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America Has a Mental Health Problem

America Has a Mental Health Problem


“It’s a mental health problem.”  That and the usual “thoughts and prayers.”  If there is a God, she must be tiring of this endless flood from the United States.

This was the response from many GOP politicians to the mass murders in Lewiston, ME.  It is always the response from these cowards when faced with questions about gun control in the wake of these uniquely American bloodbaths.  This glib evasion is also obvious on its face.  Tell me – in what alternative universe does anyone who guns down 18 humans not suffer from mental illness?

I agree with the 2nd Amendment patriots.  It is a mental health problem, but not in the way they claim.  The Lewiston shooter, Robert Card, apparently suffered a mental health crisis several months ago.  He and countless others suffer from mental illness which, ironically and tragically, the GOP steadfastly refuses to address with funding for compassionate treatment and intervention.

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But the real mental illness is not the psychosis or other irrational mental state that led one man to indiscriminately riddle innocent people with gaping bullet wounds.  The real mental illness is a predominantly male American obsession with power, violence, and the unrestricted right to do whatever the hell we want.

Aside from his probable delusional state, Robert Card arose from a culture, particularly in Maine, where one’s right to own, carry and brandish a weapon is an unquestioned entitlement.  I’ve written often that the “right to bear arms” is a tacit “right to use arms.”  What else can it be?  An AR-15 type weapon is not jewelry, hanging around some guy’s neck as a fashion statement.  It is an explicit threat, telling all in his sights that he may, at his discretion, use it to settle whatever score he thinks needs settling.

The fact that most gun fanciers don’t do it is irrelevant.  Gun rights zealots, the gun manufacturers and the weak-kneed political lapdogs to the gun lobby are complicit in every mass murder.  A man like Robert Card took his cues from our sick culture and, when some unknown grievance or generalized fury took over his troubled thinking, he had a template for action.

Just hours before hearing the news of this latest slaughter, I took my daily mountain bike ride which includes a loop near the local gun range.  As usual, the steady “pops” of pistol and rifle fire were interspersed with the unmistakable “rat-a-tat-rat-a-tat-rat-a-tat” of an automatic or semi-automatic weapon.  I suppose that Robert Card, as a firearms instructor, spent time at a similar gun range, where the targets are often human silhouettes.  Google “silhouettes for target shooting” and enjoy the many options available through Amazon.  And what is surprising about a man in a twisted state shifting his aim from silhouette targets to human torsos in a bowling alley?

The fierce opponents of gun control often claim that we gun control proponents want to confiscate all their weapons.  This preposterous claim is often accompanied by the absurd justification that they need guns in the event of an uprising against government oppression.    This position is almost hilariously ironic in that the only realistic threat of “government oppression” is found in the MAGA universe where Trump was ready to call forth the National Guard to stay in power.  Most AR-15 wielding uber-patriots are on that team!  Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren don’t really have a “stand back and stand by” militia to call forth in service of universal health care.

Although their claims are politically preposterous, I confess that I’d be delighted to have every automatic or semi-automatic gun in the country confiscated.  These killing machines have no place in a civilized society.  That we have them in abundance is de facto evidence that we do not live in a civilized society. To those who use them for “sport,” I can suggest any number of sports that don’t directly and indirectly lead to the massacre of innocent people.

Guns, particularly automatic and semi-automatic rifles, have no purpose but to kill.  The fact that a significant segment of our society adamantly insists on the right to own and use them is sick.

That is the mental health problem in America.


Steve Nelson
Steve Nelson is a retired educator, author, and newspaper columnist. He and his wife Wendy moved to Erie from Manhattan in 2017 to be near family. He was a serious violinist and athlete until a catastrophic mountain bike accident in 2020. He now specializes in gratitude and kindness.

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