Senator Mark Warner is daddy to three young women. That was clear during Friday's town hall portion of a campaign stop. Responding to a question he could not have anticipated, he answered from the heart: no clichés; no mantras; no sophomoric solutions. None apply. He's had reason to "get it."
The woman who asked the question does not attend college in Virginia but Anna is a Virginian. She asked the question in a city that is home to a large university with a lively social scene; it wasn't directed at James Madison University. It is not about her school (Ferrum College) either. (She told me that the administration at Ferrum supports women's safety.) However, it follows the events in Isla Vista that are a clarion call for a very long moment of cultural introspection. In one horrible manifestation of misogyny, the crisis in mental health care, and the propensity to violence, Elliot Rodger painted an alarming abstract with all these elements that demands our attention.
Other symptoms of these cultural cancers are renown. Senator Warner is absolutely correct that there is no law that will prevent the tragedies; particularly those that are shrouded in shame; never reported. Those cannot even be punished; in practical terms the only remedy a law provides. We must break the cycle of misogynistic abuse through an honest assessment of our culture and ourselves; all of us: men and women, girls and boys, everyone in between. Shame is a curtain of steel and despite the source of our mores, secular, religious, or otherwise, it must be pulled aside to allow sunlight to shine on relations between women and men. All the ugly must be visited even if we desperately want to pretend it doesn't exist.
This reminds me of my own reticence to speak out about the clumsy and ineffective protestations in Congress over the treatment of women in the armed forces. My own angry immediate reaction to each report would do nothing to further the debate over how this problem should be addressed. And human relations are complicated enough without taking out a brush to paint them over with unenforceable pandering. That is what Congress gave us. There is the real shame! No, Senator Warner is exactly where he should be on the issue Anna raised and I suspect on the cultural problems that manifest in the military. I sincerely hope she follows up and that the Senator uses this as a door to help provide a glimmer of cultural leadership.
Largely without a voice in the corridors of power across the nation's legislative institutions, America's 'mentally ill' have become a focal point in an attempt to make sense of some of the violent acts that have been perpetrated over the last few years. Most recently, the letters believed to be covered with ricin sent to the White House, a judge in Tupelo, Miss., and Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss), are believed the be the actions of a "mentally ill" man who's "paranoid and thinks people are out to get him" when not on his medication.
But studies ranging back decades clearly show that mental illness is no more an indicator of conducting a violent act than not having a mental illness. For a host of reasons, however, the media and the public's attention is all too often focused on this group of individuals as the scourge that has wrested away the relative peace that had heretofore been perceptibly known. That is, the mentally ill have become a scapegoat, the easy target, for some of our society's deeper problems.
For me, this issue is personal. A number of individuals in my family as well as a number of friends have 'mental illnesses' and I suspect a number of Blue Virginia readers also know someone with a mental illness too (who doesn't these days!?). These individuals are, on the whole, some of the kindest, most virtuous, and big-hearted individuals I have ever known. They are, in other words, great people, and not one medical relapse away from acting out in a manner harmful to others or themselves.
The clip, from the violent bank robbery movie "The Town," shows the character played by Ben Affleck saying:
"I need your help. I can't tell you what it is. You can never ask me about it later. We're gonna hurt some people."
The footage then shows the character Affleck character, and another character in the film, donning hockey masks, sledge hammering in a door and relentlessly beating the inhabitant(s) with clubs. In what kind of parallel universe is this acceptable?
This is an important day in Beantown, one experienced as a Marine '66. The Post band at Quantico, came up, playing at a gathering the night before. We were near Concord Bridge for the ceremonies the next morning (only 20 feet from the cannon firing every minute), finishing the day at the end of the Marathon on a day when the Japanese finished 1-2-3-4.
Like other Americans, my memories of the date are clouded by violence of a different kind - the 1993 siege of the Branch Davidians in Waco, and two the terrorism of Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols at the Alfred P. Murrah Building.
Today I reflect upon violence.
1. swift and intense force: the violence of a storm.
2. rough or injurious physical force, action, or treatment: to die by violence.
3. an unjust or unwarranted exertion of force or power, as against rights or laws: to take over a government by violence.
4. a violent act or proceeding.
5. rough or immoderate vehemence, as of feeling or language: the violence of his hatred.
6. damage through distortion or unwarranted alteration: to do editorial violence to a text.
I have been thinking about this word for several days. So today let me non-violently meditate upon its meanings as I perceive them.