Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Wackos, Within and Without

“Well, the plot thickens, as it always does,” I told Lady. “Anyway, today I woke up this morning to an email from my student, who’s running for governor as an independent candidate. It turns out that El Nuevo Día, the largest paper on the island, is asking for video clips from all the candidates: what role does education play in preventing such tragedies….”

“Time for a sound bite!”

“Here’s the deal: 23 of the victims were Puerto Rican. So what to say? And how do you say it in one minute? Anyway, as I told my student, the real question is how many LGBT kids will end up on the street this year, versus how many will be shot in discos. Or another issue: how many LGBT people will commit suicide versus die by gunfire in a disco. Because those are, in a sense, even larger problems than the ones that grab the headlines. So I told my student about Caitlin Ryan….”

“She being…?”

“A social worker in San Francisco, who’s doing great work getting the families of LGBT youth to becoming more accepting. As she says, most of us in the LGBT community viewed the family as the problem. And for most parents, it was a question of having to choose between their faith and their child. But if you can change the dialogue, you have a chance to help the parents and the child come closer together. And did you know that…wait, here’s the quote:

….the effect (of being forced out of the home) was enormous, as their results published in the Journal of Pediatrics showed: Those who are forcefully rejected by their families or caregivers are more than 8 times as likely to attempt suicide, nearly 6 times as likely to report high levels of depression and more than 3 times as likely to use illegal drugs and be at high risk for HIV and STDs.

“Yup, knew that,” said Lady.

“Anyway, the news out of Florida is as predictable as it is gloomy. The guy was crazy, and everybody—especially his coworkers—knew it. But when the FBI investigated, they discovered that he couldn’t be linked to terrorism. Of course he couldn’t—but that misses the point. So I told my student, we have to make a profile of who is at high risk for committing a massacre….”

“…and that would be?”

“You know, every time it’s the same story, so here would be my list…”

·      Solitary, “lone wolf” personality
·      Few friends, social activities
·      Erratic personality, especially mood swings
·      Interest in guns / weapons
·      Poor impulse control
·      Rigid personality
·      Hyper-religiosity
·      Social intolerance
·      Substance abuse

“Anyway, the point is that the FBI is looking for a link to a terrorist threat, but it’s not looking to prevent a person from becoming a terrorist. Same thing happened in Boston. So we have to put together teams of law enforcement, social services, mental health professionals, and yes, the religious community….”

“You said that?”

“Look, it’s what we have. In the case of the gay community, we haven’t done a good job of connecting with the Evangelical Christians. They think we’re possessed by the devil, and we think they’re monsters because they reject their children. But look, does any parent want to see their kid on the street? Can you imagine how you would feel, late at night, in the middle of winter, not knowing where your kid was? Or even if he was alive? So if we could engage with the religious right enough so that they could at least counsel parents not to throw their kids out…well, that would be a lot. And in the case of the Muslim community, yeah, we need the imams to be looking at their communities, identifying the young, male isolated kids who are at risk. And then trusting the authorities enough to call in social services or the law. In short, everybody’s got to be at the table….”

“Think that will work?”

“No idea,” I told her. “The Muslim community—sorry to drop this news—has a little work to do. Did you know that Mateen was a regular at the club, that he frequently got drunk and had to be escorted out of the club? Here’s a quote:

Smith said the sometimes-visitor would show up with a buddy and let loose in a way he couldn't when he was closer to the family home in Port St. Lucie: "(He'd get) really, really drunk... He couldn't drink when he was at home — around his wife, or family. His father was really strict... He used to bitch about it."

“The old, old story,” said Lady. “He’s gay, but he can’t come out. He probably can’t even admit it to himself. And then one day he explodes…”

“Yup,” I tell her, “the problem is that there’s a lot of hypocrisy in these societies. The stricter they are, the more rigid they are—well, the more stuff that’s roiling under the surface.”

“Well, can you imagine what the families must be going through?” asked Lady.

“You know, it’s just like the AIDS crisis. So many families had to go through two traumas at once: finding out their loved one was gay, and finding out that he had AIDS. And the thing is that some of the people, maybe even most of the people, in the club were straight. So who knows how many of the victims were gay, or just loose enough to be in a gay-friendly club? But now, their families will never know….”

“Well, it was the last thing Puerto Rico needed,” said Lady. “Is there anything good that can come out of it?”

“I think so,” I told her. “Actually, I can see a lot of good coming out of it. In the first place, I think we should start an online petition / pledge. Everybody who signs agrees that they will not vote for any politician who accepts money from the gun lobbies. Second, everybody provides their senatorial or congressional district. Third, we ask for volunteers in each congressional district to send out report cards on candidates to the pledgers in their district. Politicians have got to get the message: accepting money from the gun industry just isn’t worth it. Then maybe something can get done!”

“Would that work?”

“Who knows,” I told her.

But what do we have?