By: H. Anne Thurston, Columnist
The recent assassination attempt on congresswoman Gifford invaded our living room via TV, radio and newspaper. Such a vicious act so purposefully executed is beyond our ability to grasp. The lack of any depth in understanding about mental illness among those of us who comprise the the United States’ population lead to instant speculation as to the ‘why’ of the tragedy. [private]
These early efforts to explain what had happened to suddenly ranged from the increasing use of ‘hate’ words in the political realm as well as the country’s gun control laws. The first felt the prevalence of angry words and pointed fingers had acted as fuel for the young gunman while those blaming the prevalence of guns among the citizenry were certain this had made the crime possible.
Political differences can become way too forceful among those one knows or doesn’t. However unless such a confrontation, as long as it remains only verbal, is something we can avoid. Seldom does one change an other’s mind with angry words. Remember the old adage, “You can catch more flies with sugar than vinegar”? However When alcohol, drugs or illness become part of the anger quotient a situation can accelerate into physical confrontation or even more.
We who observed from distant sidelines the irrational behavior of Tucson’s unreal shooting have come to believe
that mental illness and possibly circumstances yet to be determined back grounded the day’s events rather than that of the Tea Party’s threats and the loopholes that may exist in our gun laws. In general the citizenry of this land does not possess a depth of understanding of mental illness, or the existing state and national laws now in place to assist in its treatment.
We all know that chills may indicate a fever, red spots designate measles or such, inability to remember points to senility and when to apply soap and water, band-aids or to call the doctor. We have been educated to understand the signs of a heart attack, what foods are healthy and to drink eight glasses of water a day. We recognize those who are abusing alcohol, drugs and abuse a spouse or child. We have been educated to exercise and to control our weight, but I have never had anyone speak to me about mental health. Like most of you I have been told I am ‘nuts’ or ‘crazy’; but always in fun. I suspect that thought might run through your mind once in a while as you read my columns.
As a Tucson side liner I think our country has just gone through a concentrated course which has alerted each of us to the need for our great country to move forward in its understanding and treatment of those who so desperately need mental care. Perhaps the timing is opportune as it struggles with many health care issues. I had a wonderful opportunity to talk with a retired medical professor who zeroed in on the research of the human brain. It will be such knowledgeable men and women who will lead this nation forward in its response to Tucson’s unbelievable happening.
Another area of behavior has emerged from the spotlight on the Gifford shooting which each of find ourselves considering as we silently ask ourselves, “Would I have helped?” As we have been transported to Tucson to meet Jared, the young man whose mind led him into such a terrible act we have at the same time been even more overwhelmed by the actions of the men and women who were at the scene. Their individual plans for the day had led them to the Safeway parking lot which became the stage setting for an enactment of pure terror.
Those who became principle figures stepped on stage without a script. Totally unaware they were to take part in a performance that will never be forgotten. No script had been placed in any hand. No director stood to the side. No prompter was in place to tell them what they were supposed to do or say. It was gunfire which brought the curtain up and those in position on stage instantly assumed the rolls they were destined to plunge into. With no rehearsal the cast of over twenty swung into action.
Others in the parking lot became an instant audience for the action to be unfold in front of them. One after another the cast members played their parts as gun shots continued tho shatter the deep silence surrounding them. Without a split second to think each sought to bring the horror surrounding them to a close. Husbands sheltered their wives with their bodies. Others rushed to remove the weapon and its ammunition from the grasp of the invader while another applied pressure to a bleeding head. 911 was called. I have not read or heard who did this. Perhaps only they know.
Within minutes the cast of the Gifford assassination increased unbelievably. Men and women in uniforms stepped onstage. In ‘costumes’ of fireman, police, medics and ambulance drivers they invaded the stage to reach out to the original cast members as they lay heaped together. Again, no director shouted directions; no assignments were defined. Those who arrived to rescue moved swiftly, with concentrated intent and lives were saved.
I have no doubt in my mind but what all of us who have followed this terrible yet wonderful happening have promised ourselves that if we ever find ourselves in a situation which cries out for our help that we will without thought do all we an even at the cost of our life.[/private]
Anne Thurston is a weekly columnist for The Boyne City Gazette. Thurston lives in Boyne City, and her published works include “E-Males” and “The Book of Anne.” More information on her work can be found at http://www.hathurston.com