tears out of my eyes as the screen blurs, but soon I will move on and decorate the Christmas tree with my children.

I will not watch the news today, and I recommend you do not either. Perhaps I will stop here in my office to talk here with you a few times, perhaps I will not. There is time to think about this together, and the considered pace of the Moose will allow us the opportunity to do that here in a manner that allows the space needed.

The one thought I will provide is that while we may be prompted to fall into the pattern of past conversations regarding gun control, what value can be found in this incredible loss may be another issue. The mental health of the tragic young man who performed this horrible crime.

It may in fact be true that the incredibly unlikely 180 in American gun laws would reduce the instance of such events, but that is not likely to happen. What is going to happen due to the changes made in American healthcare insurance (if I understand the legislation) is that those with mental health concerns may begin to find help within reach. This is something we as a nation might be able to do, to find some small compensation buried in the astounding price we just paid.

Chris Blask :: The Cost of Pain
In 2006 a man performed an act as close to this as we have seen. Entering an Amish school, he released his unmanageable pain and wounded five young girls, ended the lives of five others. The Amish community immediately reached out to the family of that man, offering their love and support.

I repost in whole cloth the Wikipedia section on the Amish community's response. Herein lies the answer, I think:

On the day of the shooting, a grandfather of one of the murdered Amish girls was heard warning some young relatives not to hate the killer, saying, "We must not think evil of this man."[15] Another Amish father noted, "He had a mother and a wife and a soul and now he's standing before a just God."[16] Jack Meyer, a member of the Brethren community living near the Amish in Lancaster County, explained: "I don't think there's anybody here that wants to do anything but forgive and not only reach out to those who have suffered a loss in that way but to reach out to the family of the man who committed these acts."[15]

A Roberts family spokesman said an Amish neighbor comforted the Roberts family hours after the shooting and extended forgiveness to them.[17] Amish community members visited and comforted Roberts' widow, parents, and parents-in-law. One Amish man held Roberts' sobbing father in his arms, reportedly for as long as an hour, to comfort him.[18] The Amish have also set up a charitable fund for the family of the shooter.[19] About 30 members of the Amish community attended Roberts' funeral,[18] and Marie Roberts, the widow of the killer, was one of the few outsiders invited to the funeral of one of the victims.[20]

Marie Roberts wrote an open letter to her Amish neighbors thanking them for their forgiveness, grace, and mercy. She wrote, "Your love for our family has helped to provide the healing we so desperately need. Gifts you've given have touched our hearts in a way no words can describe. Your compassion has reached beyond our family, beyond our community, and is changing our world, and for this we sincerely thank you."[20] The Amish do not normally accept charity, but due to the extreme nature of the tragedy, donations were accepted. Richie Lauer, director of the Anabaptist Foundation, said the Amish community, whose religious beliefs prohibit them from having health insurance, will likely use the donations to help pay the medical costs of the hospitalized children.[21]

Some commentators criticized the quick and complete forgiveness with which the Amish responded, arguing that forgiveness is inappropriate when no remorse has been expressed, and that such an attitude runs the risk of denying the existence of evil,[22][23][24] while others were supportive.[25][26] Donald Kraybill and two other scholars of Amish life noted that "letting go of grudges" is a deeply rooted value in Amish culture, which remembers forgiving martyrs including Dirk Willems and Jesus himself. They explained that the Amish willingness to forgo vengeance does not undo the tragedy or pardon the wrong, but rather constitutes a first step toward a future that is more hopeful.[27][28]

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The Cost of Pain | 19 comments
The cost of pain (2.00 / 5)
A very old friend (Mark, Gonzo to me) posted this today on FB:

a friend, just yesterday, posted about how all things in life work like a pendulum, a theory that I have long believed to be true. Without evil, we wouldn't have good. Without hate, we wouldn't know love. Dark, light, you get the picture. I suppose it is up to us all to control how far that pendulum swings... today, it swung too far to one side, and it may be a while till it comes back, but it will. It has to.

There is a cycle to things, though I have a hard time grasping the need for hate. I see more pain than hate in this, though. This young man had incredible pain so he caused incredible pain. The Amish response to the shooting in their school was the best lesson anyone ever offered to something like this: they reached out to the shooter's family with love and compassion.

Hatred is only really pain expressed, though it may be hard to see that for most of us, most of the time. Perhaps the wheel Gonzo is describing is better seen that way. Pain is the opposite of love, and pain provides the contrast that gives love its sharp value to us.

I have had to not think about this event most of the day. Nothing has made me weep in recent years like this has. There is such a tremendous amount of pain involved in this event that I can only sit here writing this because I am not yet really thinking directly about it. That may be the best I can do out loud for now, but since the pain of the shooter is what caused all the rest perhaps that is the pain we can address in the future which can prevent the exponentially greater pain he caused.

The one comment I have seen today that gives any hope of a path out of this - not just today, but other similar events we have here in my country - was regarding the lack of access to mental health care here. In Canada the healthcare system provides not just medical but mental health care as well, here the cost of psychological care is beyond the ability of most people. If this person, the Portland, Aurora Colorado, Gabriel Giffords shooter and so many others could have had help - without the need for thousands of dollars cash excluding them from it - perhaps we would not all be here struggling with this.

We are doing something wrong here in America. Guns themselves cannot be the whole problem, Canada and other places have them as well. It may be that the price we pay for failing to help those with pain in their minds is even greater than we pay for not helping those with pain in their bodies.

John Askren - "Never get into a pissing match with a skunk."

Long term? (2.00 / 3)
I hope you're right, Chris, that increased access to mental health care will reduce the incidence of these horrific assaults -- though, given this country's enthusiastic embrace of violence, I doubt it can ever end them.  Then too, yesterday's knife attack in China by another disturbed man that left 22 schoolchildren hurt (none killed) suggests that there's something dark and twisted inside all of humanity that makes total eradication of such horrors impossible.

Meanwhile, the airways are flooded with the usual aftermath of these mass assaults -- Goddamn!  That one can even say "usual aftermath" is dreadfully telling of the canker within this society, isn't it?  Short term, I see no hope of anything other than the same dreary arguments from the same blinkered proponents of the same well-worn talking points.

Jim Wright said everything I'm thinking now, and more, and far better, in his July 21 blogpost following the Aurora theater massacre:

And more, five days later:

No point in trying to excerpt quotes or paraphrase; the entireties deserve to be read, and I can't say it any better.

So today and tomorrow and as long as it takes for another outrage, another sensation to displace this story, I will try to avoid the media and its wallowing in the latest episode of a never-ending horror story.

If it were done when 'tis done, then 'twere well it were done subjunctively.

Great blog (2.00 / 3)
I read both posts, and subscribed to the blog! As you said, worth reading...

I love my country, but I think we should start seeing other people.

[ Parent ]
Having seen many close to me (2.00 / 4)
...suffer mental distress, I'm quite sure you're right and once again celebrate the socialised healthcare here in Europe which makes many of these services free at the point of use. It's much much cheaper than the alternatives

On the other hand, given the context of the events of yesterday I have to wonder why we ask questions about mental health after the 'lone wolf' atrocity when, for example, many suicide bombers show very similar symptomalogies

Is it really anything to do with mental illness when - if you look at the stats - those diagnosed with some kind of psychiatric condition have only a marginally higher propensity to violence  

The p***artist formerly known as 'Brit'

That anyone would perform an act of violence - particularly one of this type - is defacto proof of mental illness. (2.00 / 3)
I may be only grasping for an answer, maybe there is no hope down that road either, but I would think there would be no argument about the mental health of this person or others of the same cloth.

"Mental illness" as an entire category of disorder may not result in a high rate of violence, but I would assume that certain types of mental distress are higher than others. Medical illness, as an analog, may not result in a high rate of fingers falling off, but leprosy as a category thereof does.

Just as many of us have a good deal of experience defusing potentially violent moments by talking to someone who is not thinking correctly, it would seem obvious that if the individuals who go on to perform violent acts could find help in advance they would less often subsequently perform those acts.

The Amish School shooter was haunted with regrets and thoughts that poisoned his mind, as an example. While I have stuck to my promise to not watch news today, the slivers I caught yesterday indicate perhaps a troubled young man unable to come to terms with the divorce of his parents. The young men who committed the crimes at Columbine would certainly be hard pressed to have been described as mentally well balanced, and I would venture the same goes for virtually anyone who destroys their own lives and others in similar ways.

Maybe all the guns in America will disappear tomorrow, and maybe we will all get ponies for Christmas. But planning for either is not likely to lead to positive ends. Slightly more likely, perhaps, will be some marginal increase in some parts of acquiring weapons or ammunition of some types, but I doubt these would be more likely to reduce these tragedies than wishing for ponies.

The reality is that there are more people per capita in my country whose heads are filled with rage and pain than simple demographics would seem to dictate. Keeping weapons out of their hands may be part of the solution, but the pain in their minds is the root cause of the cracks in their dams.

John Askren - "Never get into a pissing match with a skunk."

[ Parent ]
All issues we can't explore (2.00 / 3)
because it would be wrong to politicize a tragedy when we should be praying or something.

This may be horrible of me, but I would love to see a parent of one of the lost children stand up in a public forum and say "Thank you for your prayers America, but what I really need is answers. How will you as a society that has failed my child make sure this never happens again?"

Although that person would probably be ridiculed by the half of the country that doesn't share his opinions on how to make it better.

I'm honestly very embarrassed of this country right now.  

[ Parent ]
All you say us true (2.00 / 4)
But I'm now seeing a new variant of the "guns don't kill people" - mentally ill people do. But there's no evidence for that

The incidence of mental illness is the US is not much higher than most of Europe - though the murder rate is five times higher

A small part of that might be because of a poorer mental,health care system, but it's hard to believe it's a major factor in the death rates  

The p***artist formerly known as 'Brit'

[ Parent ]
Like I said, compound problem (2.00 / 5)
the frustrating thing about "guns don't kill people, people do" is that the same people saying that won't let us keep guns out of the hands of people who do.

At lot of this might be liberals failing to undercut that bullshit argument by arguing that gun control is less about the gun and more about keeping dangerous people at bay. That's why Rep. McCarthy (from my native Long Island) is trying to reframe it as "gun safety"

Guns are gods to too many people, take the focus off the instrument and put it on the people who misuse it and how to

I said once before when an NRA nut said he supported requiring everyone in America own a gun like in Switzerland, I told him I'm on board, because the Swiss require psych exams and extensive training before giving you the state-sanctioned weapon. Most of the people in America who would be disqualified from getting the weapon would BE the gun nuts.  

[ Parent ]
I think it has everything to do with the death rates. (2.00 / 4)
People who kill innocents are mentally ill, as you agree. That is no more to say that "all mentally ill people are dangerous" than it is to say "all people with guns are dangerous". If we cannot begin by agreeing that these incidents involve people who people who suffer from the specific types of mental illness which make them think that killing innocents is acceptable and specific types of objects which are used for killing people then there is nothing to talk about, at all.

It is just as important to avoid throwing up liberal walls as it is conservative ones if we are to address this or other difficult issues.

What I hear in your comment is an understandable inclination to avoid discrimination against a group, which is a laudable social view. What I hear from the opposite direction is a similarly understandable set of commentary on personal responsibility, which is equally laudable. What is important, in my opinion, is to recognize the validity of both points but nonetheless drive past those signposts to an actual conversation.

It is similarly true both that all mentally ill people are not a risk as it is that all people who own guns are not a risk. Nothing in this conversation can be achieved if anyone insists on remaking those points.

I see three points in any gun-violence-against-innocents incident that are true enough to refrain from debating their basic merit:

- There were too many guns involved
- There was one too-few guns involved
- There was too little talking involved

Arguing that the lack of guns would mitigate the results is fruitless because it is true enough. Sure, the person could have used some other means but at least removing guns would be one less thing to worry about.

Arguing against one armed person capable of stopping the violence by stopping the perpetrator is fruitless because it is true enough. Sure, that may not work as well in all cases as some might suggest, but if the person performing the act could be stopped that would obviously help.

Arguing against convincing the perpetrator not to perform the act is fruitless because it is obvious.

Arguing for an absence of guns is fruitless because it is not going to happen. Arguing for a saturation of guns is fruitless because it is also not going to happen.

Which leaves us to talk about how we help those who may end up being perpetrators not end up there.

Part of that is working to keep guns out of the hands of people who want to use them to harm innocents. Part of that is working to keep people from wanting to harm innocents.

John Askren - "Never get into a pissing match with a skunk."

[ Parent ]
Regardless of the political situation in the US (2.00 / 2)
...because of the second amendment, it's important to establish real correlations between violence (gun or otherwise ) and recognised mental illness, either of cognitive (eg. schizophrenia) or emotional (eg. bipolar) deficits.

Those who suffer a clinical psychosis can have delusional paranoid beliefs, and have all kinds of auditory and visual hallucinations. These people can be a danger to themselves or others in their confusion.

There is no indication such victims of mental illness commit calculated atrocities like Newtown. In fact their condition militates against it. This was a planned and a calculated act, practised - as often - with military precision. A psychiatrist will have a field day in noting the assassin killed his mother first - shot her through the face - before the terrible homicide/suicide of the culmination.

No matter how mad the final act, there is nothing as yet to suggest that the perpetrator's final act was anything to do with his mental health in classic psychiatric terms. I doubt he motives could have been read. His actions predicted. Or indeed his behaviour pre-empted through medical intervention or talking therapies

The p***artist formerly known as 'Brit'

[ Parent ]
In America, there is a stigma about mental healty (2.00 / 5)
speaking as someone who has bipolar and suicidal when I was younger, the help was exceptionally hard to find.

"Suck it up, we all have problems" is the American mentality

Everybody I've lost to suicide I lost because their cries for help were seen as cries for attention and ignored.

It's sad, but at this point. i can't even grieve for these kids, or mourn them, or say a prayer. None of that matters, They won't be the last children to die in a school at the hands of a gunman in this country.  

[ Parent ]
We'll never solve this problem (2.00 / 4)
part of it is because of this, left on Facebook by a liberal friend of mine

Why does every tragedy in America have to be turned into a debate about the government and what they could have done/should do? Grieve for the victims of Sandy Hook Elementary and have compassion for their families, but PLEASE!! leave your political rhetoric out of it!

There isn't the political will to end this, because there just isn't any political will.  

Our need to debate is our only hope of finding our way out of it. (2.00 / 4)
Other than checking in here a few times and a glance or two at Facebook I have left this alone today. I have not been able to avoid seeing some of the comments your friend mentions - from both sides - however. "We need God in school", "We need fewer guns" and so forth.

This article is one of those. To say my heart bleeds for the victims and their families is true, but I have not gone there yet. It would be somewhat insincere, because I honestly have not been able to think that closely at the actual events themselves. I just don't have the emotional capacity at the moment to hear about them and consider their suffering. I will, and as I do so I will find a way to express my grief and my support, but saying that today for me would feel shallow and self-serving.

You all should know by now that for me the "politics" of this or anything are not partisan. I could not care less if the answer to this is more or less guns, more or less health care, more or less religion. There is no pat position on this issue that I care to defend in the context of this event or in general. There is only the path to be found which leads to better places, and should it be to the "political right" then I am no less in favor of it than if it veers left.

I agree to an extent with your friend - I find the roaring partisan points being made by friends to my right and left (and I imagine the media, if I could stomach it) sad and unfortunate, in some cases shameful. But I do believe that every issue is best addressed by communication, the sad and unfortunate and shameful communication included.

Americans have cartoonishly strong political will, it is one of our defining characteristics. It is what makes our conversation so volatile and often so embarrassing. It makes it hard for us to find our way, and it is how we find our way.

John Askren - "Never get into a pissing match with a skunk."

[ Parent ]
As a country we seem so fixated on the glory of the individual, (2.00 / 4)
that empathy for those who don't measure up our standards seems lacking. A significant amount of americans do not believe everyone should have healthcare. As long as the people important to them are protected, they care little about the rest. Beit lack of inteligence, lack of effort or talent or just bad luck, its not their problem. Born into poverty and a poor school system, pull yourself up others have.
I've never understood why. Is it just too many different cultures in the same pot that make a feeling of national community so hard to find?
 Its easy to aknowledge all the things that our country has accomplished, its a lot harder to be proud of us.

Not sure I blame the different cultures (2.00 / 3)
European countries have different cultures but have national identity.

We never really had national identity. We won our independence as 13 colonies that took a decade to figure out how to work as one in even a half-assed fashion. We fought a civil war and parts of the country are still fighting it.

Our sense of national community is so hard because it never truly existed. It was manufactured at times of national crisis like during World War II or after 9/11, but quickly died away after those crises faded.

[ Parent ]
absolute horror (2.00 / 4)
i cannot even talk about this yet.

Earth is the best vacation place for advanced clowns. --Gary Busey

can't disagree...also believe income inequality (2.00 / 2)
plays a role...people have little hope.

but in the end...less guns = less tragedy.

"No disrespect intended, please accept my apology and disregard my previous comments."~GTP

"people have little hope." (2.00 / 3)
That, just that.

If it were up to me, I'd take away the fear.

John Askren - "Never get into a pissing match with a skunk."

[ Parent ]
I've let myself begin to watch and read about this. (2.00 / 4)
The victims and the parents and families involved have my deepest sympathies. The surviving family members of the young man who perpetrated this event have my deepest sympathies.

To Peter's point above, now that I have some detail I understand and want to underline what you said: Asperger's Syndrome is not an indicator of violence. This is not the form of mental illness we need be concerned with.

If I see anything in this incident that can be discussed to lead us in a positive direction it may be a conversation about fear and isolation. If reports are correct about the source of the weapons it indicates a state of mind created inside a home that is all too common. A belief in a state of the world that is incorrect, a belief in impending doom and a fear of others.

"Doomsday Preppers" - encouraged by the Glenn Becks of the world or the Texas Darlin's - embracing and fostering fear, drawing inward instead of engaging outward. A combined popular cynicism about the future of our species and the basic nature of human beings. Constant one-to-one, group and media repetition of the idea that hope is naive and faith in the intrinsic goodness of human nature is foolish.

This goes far beyond partisan politics. These are beliefs supported and fed by individuals and groups across the political spectrum. It is a cultural mental illness that permeates the fabric of our society.

The world is not getting worse, it is getting better in almost every way. The people we see around us are not intrinsically evil, they are intrinsically good.

We each as individuals have to stop holding the false and unfounded belief that there is no hope. We have to stop repeating it to each other. We have to stop teaching it to our children through our words and our actions.

We need more than better access to mental health care, though I believe we need that. We need more than fewer guns, though I believe we would be better off without them. What we need most is to stop feeding our fears, stop withdrawing, stop thinking the worst of ourselves and others.

The world is not getting worse, it is getting better in almost every way. The people we see around us are not intrinsically evil, they are intrinsically good.

This is the truth. This is what I see around myself. The human race is worthy and wonderful. The future of our species is more full of joy than sorrow. You can trust both those you know and those you do not.

If you are conservative, do not believe that liberals are evil, they are not. If you are liberal do not believe that conservatives are evil, they are not. Do not believe that mankind is a cancer on the earth, it is not. Do not believe that mankind is doomed, we are not. Do not believe that we cannot solve every single challenge we face, we can. Do not believe you have to fear the world, you do not have to.

These beliefs we hold and repeat - across and within political boundaries - are lies. They are untrue. They lead to despair, the lead to violence, and they are false.

John Askren - "Never get into a pissing match with a skunk."

The Cost of Pain | 19 comments

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