Events of last week raised my awareness of the mess we Americans have made, both here at home and across the globe.
Last week there was a shooting at a suburban shopping mall in Portland Oregon. Then there was another shooting at an elementary school in a small town in Connecticut. I didn’t think things like this happened in such places. Folks move away from cities to small towns and suburbs to feel safer.
There are no safe places for children.
Because of our bombs, there are no safe places for children in Iraq. Children are not safe from our bombs in Pakistan or Afghanistan either. Children in places we choose to bomb are not safe in their homes, markets or schools.
Our country is not safe.
Our own country is not safe for our children and young adults. We kill them with cars. Automobile accidents are the number one cause of death of Americans between the ages of 4 and 34 (per the CDC). In 2010 an average of 52 teenageers a week were killed by cars. That’s seven kids a day. We individually and personally risk our lives and our childrens’ lives every day when we drive our death machines to work, malls and schools. We not only poison the planet with cars, we kill ourselves, our children and each other.
Our country is especially dangerous for young men of color and the disabled school kids. We preferentially funnel these people directly from schools into prisons (per the ACLU). In 2010, there were almost 71,000 children incarcerated in the US. We are number one in the world for numbers of people locked up, numbers of children incarcerated and rates of imprisonment. Number two isn’t even a close second in any category. African Americans are imprisoned at four times the rate as whites.
We box up our babies from the age of six weeks, away from families for ten hours a day, five days a week in day care. We keep our children inside schools for many hours of most days till the age of 18. Many of these buildings are locked.
Outside of school hours we train our childrens’ developing minds with violence through the media and video “games”. How did “first person shooter” get to be a kid’s game?
We poison ever growing numbers of children with chemicals known to cause aggression and suicidality. We routinely drug children with these so they’ll sit still and be quiet in classrooms. Now, we drug babies for crying and 3 year olds for acting frightened while locked away from their families in day care centers.
Those unsuccessful in school environments are incarcerated. It ‘s a well-worn path. Many of those successful in school go to work as cogs within the military industrial complex that kills impoverished families half a world away. Our children die doing this “defense” work for us.
We pay for all this with money from our paychecks.
We are responsible.
Locking the doors of our homes and schools will not protect us when we’re raising, training and arming shooters inside our homes and schools. Locking our car doors will not keep us safe inside our vehicles. FDA black box warnings will not protect our children.
You and I can make a difference.
Many small acts can bring big results. Everything ever accomplished began as a thought, an electrochemical shift inside a person’s brain. Everything ever done started with an idea.
Making a difference is easier than you think. Mass grassroots demonstrations from coast to coast and waving placards is a great idea. But this isn’t easy to orchestrate nor easy to maintain. Big attention getters generate big resistance and soon vanish.
Instead, I suggest a sustainable movement made of small changes that every single American can participate in, each in his or her own way. Even children and old folks can make a positive difference.
I have a few ideas. I’m certain you will have more and better ideas of your own. We Americans are smart. We control most of the world’s resources. We can do better than we have been.
The world needs our immediate action. All of us. Today.
Now is the time to take action. Take the first step today. Look for what will motivate you to make a move and keep going.
Perhaps the thought of saving gas money when you take one day off from driving a week will motivate you. Maybe the lower overhead of a smaller lifestyle will click you into action. It could be that feeling good about doing the right things might be enough for you to make small positive changes in the way you live.
Even if you don’t empathize with the plights of starving families and school children being bombed on the other side of the world, even if you imagine that you’re a “safe” driver in a “clean” car, even if you think your school is different and safe and your day care is good day care, then think of the polar bears. Polar bears are drowning as their home melts from beneath their feet.
Your kids and grandkids would want you to park your car to help save the polar bears. My kid asked me to. My car is parked most days now.
All of us together can reduce the insanity of American life.
Occupy your life. Small actions add up to big results.
“Occupy” your own life. During the recent “occupy” movement, people camped in the front of government buildings. But those people have been cleared away. The grass is thick and green again in front of city hall.
Think small and go for personal, sustainable long-term change. Small actions can make big results. Together we can make a difference.
Here’s a starter list of things you can do to “occupy” your life. Live an owner-occupied life through your meaningful daily choices. Encourage others to join you with their own changes.
1. Park your car and walk. Even one time could save lives.
2. Say “no” to drugging your child. There are ways.
3. Turn off the media. Do this for a day or a week or a month.
4. Sit down together for family meals.
5. Say hello to that guy that sleeps outside. He’s a neighbor, too.
6. Down-size your life. Buy less. Give stuff away. Recycle.
7. Make time for daily quiet contemplation. Ask your heart, then listen to the answers.
The buck stops here.
This is our country. Together we can make our country and the world a better place.
Thanks for reading, thinking and writing.
Mad in America hosts blogs by a diverse group of writers. These posts are designed to serve as a public forum for a discussion—broadly speaking—of psychiatry and its treatments. The opinions expressed are the writers’ own.
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