If the storming of the Capitol Building on January 6th was a lesson learned in not taking seriously the threat of political unrest, then the April 2nd attack – where a man rammed his vehicle into a barricade and killed a Capitol Police officer, should shine a bright “Bat Signal” in the sky warning about the cataclysmic impact a year spent in isolation and quarantine has had on all of us, but especially those inflicted with serious mental illness.
- Atlanta two weeks ago.
- Colorado last week.
- DC this week.
We can have the gun debate. We can advocate to take away kitchen knives. We can even legislate our way down the rabbit hole until we are taking away the toothpicks in the lunch line, but until we stop treating the symptoms of mental health and we start focusing on an underlying cure, these tragic events will continue.
But society loves to shirt responsibility. It’s easier to kick the can down the road and make it someone else’s problem. Not since the presidency of Eisenhower have we had a political system that rewarded short-term sacrifice for long-term solutions. But how many more people will have to die before our political leadership decides to do what’s right? We know we have the capability, but what we need to find – is the Will.
I mean, if we can find a vaccine to COVID-19 in record time, then I would love to see our political leaders champion a cure for those who are suffering from serious mental illness with the same urgency.
We didn’t start the fire
I hated the past year of being in quarantine: I hated being isolated from family and friends – and spending the most consecutive nights in my own bed since… I don’t know… probably college. However, it was at least nice to not have to hear about another school shooting taking place week after week – or a terror attack, or a bombing. Or some other form of harm.
I guess a global pandemic killing millions was enough to help keep the crazy at bay for a while. But it seems as though that crazy side of our society was immune to the COVID virus.
And it would be foolish for us to believe that the vaccine we’re all waiting to receive will do anything to cure these ills of our society.
Because the truth is, with each day the pandemic continued, those grievances and illnesses and frustrations only grew. And so we cannot be surprised when one of them finally deteriorated the release valve to their sense of self, and then finding no other outlet, they finally blew.
The safeguards we implemented to protect us from the Pandemic may have done more harm than good. They may have hurt us more than we may have realized it would.
We, as humans, are social creatures.
- We need to socialize.
- To interact.
- To communicate.
- To see and be seen.
And quarantine isolated all of us from all of that.
This year-long lockdown we’ve all been in has escalated and exacerbated domestic violence, alcohol abuse, drug addiction, child abuse, and it has had a detrimental impact on our mental health.
And great as it is to finally see some light at the end of our collective dark tunnel…
As wonderful as it is that the vaccine rollout is helping us to heal…
As optimistic as it seems that we may actually get to enjoy this coming summer at sandy beaches and pool parties and backyard barbeques, with the company and companionship so many of has crave…
We need to all be sure we’re not so over-eager to return to those past practices that put us in harm’s way in the first place.
Bottom line here is this: as our world returns to normalcy, we must also caution against a return to complacency.
Shirking of Our Responsibility
One of the key take-aways I talk about in The Safety Trap is the problem our society has with shirking responsibility.
The number-one reason why so many of us are shirking our responsibility basically boils down to the fact that we do not want to be blamed for a bad outcome. Just like the childhood game of musical chairs, no one wants to be left standing alone when the music stops. Responsibility means taking ownership, and taking ownership often means taking on the burden of hard work.
And so, personal responsibility has become the broken crutch by which we prop up our moral high ground. We say we will step up when something really matters, but in the back of our minds, we know we won’t. Our intentions are often at their highest when the situation is at its most hypothetical.
No one wants to risk taking that important first step for fear of failure. So instead, we opt to do nothing. Fooled by the notion we cannot lose if we do not play, in doing so, we seal a forlorn fate.
And then something else happens. And we say we’ll be better. We say we’ll do more. But we don’t. Once again we are ensnared by the safety trap of our own false sense of security. Our fears have been abated, but the risk remains.
And as the tragedies in Atlanta, Georgia and Boulder, Colorado, and Washington, D.C. remind us: we do sometimes live in a dangerous world.
But this does not mean we should be forced to live our lives in fear.
- We can no longer afford to live in a world where we simply hope that nothing will happen, and then solely rely on the first responders to save us when something does.
- We must be willing to participate in our own safety.
Awareness + Preparation = Safety
One of the reasons the anxiety over our inability to keep ourselves and our loved ones protected is at an all-time high is because our understanding of what it means to stay safe is simultaneously at an all-time low.
One of the things my global experience has proven time and time again is that when we don’t expect to see danger, we simply fail to see the warning signs that something bad is about to happen. But the warning signs are always there. Staying safe is about training yourself to see them.
All of us have been in a similar situation. How often have you been walking barefoot in our own home and then… OUCH! We stub our toe on some random toy. But that toy on the floor didn’t just appear out of nowhere. It was right there clear as day. We just didn’t see it because we weren’t expecting to see it.
Real world harm happens exactly the same way.
We don’t stub our toe on the things we notice. We stub our toe on the things we don’t.
If we want these tragic events to end we must take responsibility to help those who are hurting.
In the aftermath of tragic outcomes, we are time and time and time again forced to contend with the reality that these violent offenders do not just “snap.”
They do not just wake up one day and decide to break bad.
But what they do display are the behavioral anomalies which are consistent with the pathway toward violence.
And as I say in The Safety Trap, these mass violence attacks will continue until we, as a society, as family, and as friends take an active role in helping those who are hurting.
Because, sometime our willingness to help another is the first step to saving ourselves.
Every day safety requires the participation of everyone.
And a healthy sense of skepticism and a moderate dose of vigilance is a very small price to pay for the liberties and freedoms which flow so freely from peace.