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America: Lost Between Illness and Evil

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In the aftermath of Elliot Rodgers’ massacre, let’s discuss the temptation to resort to one of the most common forms of personal and societal self-defense and that is blame-shifting.  We all do it more often than we care to admit, despite the fact that blame-shifting does not help us get to the root of our problems.

In this day and age, the first temptation is to blame the loss of life on the fact that Elliot was able to purchase the guns he used to commit these horrific crimes.  In other words, our 2nd Amendment rights are to blame.  Accordingly, you can bet that the town of Isla Vista will be added to that of Newtown and Aurora as part of the campaign against gun rights.

I believe gun rights are not to blame here, but rather the rights of the mentally ill to determine their own fate and destiny is the one major factor in common among today’s mass murderers.  By definition, what sane person commits random mass murder of innocents?  And, in the case of Rodger, the fact is, he killed as many people with a knife as he did with a gun and intended to kill as many again with his car.

An attorney for the Rodger family stated that his “client’s mission in life will be to try and prevent any such tragedy from ever happening again.  This country, this world needs to address mental illness and the ramifications from not recognizing these illnesses.”  This statement begs the question, what more could have been done that was not being done?

The fact of the matter is that Elliott Rodger was being treated by multiple mental health professionals since his youth.  Further, it was reported that he was living at the Independent Living Institute in Santa Barbara, a facility that offers “living skills instruction to help adults with disabilities to live more independently in their communities”.  Moreover, he had been visited by both a county social worker and sheriff’s deputies prior to his crime spree due to concerns raised by his family.  As a society, we were not living in denial of the fact that Elliott had problems.  Nonetheless, nothing we did served to avert this tragedy.

Of paramount concern here is the fact that mental illness itself is not a crime but some mentally ill people are criminals.  Regardless, we give mentally ill adults the right to refuse treatment unless it can be proven they are a danger to themselves or others and even then we treat on a limited basis.  When a mentally deranged person commits a crime, including murder, we treat them for their illness and once they are deemed to be well again, they get out of treatment and never go to jail for the crime they committed!  Example given?  David Attias.

Personally, I am convinced that many of the paradigms of analysis used to counsel troubled individuals is worthless dribble and the drugs administered to these “patients” often make things worse because we are treating the symptoms not the root cause of dysfunction.  I believe the honest thing to admit, rather than blame-shift, is that American society is at a loss of how to prevent mentally ill people from committing heinous crimes.

In fact, diagnosing what ails these extremely violent people as “mental illness” is in itself proof that we don’t understand the spirit and soul of man.  Plainly speaking, due to the secularization of society we are ill-equipped to deal with people who have given themselves over to evil.  We can’t diagnose, yet alone treat, something we don’t believe in.

 First Published in the Santa Barbara News Press

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