The Darkest of Hearts

Everyone wants to know “why” when something terrible happens, a random act of horrific violence like the tragedy in Sandy Hook, CT.  The truth is, sometimes there is no reason … or, if there is a reason, it may not be uncovered for quite some time.  Unraveling the thorny wrappings of a dark heart is not a five-minute task, and trying to speculate as to how and why a person could have acted with so much evil toward innocent people, let alone against his own mother, can lead to some really irresponsible accusations.

Accusations from arm-chair psychologists like, “he was anti-social & likely autistic,” “perhaps even an Aspie,” are splashed across news stories and blogs.  Rumors of his troubled relationship with his mother swirl around the social media community, saying that she was a terrible parent & a drunk with a gun collection.  These rumors enrage me and make me sad.  Not only do they take away from the tragedy, and divert the grieving process, they fuel incorrect assumptions that somehow a developmental disorder equates to a mental illness.  That is simply not the case, and to assert that having autism makes you a violent criminal is irresponsible.  It’s like saying that all pitbulls are aggressive, deadly dogs.  That is so far from the truth.  (I happen to know a handful of pittbull dogs that are the sweetest dogs I’ve ever met.  It is  mostly due to how they are being raised by their owners.)  And The Boy, my sweet three-year-old son, who actually has a diagnosis of Asperger Syndrome from two independent child psychologists, is in no way a violent or vicious child.  So to draw the conclusion that someone with Autism or Aspergers turns into a violent, rage-filled person really pisses me off.

This murderer, (I refuse to use his name because he doesn’t deserve that recognition,) was most likely mentally deranged.  That is not an accusation, but rather a very likely assumption.  That is as far as we should take it for now until we can learn more about who this person was and what made him this way.  He may have been born this way, with a dark heart filled with angst and hatred.  Or perhaps a series of random events shaped him into this monster … a victim of bullying, a child of divorce, having his heart broken multiple times by multiple people.   We don’t know, but there are a million things that could have made someone this way.

I suppose it’s human nature to want to find a way to explain HOW this could have happened, and to try and find a way to prevent it from ever happening again.  Enter the stricter gun-law legislation.  Fine, why not make it more difficult to own a gun?  I don’t have a problem with that so much, but it is not going to stop evil-doers from terrorizing innocent people.  If they want a gun, they will find a way to get one; beg, borrow or steal.  It’s not the responsible citizens who abide by the laws to own a gun & are educated on the proper use and storage of a gun that we need to worry about.  It’s the mentally ill, ticking time bomb who is silently suffering with an undiagnosed mental disorder, and bought a gun off the black market, or stole it from someone’s house that we need to worry about.  You can’t legislate evil.

But we can open the dialogue about mental health in this country.  For as long as I can remember, it’s been this hush-hush, dirty secret that no one wants to talk about.   And it’s time that we come to terms with the fact that keeping mental illness a secret doesn’t do us any favors as a society.  Remember when child abuse was the dirty secret that no one wanted to talk openly about?  Well, we changed that.  It took a handful of horrible incidents to shift our thinking, but as a society we did open up the box of dirty secrets about child abuse, and now when we suspect that a child is being abused, it is our responsibility to notify someone of authority to do an investigation to determine if that child is in a harmful environment.  Likewise, when we suspect that a child, a teenager, a young adult, or even an adult is suffering from a mental illness like depression, PTSD or schizophrenia, shouldn’t it be our responsibility to step in and offer help, or notify someone of authority who has the training to help?

The sad fact is that seemingly no one helped this murderous man.  I look at the pictures of him on the news & see his eyes are black, they are vacant … devoid of any compassion.  People had to have known that he had mental issues, but did they stay silent?  Were they afraid to step in and offer help?  I don’t know, but maybe this could have been averted had someone reached out their hand & said, “hey, you need help.”  Maybe he would have taken the hand, and none of this would have happened, or maybe he would have slapped it away, and maybe it wouldn’t have made a difference.  I guess we’ll never know.

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