Monday, December 17, 2012

Stand Up, Gentlemen

I wrote and rewrote this post in my head on my way home from taking Benjy to school on a six-hour school pass today. He is close to being discharged from his fourth psychiatric hospitalization in three years. He is in many ways a broken boy. His wiring can be faulty. He is sometimes sick and sometimes well. He is a beloved, and a loving boy. Empathetic. Generous. Kind. And when he is dysregulated, despairing and self-loathing. Full of darkness.

I love him as much as any of you love your children. He is my sun and my moon. So is Saskia. I truly feel I won the kid lottery.

And yet. What happened on Friday in Connecticut is tearing me up inside. Not only because too many beautiful, way-too-young people came to a violent end. Not only because a young man who must have been suffering in ways that Benjy may have sometimes suffered committed an atrocity.

Those things are unbearable. But so are some other things.

The assumptions flying around -- for example, that people with autism (because the shooter is thought by some to have had Asperger's) are likely to do such things. (Not so!)

Our country's woefully inadequate approach to supporting, and even acknowledging, issues of mental health.

Our inattention.

Did you know that my own family is now fearful about Benjy, about the video games he plays, about his maladjustments, his diagnoses, which seem suddenly extremely threatening? I love my family -- they are the best -- but right now I am angry and hurt by their assumptions.

They forget that Benjy is the boy who burst into tears in a medical waiting room because he was thinking about the families of fallen soldiers and the losses they must bear. Out of the blue, he started sobbing. The boy who worries about other kids when they are not doing well. Who spent some of his own birthday money to buy a gift for a boy at his school who has autism, and whom Benjy perceived as not having many friends. He said, "Can we buy something for A-- that he would like, a book or a calendar with nice pictures? I want to make him happy."

This is not a person who is likely to get his hands on an AK-47 and shoot up a school.

Here's another thought: Adam Lanza's parents were not paying attention. Not the way I pay attention to Benjy, the way so many other parents pay attention to their kids. If they were, there would not have been an arsenal of weapons in that house.

I will not ever apologize for making that statement. If it sounds like I'm blaming the mother, who was also a victim of her son's rampage, I am.

I know within moments if Benjy is breaking down. I hear it in his voice. Read it in his face, his body. And then I get him help. I have sacrificed a career and relative financial stability for him. I drive him all the hell around the Boston area, every week, to get him the help he needs. I have advocated for him and hired others to do so when I could not. Not because I'm a martyr or a hero.

But because I am paying attention.

And here is another thing: We are ALL Benjy's and Lanza's and Lochner's and Holmes's parents. I am and you are and so is that guy and so is that woman. We all have a responsibility to not turn away. To advocate for our fellow citizens who need mental health resources. We should insist that some of our tax dollars go to mental health research and services. At the same time, we should not make assumptions about people with psychiatric disorders. We all know someone with one -- I guarantee it. You may not know you do, but you do.


And here is the last thing I am going to say:


It is not enough to address the problems of mental health disorders in this country. Some of the people who commit these mass shootings may not even be mentally ill.

In fact, you know what the common denominator really is?

White males. Think about it.

Speaking of white males, a lot of the white males who still dominate our government have no moral courage. They are in this game for self-gain. The safety of six-year-old children, like those who were murdered on Friday, means less to them than the safety of their own jobs.

Why else would they fail  to stand up to the gun lobby's bullying?


Why would they keep insisting that ALL guns be readily available to anyone who wants them?


Why would they believe that it is a matter of right that one be able to legally own and carry a weapon whose SOLE PURPOSE is to kill as many people as possible, as quickly as possible?


A lot of these gun proponents are men who campaign on "moral" issues. This is not the time to debate their other moral failures. The issue at hand is GUNS.

STAND UP, GENTLEMEN. Like the women at Sandy Hook who gave their lives -- their LIVES -- to protect the children you refuse to protect because you may lose your job.




  1. A appreciates Benjy's kindness. He is a wonderful young man. I also tend to agree with your sentiments about Adam Lanza's parents. Hang in there!!!!

    1. Thank you!! And A-- is a wonderful boy too -- I love the way he smiles and shakes my hand when he sees me at school. He NEVER fails to say hello. That just makes my day. :)