We need to talk.
I love you very much. You are a magnificent place to live, grow up, and enjoy freedoms the strongest democracy on earth can provide. Like any human body with an illness, though, as much as you'd like to look away, you shouldn't. You have complex and deep sicknesses afflicting your vital organs, and they need to be addressed. These vital organs should not be removed - they should be healed. The medicine is difficult to swallow, but if you are to continue to thrive, swallow it you must.
To ALL your citizens - Please do everything you can to drop the stigma associated with mental illness and mental disabilities. Remove the shame associated with having to see a counselor, psychiatrist, whatever. Banish all derision and fear you might feel in your hearts for people who seek help. If someone you love needs help, stand by them proudly for seeking it. Smile at someone who seems alone. Befriend them, even. Be the person who stands up for someone being taunted. Here's something you can say to a bully, for example - "Seriously? You have nothing better to do?" and give the victim a smile and a wink. Do it. Be the person who raises their hand in class and says, "Actually, I'm in therapy, too, and it's really helping. You got a problem with that?" Yes, these matters are private, and I'm not suggesting people bare all. I do think, however, that a little more openness about the need for help for those suffering would go a long way.
To the 2nd Amendment protectors: I'm one, too. I have no desire to repeal the 2nd Amendment. I do think it's funny to watch strict Constitutionalists go insane when some people dare to suggest that literal interpretation of the 2nd Amendment might mean that owning guns should be allowed only if you are part of a well-regulated militia. "Interpret the Constitution literally EXCEPT for the Second Amendment, okay???" No, no, I get it. Guns are legal, and I stipulate that part of the argument. However, anyone who DARES to suggest there aren't HUGE problems with the oversights and implementation of gun laws is living on another planet. Gun owners - step. up. Do something. PLEASE support the strong enforcement of existing laws, and perhaps even be open to stricter controls where possible. Weapons dealers - step.up. Are you such sociopaths that your desire to make money trumps your willingness to make sure guns don't fall into the wrong hands? I hope to God not. I hope to God not.
To the Entertainment business: I beg you to resist all urges to make any money from telling this story. While I fear you are already casting the movie, I hope you will stop feeding the sickness that makes your audiences crave more made-for-TV specials. If you must tell these stories, tell the stories of the victims pro bono. Have anyone working on the movie/book/magazine article who makes more than a school principal's salary donate their time, and have any profits from the venture donated to the care and nurturing of the victim whose story is being told. Perhaps this would help break the cycle of incessant coverage, needless barrages of interviews, and gross exploitation of tragedy.
Finally, to the Media: Please, please, please, for the love of all that is holy, STOP interviewing the children. The ONLY ones who should be surrounding these kids are their immediate families and those entrusted with their medical and emotional care. Do you really need that story badly enough to shove a camera in a child trauma victim's face? Is a moving image and haunting words coming from a child whose wounds have yet to be seen and dealt with worth the views? Will you contribute EVERY. SINGLE. PENNY. of profit your news outlet makes because of your reporting of this story to the healing and welfare of these families so traumatized? Why? Why must you show these children to us? The photo of the children in a line, some hysterically crying outside their school - why? Do you have the right to wrest control of these children's images, caught in perpetuity by your camera lens, from them and their shellshocked parents? I would argue not. No, goddamn it, you do not.
I dispute anyone who says, "It's not the time to talk gun control, healthcare, the economy." Oh, it's time to talk about it. It is time right this very minute. It's time to talk about ways to eradicate the shame this multi-faceted cultural disgrace evokes. The indescribable, the unimaginable, the evil, and the mourning. The heroism, too - there will be stories of heroism and self-sacrifice. But right now, dear America, please take your medicine like a grown up. If not now, when?
All my love forever,
This post also available on my blog, The Worthington Post.