Newtown hits home

Castlegar News bi-weekly columnist Karen Haviland touches upon a prevalent topic

I really wasn’t going to write about this. So many things have been written, so many tears have fallen, so many hearts are crushed.

But I have to, because, you see, I closely identify with what happened at Sandy Hook on December 14.

Much has been said about the people cruelly slain that hurtful day in Connecticut. There are pundits and politicians and those who are pro and anti-gun control, but in the end, unless there are meaningful and productive discussions, it is all for naught.

I identify because someone very close to me is mentally ill. For his dignity and respect I choose to not name him. But trust me, he is ill.

As a child, I always instinctively knew he was dangerous. Recognizing that he was a powder keg only a match away from exploding, I knew I had to distance myself from him. Maybe it was the many, many times he laid baby mice on railroad tracks to wait for the train to run over them, or maybe it was the cruel “games” he played.

I don’t know, but even at a young age I sensed he was volatile and would one day explode into rage and ultimately hurt, or even kill, those who were close to him. And so, I chose to put distance between me and him.

“He” is the potential Adam Lanza or Jason Klebold in my life.

When the horrific carnage happened at Sandy Hook Elementary, I was horrified, as was the whole world. Who kills babies? I’ll tell you, the Adam Lanzas and Jason Klebolds do. They were somebody’s sons, cousins, brothers, or close relatives.

Today my Adam Lanza lives on the street and sends email missives to those he has not offended or distanced through his rantings. He believes that a god, or alien has chosen him and he has been graced with knowledge about the Mayan end. I can almost see him with aluminum foil on his head waiting for his next directive. He truly believes he is chosen and there are those among us who have graced him with knowledge.

I truly believe he is mentally ill, and has been for many years. I love him because he is of my blood, and I revile him because he is dangerous and a terror about to happen.

And now, we come to the crux of the matter. This person, a close person of my heart, is a product of his upbringing. I don’t believe his illness is due to nature, but rather to nurture.

That’s not to say that any of the mass murderers’ parents must bear the burden and the shame of their children’s action. But rather, it is a remark about mental illness and the stigma attached to it. It’s hard to say, “The one I love is mentally ill,” or “The one who I grew up with is mentally ill.” In a way there is a certain societal and blaming shame which lingers, and so we don’t speak of that skeleton in our closet.

I have such a skeleton and I fear for him and those around him every day.

We must, as a nation, look upon mental illness not as an affliction, but rather as a disease. We must, as a nation, work towards caring for those who struggle, not from day to day, but minute to minute and sometimes, second to second.

I don’t condone bloodshed, especially of babies. But, I do condone an open and vigorous conversation regarding those with mental illness. If we fail to do this, we can count on many Sandy Hooks in our lives. And, for me, that is just not good enough. It’s time to look at mental illness with fresh eyes and a non-biased approach.

It’s time for change and we can each, in our own way, start working towards that.

God bless the victims in Sandy Hook Elementary, including the shooter, Adam Lanza.

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