Sunday, May 11, 2014

Taking Responsibility for Your Memes

Great Cthulhu's Ghost, the Stupid is strong in this one.  It was as if a million brain cells cried out in terror and suddenly were silenced.

Begin with the meme itself.  Assume that Col. Ritchie is correct about the numbers; she seems to be.  That doesn't surprise me.  I've known about some suicides that involved alcohol and a gun, and it's true, it wasn't accidental.  The people involved were not regular drinkers.  They wanted to kill themselves, so they acquired a firearm, got drunk deliberately to lower their own inhibitions, and then shot themselves.   The way human-service professionals talked about these cases, it seemed that they believed that the suicide was caused by combining alcohol and a gun, like some kind of chemical reaction, and that's the vibe I get from this meme.

One of the suicides I know about was a conflicted gay man in his mid-twenties.  I don't agree with his decision, but it was influenced much more by having grown up in a ferociously antigay society than by the juxtaposition of alcohol and a shotgun.  He didn't get drunk one night, just happen to find a shotgun at hand (in his dorm room!) and spontaneously stick the barrel in his mouth; those who knew him said he'd been very unhappy for a long time.  Whether he sought other kinds of help I don't know, but I think he had, and they were not able to help him.

Col. Ritchie is evidently talking about suicides among combat veterans, where it should be even more obvious that it isn't only "two things" they "have in common" -- there's at least a third, namely the trauma caused by horrific experiences in combat.  It's a bit disingenuous for her to leave that one out, don't you think?

Now, this meme came into view through a couple of intermediaries.  At the first stage there was a page called Everytown for Gun Safety, who attached this information to the image:
Over the last decade, the U.S. military has endured an epidemic of suicides among active-duty troops, and more than two-thirds of these deaths involved firearms.

Military commanders determined that these suicides could be prevented by talking with soldiers about whether they had personal firearms in their homes and removing guns from those most likely to hurt themselves. Despite this, in 2010 NRA backed a law prohibiting commanders from asking at-risk soldiers even basic questions about service members’ privately owned guns.

Fortunately, the military fought back — and prevailed. Working with suicide prevention advocates and Mayors Against Illegal Guns, a group of retired generals and admirals lobbied Congress to remove the dangerous gag order, and it was rescinded in 2013.
Fair enough, and it's probably a good thing that the gag order was rescinded, though I wonder how effective the intervention really was.  I also remember a young man, a cousin of an old friend, who was nearly killed when his motorcycle went off the road into a barbed-wire fence, injuring and disfiguring him severely.  I don't know if alcohol was involved in that accident, but it definitely was some months after he'd 'recovered' from the first 'accident' and drove himself into a tree.  While I sympathize with the emotional pain that drove him to this extremity, my main reaction was: At least he didn't take anyone else with him.  It has long been suspected that many single-vehicle accidents are really suicides.  I wonder how many veterans, deprived of their guns, will find other ways to escape their combat-induced misery.  The reason why so many Iraq and Afghanistan veterans are killing themselves is not that they own guns or are drinking; the third factor must not be ignored. And as with the young gay man who killed himself, I wonder how much can really be done for them, other than hoping the pain will diminish over time if they can be kept alive.

The second stage of transmission was through a page called Armed Democrats, who added this text above the meme:
Armed Democrats supports the 2nd amendment,
We also expect people to be responsible for their actions.

They aren't!

Hence, the need for regulation.

If you stupid son-of-a-bitches would stop shooting people,
including yourselves, we wouldn’t be talking about guns.

If you’re not stupid, you’re sick. The ACA covers that.
If you’re not sure what the ACA is, you must watch Fox.

The ACA covers that too. (same insurance plan)
It was this version that inspired the post I'm writing now.  Addressing miserable, traumatized combat veterans -- hurt in wars that the Armed Democrats may well have supported at the beginning -- as "stupid son-of-a-bitches" and adding, "If you're not stupid, you're sick" is bad politics, as well as inhumane, stupid, and vicious.  "The ACA covers that" -- meaning, the second time, watching Fox News -- boggles my mind.  The ACA isn't an "insurance plan" to start with, any more than it's "health care"; but that's the least of it.  Veterans shouldn't really need the ACA anyway, since as veterans they're entitled to various health benefits, though there are plenty of horror stories about the inadequacy of the services veterans have been able to get, thanks largely to budget cuts enacted by the people who sent them off to be chewed up in the first place.  But is there any effective treatment for PTSD?  The Veterans Administration says yes, but I'm skeptical. The mental health professions have been throwing drugs at their patients for the past thirty years, with inadequate results.  "Talk" therapy has fewer harmful side effects, but its effectiveness is also dubious. 

Telling a traumatized vet to see a shrink is just plain stupid.  Chances are he or she is already doing so, or trying to.  Armed Democrats are playing politics with other people's misery as surely as the Republicans, and with as little real concern for the problems of real people.