Las Vegas. I am devastated, but not surprised.....

I was devastated to hear of the shooting in Las Vegas first thing yesterday morning.

As horrific as it is, I have to admit, I was not surprised.

This a much bigger conversation than gun control, although I will say:

- I do think there should be background checks on anyone purchasing guns.
- I agree with everyone who is saying that no one should be allowed to purchase automatic weapons (and from what I understand, they are actually illegal, and the shooter likely obtained his weapons illegally or modified them).
- I also agree with those who are saying it's not the gun -- we need to dig much deeper.

We have a higher rate of shootings (80 per day) than any other developed country in the world, even though some have looser gun regulations than we do.

So what are the real issues?

1) We live in a culture of violence and isolation. As a society, we are obsessed with violence. From violent movies to children and adults playing horrifically violent video games to the violent acts of white supremacists being condoned to the fact that we were founded on violence..... it is in our cultural blood. And we are more isolated now than ever through our addictions to electronic devices and our ability to exist in this world with very little inter-personal interaction.
2) We have horrific systems for caring for those with mental health issues. If you've ever known someone - perhaps yourself - to seriously need help with mental/emotional illness, you probably know that our system for caring for this population is positively wretched. I remember a post from my friend David Riss, an ER doctor, talking about a patient who came into the ER and clearly needed psych help and there is no psych doctor in the ER.. So everyone avoided the patient, because they didn't know how what to do.

I've seen many, first hand, seek the help they need only to get no real help at all, and probably more stress, strain and over-medication or incorrect medication in the process.

(And by the way, the last health care bill that Republicans tried to push through allowed states to cut funding for or for insurers to entirely exclude mental health benefits. Seriously, WTF?!?!?!?!)

3) The criminal justice system rarely rehabilitates, so we usually have a revolving door of the same criminals coming in and out of prison with no improvement on their contributions or destruction to society.
Changing the culture we live in around violence is very a long road, and THIS IS WHERE I SEE HOPE:

...in people like Officer Darren Derby and Officer Sean Klink who do massive amounts of community work, STARTING WHEN CHILDREN ARE VERY YOUNG. Going into schools, telling kids they matter through their actions and their words, and letting them know they are there for them. The police officers around our country who are doing truly heartfelt community work - especially with children and teens - are my heroes.

...in efforts like my son's public school where learning self-regulation and interpersonal skills is part of the curriculum, beginning in Pre-K. cooperation, assertion, respect, empathy, self-control. This is so unusual to teach these skills, but why????? I can think of nothing more important for children to learn. Most schools are dealing with it after bullying begins - another sign of our cultural violence...

...in efforts to teach children and adults any type of mindfulness, self-awareness, stress reduction, how to identify issues like depression and anxiety and how to get help for oneself or others when needed.....

...in efforts to put your fucking phone down and genuinely connect with other human beings and to support each other.......

...in efforts to teach people how to heal through nature.... my dear friend Jessica Vecchia creating an amazing program called Roots Rising where teens get off their fucking phones for a summer and they participate in an internship where they FARM. Yes they FARM and they LOVE it. Every teen across America should have the opportunity and should be required to do this!!!!

These efforts are real, powerful and amazing..... and yes they take a long time to have a broad impact. It is a lonnnnnnng road to make lasting change that would truly reduce incidents like the Vegas shooting. But, my god, if the energy behind everyone's collective sadness, fear, rage, and disbelief today could be channeled into efforts to shift our culture at a root level, I would have hope for us. I truly would.
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