The father of the man who killed twenty-six at Sandy Hook elementary school gave an interview to the New Yorker that was published earlier today. I won’t say that the interview surprised me, but the conclusion of the interview reminded me all too well of when my own mother uttered similar feelings when I came out as transgender:
I wondered how Peter would feel if he could see his son again. “Quite honestly, I think that I wouldn’t recognize the person I saw,” he said. “All I could picture is there’d be nothing there, there’d be nothing. Almost, like, ‘Who are you, stranger?’ ” Peter declared that he wished Adam had never been born, that there could be no remembering who he was outside of who he became. “That didn’t come right away. That’s not a natural thing, when you’re thinking about your kid. But, God, there’s no question. There can only be one conclusion, when you finally get there. That’s fairly recent, too, but that’s totally where I am.”
Before I go any further, let me make one thing clear: I am not defending the gunman and his crimes, though – as the reader probably suspects – I do not exactly lose sleep over the crime either.
I don’t wish to retread the tropes of “good” and “evil” with this post. I am a firm believer in both being social constructs and not innate characteristics of human beings. What I do wish to revisit is the need for discourse. Crimes by those that are “mentally ill” – or otherwise different from “neurotypicals” – sadly are needed to spark reminders that society needs to evaluate their stance regarding the interaction of mental illness and criminality. On its own, society wishes to hide from the darkness. On its own, it wishes to cover its eyes and ears and pretend that the mind is a utopian and fully functional place. The mind is often no so such thing.
I will not pretend to have the answer to the problems that my country, in particular, has with striking a balance between respecting the rights of the suffering individual with that of the bystander. However, I do wish to make a plea that such discourse needs to happen.
I am lucky in the grand scheme of things. I am intelligent and posses a great desire to introspect. I am a rare breed of psychopath. I realize, between my psychopathy and my bipolar disorder, that I should never own weapons. Someone – most likely myself I think – would get hurt. I try to avoid even being around them. I don’t trust myself because I know what I am at my core and the implications that has on actions that I could commit. That said, I bristle thinking about categorically excluding the mentally ill from certain privileges that my country grants. The Borderline in me wants to perceive this matter in an all-or-nothing manner, but the intellectual in me realizes that a middle ground may be the best approach.
I don’t have the answers; I never will. I do know that burying our heads in the sand – or locking up those that are violently ill in the absence of an immediate danger – will not further the rights of anyone. It will not prevent another tragedy from occurring and it will not get the sick the treatment that they may want. Right now, I am blessed to have a psychotherapist that serves as touchstone and advisor. Casting the criminally ill to the depths of prison will not help me learn restraint. Stigmatizing us even further does not help either. Such approaches will just make those like me engage in further dishonesty as we perfect our masks. Praying for selective infanticide changes nothing. Only asking – all of us asking – the hard and philosophical questions and opening up all avenues of discourse has the slightest chance.