Just Like Me

It’s been a busy week for the news media.  Wow, I guess they’ve all earned their negotiated salaries, although I do wish they would be paid somehow on the basis of what truth they spread.  Social media has also been busy.  Often partly a response to the news media, sometimes spread what they’ve called their own ‘truth’ and sometimes simply spreading lies (like the news), or popular opinion.

It’s made me pretty sad.  Sometimes it’s made me cry, that they can get away with saying the things the do, let alone convincing a somewhat gullible public that they are right.  Other times I took my own advice (Step Away From Your Screen) and literally stepped away from my computer, my television and my phone.  I had to do that to save my mental health because the whirlwind of information (true or otherwise) has wanted to wrap me up in it.  At times I wanted to fight some battles (because that’s who I am) but mostly I took my advice, backed off and watched with sadness.

Image credit: Chenspec/Wikipedia.com

During this week a lot of people have died in this world as a direct result of violence. There are the many who have made the news media, but there are also many more that we never hear about, yet their death’s are just as tragic.

The obvious victims are the 27 children and adults who were shot in the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut.  A tragic loss of so many lives that were mostly just beginning.

For a moment I want to consider two other deaths I have been aware of this week.  One is the 28th person to die at Sandy Hook, the shooter himself who turned the gun on himself.  Another tragic death I heard about this week was a man in England who was murdered in his own home. The details aren’t really important to what I am thinking, apart from to say that it appears his death was some type of vigilante pay back for a crime this man had recently been accused of having carried out.

In the case of both these men, the news media and the social media have played a part in spreading accusations and generalisations.  One man we have heard a lot about, the other you probably haven’t heard about.  What hasn’t been given is the truth.  We don’t know what is real and what is simply hearsay.

What I do know is that both of these men were just like me, in some ways.  They weren’t so different.  They had blood flowing through their veins. Like me they needed love, affection and acceptance.  At some point they had both probably been hurt badly, just like me.  These men were human beings, just like me, who it appeared that for some reason, everything went askew.

Maybe it was mental illness, maybe it was a developmental disorder.  Maybe too, they had some degree of evil (whatever that means) in them to drive them to the things they are said to have done.  Those things haven’t been clarified, yet the world has been quick to condemn.  Of the Connecticut young man I have seen a number of people describe him as ‘not human’.

That’s what leaves me sad.  I’m not condoning the actions of either of these men.  It was all wrong, and terribly devastating, particularly for those who lost family members and friends.

But these men were human, just like me.  And somewhere in spite of the horror of what has been happening, someone is no doubt grieving for them too.

I believe that these men were victims too.  I know that might be an unpopular stance to take, and I have no problem with people disagreeing with what I write (as long as I don’t get abused for an opinion).

Once, a number of years ago, both men were little boys and sometimes I find it helpful to think about them as when they were innocent children.  Again, because of the tragic death of 20 children last week it’s even hard to look at one of these men that way.  It just helps me to realise that while something has gone terrible wrong, these men were once just like you and me.

Yesterday I was at a barbeque (it’s summer here) which was a Christmas party for a group of people I know.  At one point I was sitting at a table with a lovely young man who I don’t know very well.  I’ve only met him a couple of times but what I do know is that he has Asperger’s Syndrome (a condition that has been subject to much media scrutiny this week).

It occurred to me while I was sitting eating my lunch with him, that it must be pretty difficult for him this week.  I know what it’s like to be looked down upon because I have a mental illness.  This young man doesn’t even have a mental illness (that I know of) yet the media have been putting him and other sufferers of Asperger’s in a group and saying we have to be careful of these people.  Apparently they might do ‘what Adam Lanza did’.

This man I was sitting with was, again, just like me.  He doesn’t deserve to be judged just because he has a disorder that makes him a little different from me.  Like me, he was enjoying having a drink, eating fresh berries and getting silly ‘Secret Santa’ gifts.  He had less to say for himself than most people on the group but that was the only noticeable difference.  He was, like me, having a good time.

Let me be very clear.  I’m not saying that horrific crimes committed against innocent people are acceptable.  They’re not.  It’s a terrible tragedy what has happened this week.  But we can’t afford to be looking at these people and thinking they are somehow different to us.  I’m not qualified to say why they might have done what they did.  I do have views on things that need to be done in society to prevent this from happening again, but those aren’t important right now.

What is important to me is that all the people who died this week (somewhere in the world) as a result of violence are human like me.  Someone loved them.  And to me, that puts a slightly different spin on things.

“The great gift of human beings is that we have the power of empathy,  we can all sense a mysterious connection
to each other.”

~  Meryl Streep

“Resolve to be tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving and tolerant with the weak and wrong. Sometime in your life, you will have
been all of these.” 

―    Siddhārtha Gautama

15 responses

  1. I’m glad you’ve raised the mental health issue in this tragedy Cate. There is so much misunderstanding and stigma. I agree that what the gunman did was horrific but we need to try to understand more if we are to prevent others from doing something similar.

    • Thanks for your comment Carolyn. There are so many issues involved in tragedies like these. I guess my thoughts were not so much of the mental health issues for the people but for us to find a way of being compassionate toward other human beings. I heard these men described as animals. I happen to love animals so I have a problem with that description anyway but then they get described as not human. But they were. Something went terrible wrong and we have to find a way of preventing that again in the future, but I believe we also need to keep in mind the humanity of these people. Somehow. :-)

  2. Well said Cate! You observation of how the media reports episodes of this nature are on the mark. The facts surrounding the attack at Sandypoint and the trouble young man who committed it have both changed greatly with the passage of time. It really would be a good idea for the news media to at least get the facts straight before they report them as such. The constant coverage which seems to have as a goal making the event as tearjerking as possible needs to be tamped down. We also need to learn to distinguish between evil acts and evil people. Hitler was evil and so were many of his acts. In America over half the guns deaths each year are the result of suicide. Many of these suicides are impulsive and if a gun hadn’t been present at the time the impulse occurred many of these folks would still be alive. Sometimes the impulse includes anger directed at others. Sometimes before committing suicide these folks lash out and kill others before they kill themselves. Again, if a gun hadn’t been present at the time the impulse occurred many other folks would still be alive. I underestand people calling the acts of these people evil but I doubt if many of the folks that commit these acts are truly evil. Most are troubled and need help. Here in America we do a pretty miserable job meeting the needs of the mentally challenged. They are our sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, fathers and mothers. They need more help and need to be viewed at all times as being human. Folks like Hitler in miy find are in a totally different category. We shouldn’t mix these folks up. Thanks fot the blog Cate, once again you are right on target.

  3. John, I think you and I are on the same page. I know it’s not a popular viewpoint but there is something seriously wrong when these sort of things happen. At such times I can’t keep my mouth shut, no matter how little difference my opinion might made.

  4. The world needs more compassion so I’m happy to see you have it. Many people reject criminals as “evil”, yet they are a human too. Teaching compassion in schools could go a long way to helping with this.

  5. A while ago I watched a movie on Netflix with Valerie Bertinelli starring as the main character — a character based on a real person. I didn’t remember that I’d seen it before when I saw the name of the movie. Once I began watching it, I remembered pieces of it. Valerie Bertinelli is physically beautiful and the character she was portraying was also beautiful. Underneath the outward beauty and apparent beautiful soul was a hurting, misunderstood victim of a bad childhood. As the movie goes on we see her life spiral out of control and loved ones wanting to help, not knowing how to help, cleaning up after problems, ignoring problems. Different reactions from different people in her life. The end was horrifying for many at an elementary school and for her father, who was the one cleaning up behind her. She needed help, desperately needed help and yet the one to whom she turned ignored her and literally turned her back on her.

    We never know what one thing will set off a chain reaction in an individual. Will it be me next? Will it be you next? Will it be someone we know? Will it be . . . ?

    There, but for the grace of God . . .

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  7. To Cate….Thank you so very much for this blog. Most times, even though I’m married and have so many acquaintances, I feel very much alone bc I’ve been misunderstood all my life. I’ve had many physical health conditions all my life, was beat up and bullied as a child, have always been affectionate and put down for it, and also suffer from Clinical Depression and Hypersensitivity. I am truly empathic. So when I’m upset about the wrong that someone has done to me, i get ignored, or eyes roll. When I post about a wrong done to someone else, it also gets ignored. I can hear everyone saying, “Ok, what’s wrong this time” or “Now what?” So it’s tough finding people who can understand me.

    I applaud everything you write about. I always say, “That person was someone’s child once.” People are so quick to judge. They think that they don’t have issues, but everyone has issues. And they’re lying to themselves if they think they don’t. I tell people that not being normal is the norm. Don’t judge me because I sin differently than you.

    No one has a clue what kind of upbringing you had, or what happens in your household. You may smile in public, yet be totally sad. And when you’ve had enough of someone’s bs, whether it’s a putdown, or lack of affection, or a bully…you snap. Can people understand that?

    Not all diagnosed with Asperger’s are homicidal. And you can’t put the same syndromes or illnesses in the same bunch. Everyone is unique, whether it’s mental illness or physical illness. But Science has to make it “clinical”. And no one sees that it’s all different, depending on the person, or whatever you have.

    I think that “we” are smarter than the average person. Because we’re very much aware of how different we are. It’s the “norm” who are the ignorants.

    So, again, I applaud your words, Cate. You’re a very astute person with a big, sympathetic heart. Many blessings to you and keep on Blogging! You make me feel less alone in this world.

    Best always,
    Denny DePalma

    • Hi Denny, Thanks so much for your comments. I know what you mean by the ‘eyes rolling’. I think it gets very tiring when we are repeatedly misunderstood, or even written off because of our feelings and how we view the world. Personally I like viewing the world the way I do. Sometimes I have wished I wasn’t so sensitive to the world around, but now I am glad. I don’t want to be hard and unfeeling. As for smarter than the average person, I think you’re right. For some reason what comes to mind is my childhood favourite Yogi Bear who claimed he was “smarter than the average bear” LOL. Thank you so much for what you’ve said. Actually what you’ve said helps me feel less alone in this world too. I very much value that. Thanks. Cate

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