An Unapologetic Dylann Roof Says There’s “Nothing Wrong” with Him

Credit: Facebook
Credit: Post And Courier and Facebook

Disturbing. If there’s “nothing wrong” with him, a boy who mercilessly killed nine African Americans at a Charleston church ceremony, then clearly there’s something wrong with the culture he was brought up in, the culture that allowed him to become this way. I suspect it’s both—he’s psychopathic, but also adopted his views from an abhorrent white supremacist undercurrent that is clearly still present today throughout the United States and on the internet.

There’s no denying that racism, unfortunately, exists. Which is why movements that tell the truth about people of color’s experiences, movements like #BlackLivesMatter, MATTER. If you oppose these sorts of movements, I think it’d be smart to re-think your own worldview and try to understand that your opposition aligns you much more closely with the views of monsters like Dylann Roof than you’d like. And if that statement gets you mad or disturbs you, then that’s good. But that means you’ve also got to become more conscious of your own biases that are making you opposed to people of color coming together and telling their side of the story.

Being any shade of racist is lazy—it takes work and patience to build your own compassion for people not like you. But working hard to achieve something, especially equality and freedom—for all—is the American way. If you’re a true patriot, it’s worth the effort.


Guns Don’t Kill People, People Kill People–But Guns Make It Too Damn Easy

Credit: CNN

I know that I haven’t blogged in a while, and I wish I were coming out of the woodwork to comment on a more uplifting subject. But today, I feel I need to talk about my views on gun control. In fact, I don’t just feel a need—I feel it’s my duty as a person and as a writer to use my voice, and my blog, to share how I and so many others are feeling about guns in the wake of yet another senseless tragedy.

In “Say No to ‘The New Normal’–Five Things You Can Do About Gun Violence,” Daily Beast columnist Cliff Schecter writes that individuals can make a difference when it comes to gun violence and gun control, even by simply talking about it. He reminds us: “You are consequential. You have a voice. You have reading clubs, Facebook friends, bridge parties, etc. Make sure everyone knows your feelings on this issue.” And maybe Schecter’s case is even more applicable to writers over anyone else. Last week, author Nick Sweeney called for us writers to remember that we are the voice of the people in his Atticus Review op-ed, “Changing the Narrative: The Responsibilities of Writers in a Time of Crisis.

As a response to both of these reminders, here are my unbridled views:

1. I don’t know what to think exactly, but there are other countries in the world that don’t have this problem.

I am so saddened to hear of the shooting in Oregon, and the subsequent unrelated shootings at Texas Southern University, and at myriad other locations throughout the United States. Though at this point, I don’t even know what to think anymore. After watching Obama’s first remarks about the Oregon tragedy, I was glad that our president gave voice to my opinion on this matter.

At this point, I support responsible gun owners who use them for hunting, sport, or a sense of protection, and feel they should be able to continue that. But there needs to be stricter gun laws to prevent the wrong types of people from easily getting a gun. I’m not sure what that will look like in the United States, but other countries have done it successfully.

2. Guns don’t kill people, but guns make it that much easier for people to kill people.

Yes, it IS people who make the choice to harm others, so we may never be able to prevent that. But what we need to focus on is reducing the CHANCES of innocent people being killed, especially en masse. Maybe guns themselves don’t kill others (except when those all-too-frequent accidents occur while cleaning a gun or when a child finds one and plays with it), but I have 100% certainty that without guns, people wouldn’t be physically able to kill as many people in short periods of time.

Of course, gun enthusiasts will say that a person who wants to kill others will just use something else. A knife, perhaps. They’ll probably cite the recent Kunming attack that occurred in 2014 at a Chinese train station where 29 people lost their lives to eight knife-wielding terrorists. They’ll say, “See? It’s not just guns we have to worry about. Are we going to need background checks to buy kitchen knives next?” But guess what? It took eight of those disgusting people to kill 29 others. That’s 3-4 victims per psycho. Do you think the death toll would have been the same if the eight of them had guns? Stricter gun laws will likely result in a mentally ill potential killer—or in the case of terrorism, a mentally misled and brainwashed potential killer–only hurting a few people with a knife, rather than 10, 20, or more with a gun.

3. State by state, stricter guns laws = less gun violence

In fact, there’s a direct correlation between stricter gun laws and decreased gun violence/death by gun. According to this State by State gun law graphic from National Journal, states with the strictest gun laws (which includes things like background checks, lack of “stand your ground” laws, and required permits/registrations) have the least occurrences of gun violence. We’ve got a truly promising answer right here!

Credit: Politifact

4. Do we really need to live like this?

I also need to admit that ever since the Aurora, Colorado tragedy, I can’t comfortably sit in a movie theater anymore. I get extremely nervous when someone walks across the floor in front of the screen just a little too slowly. I also get nervous, sometimes, on public transportation and in public places where I know someone could bring a gun quite easily—trains, buses, subways (and if I were a student, classrooms)—all because these things have been happening, and keep happening. Because the current gun laws don’t fully prevent a person with bad intentions from getting their hands on a gun. Because I know that someone planning something like this can just walk into a local Wal-mart in some states and buy a gun without a background check or mental health check that would at least raise some red flags.

I’m also sick of the mental health stigmatization that is often reinforced in the wake of shootings. What makes someone perform an act of violence is very complex, and often isn’t only a result of brain chemicals, but also their upbringing, the culture they live in, life events, and a host of other things (most importantly, a disregard for the preciousness of human life, which is not exactly a mental health issue). People with mental illness are more likely to be the victims of crimes rather than the perpetrators, and this has been proven over and over again. Pretty much everyone I know, including myself, has dealt with some type of mental health issue at some point in their life, especially things like anxiety and depression. It’s not uncommon to go through something like that, and many people who deal with it are not a danger to others or even themselves for that matter.

I would like to live in a country where my worries about someone randomly using a gun to kill people are unfounded. Let’s make it so that my or anyone else’s fears of gun violence are nothing to worry about. We need to do everything we can to keep people from harming others. End of story.

Bullying and Mental Illness

Credit: Younique Counseling
Credit: Younique Counseling

Bullying was a topic of discussion at my family’s Thanksgiving get-together this year. At dinner, I noticed one of my little cousins was less shy than at previous Thanksgivings, and mentioned this to my uncle.

“I’ve been sending her to Taekwando. She’s learning how to defend herself against bullies. I never want her to experience that,” he said.  “Ever.”

And that’s all it took to get us into a heated discussion about bullying.

This widespread problem with bullying has become an important focus in the American media lately–much more so than when I was a kid. Between the 2011 documentary, Bully, and Cartoon Network’s airing of Speak Up in March 2012, there has been a wealth of popular material promoting anti-bullying and bullying awareness. October has even become the official “National Anti-Bullying Awareness Month.” I meant to post this back in October to create a more timely discussion. But really, the discussion of bullying is always timely, because it’s a pervasive problem that many children experience and carry into adulthood.

This past October Brown University released a new study at the American Academy of Pediatrics national conference that focused not on victims of bullying, but on the bullies themselves, and what drives them to bully in the first place. The study found that children who bully are 3 times more likely to have a mental health disorder, such as Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD), depression, anxiety, and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), and other mental health issues. They are also found to be at an increased risk of substance abuse, low academic achievement, and more likely to display violent or abusive behavior as they get older, which isn’t very surprising.

I’ve actually thought about this correlation between mental illness and bullies before. Here, I am not defining a “bully” as a person who gets caught up in group think and makes fun of that one kid in class just because everyone else does. I’m talking about serial bullies, the kids that switch from one victim to another, seeming to make it their daily goal to hurt someone. We’ve all seen those people, from elementary school through college, and even in the workforce.

Before reading about this study, my thoughts on this topic arose from reflecting on my own experience with bullies, and also from reading books, especially Stephen King books. King’s books might show, say, a psychotic killer in his childhood, and the childhood character is almost always portrayed as a relentless bully and menace to other children. In the study, childhood bullying likely indicates that something is psychologically unstable about a child, and while it doesn’t necessarily mean something as serious as the early stages of a psychopath, it still means something is abnormal.

It makes sense. I’ve always felt that there is something more going on with people who inflict physical or mental pain on others without remorse. But often it’s the victims of bullying who end up seeking counseling, suffering from anxiety, depression, or other mental repercussions. And there’s unfortunately no shortage of tragic stories of bully victims taking their own lives. However, this study is telling us that we need to see the bully as a prime candidate for mental health counseling as well. After all, the victims are only reacting. It starts with the bully and his or her mental disturbances that may lead to hurting others in the first place.

I have been bullied, and I know there were kids that had it worse than me, which has led me to have zero tolerance for that kind of behavior, no matter how popular or socially graceful a bully might seem. I believe that parents who notice or are notified that their child is expressing bullying behavior should have a mental health professional step in. This study has told us bullies are likely suffering from some kind of mental disturbance, and that we need to make professional help an option. If it can affect their mental health in a positive way, which will lead to less victims and greater success in adulthood, why shouldn’t we see bullying as something that will not be tolerated and that can be prevented?