Crime may be falling in the country, but mass murder seems to be increasing if only through perception and news coverage. Another young man in California decided to take lives because he was unhappy with his own.
Within a day of the incident, myth had become reality. Social media announced the young man only killed women, which was not true. It morphed from the myth into some bizarre claims about patriarchy and misogyny. The young man killed those other young men and women because he was the ultimate misogynist in a paternalistic misogynist culture or something. The need to make an act of mass murder a political issue wrapped up in "war on women" nonsense overshadowed the reality.
The reality is the same as it was with the Sandy Hook mass murdering of children. It, too, became a political issue about gun control. Americans were divided into us versus them camps. The president himself contributed to the descent of the conversation into the gutter. People opposed to restrictions on guns were characterized as supporters of killing children. The foolish rhetoric again distracted from reality.
The shooting at Virginia Tech some years ago also turned to a conversation on gun control and a violent society. The distractions are always so much easier to deal with because they can be fought over politically instead of dealt with in reality. The media would rather ask if the shooter is a conservative than deal with what the shooter most often is -- mentally ill.
The reality is that these situations, along with Columbine and others, all involve malcontented young men with mental health issues no one is adequately addressing. More and more stories similar to these -- thankfully not all ending in violence -- begin with parents and siblings living in fear of the next explosion of rage, temper and violence.
Our American culture is failing at dealing with mental health. Decades ago, society made a conscious decision to attempt to release mental health patients into local communities, mainstream them and close the facilities wherein they were mostly forgotten. In doing so, we prided ourselves in casting a spotlight on a problem, but we really did nothing to address the problems.
Many people with mental health problems, who should have been in facilities, instead rotted in streets. Social stigma on mental health never improved. The system never changed to help parents help their children. Now, in the 21st century, too many people believe mental health can be treated as a lifestyle choice. Too many people believe that when a boy who is incapable of taking care of himself at 17 turns 18, he is suddenly capable of taking care of himself. It is not so.
There are a lot of parents in this country who fear what happens when their child turns 18 and are magically considered, at least, adult-ish. There are parents of children diagnosed with childhood schizophrenia. They know the struggle to get their child to take medication. They know the struggle of having doctors guesstimate the dosage of drugs and which drugs to prescribe. They know the real fear of 18 approaching and society's standard reply becoming, "Well, you can get a restraining order if you need one."
Politics tends to stop at mental health issues. It is far easier for some to take the criminal act of a mentally unstable young man and turn it into a war on women or a call for gun control than it is to turn it into a call for help for a problem few want to make eye contact with.
Until we are willing to look the problem in the eyes, however, more mostly young men are going to be abandoned to a culture that tells them they only life once, and if it feels good, do it. That is not a culture where one can easily get help and find solutions to voices and urges that compel the unstable forward on a path to violence.