It’s been a couple of weeks since I’ve been able to share some of the best in our weekly reader comments, something I started doing every Sunday. Last weekend I was out of town celebrating the life and times of my mother’s twin sister, so this is the first round-up of comments I’ve been able to do in a minute. But because of the tragic events of the week, I’m inspired to do things a little differently this time around. Click inside for more!
So, my Aunt Grace (who I was very close with) passed away on November 27; one of the the best things about the celebration we had last weekend (in Cleveland) in her honor was being among– and listening to– so many political activists, writers, and artists who had worked with my aunt over the years. I was reminded of the fact that I come from a family of true activists (my mother and father included), and I’ve been raised by amazing people each with their own history of active participation in social justice.
If my mother and aunt were still physically here I know they’d want to see me doing my part to address what happened at Sandy Hook Elementary School this week, and I (along with Trent) have been trying to do this on the blog as much as possible. I also know they’d want me to speak up about other things I see in the pop culture sphere and in society as a whole, which is something else I tried to do with a post about domestic violence and the very public relationship between Rihanna and Chris Brown. I’m so proud to be a part of a blog that has such amazingly intelligent, respectful readers who respond strongly to the occasional, less gossip-y posts that we share. So many of you weighed in on Sandy Hook, violence, and the media that I’ve decided to share comments specifically from those stories. I hope this keeps all of these conversations going, and that we all WAKE UP (as PITNBR Gillian suggested… and as Spike Lee has also suggested); we ALL come from a history of activism and we all reap the benefits of family members who have spoken up when the time was right (and when the time was considered ‘wrong). The least we can do is keep the conversation going :)
PITNBR Gillian was one of the first to bring up the issue of gun control when we learned that 2o children and 7 adults were killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary School murders:
The right to bare arms should never ever be more important than the rights of children to go to school without the fear of being gunned down, shot, or harmed in any way. Or the right to go to a mall without getting shot, or the right to go enjoy a movie.
IT IS TIME TO WAKE UP!
Gun laws NEED to CHANGE.
The right for “you” to go out and buy gun is NOT worth more than the life or safety of my child.
The politicians do NOTHING because not enough of us ask them to DO SOMETHING about it. Its time for us to make a stand and put this issue to rest for good. So that something like this doesn’t happen to anyone else.
PITNBR Steph, like many of us, wanted to point to the fact that the tragedy is more complicated than just being about guns:
I think that boiling this down to gun laws alone is too simplistic. The number of mass shootings, teen suicides and murder-suicides in the states (and elsewhere) points to a mulch-factorial, societal issue. As someone who works in the field, it bothers me when someone says this happens because the person was mentally ill or “crazy”, again that idea is too simple. Things like this happen because people who suffer from mental illness are are unable to get the help they require. Even up here in Canada, we are slowly privatizing mental health services more and more to the point where the people who REALLY need our help can’t get it. In addition to that, we stigmatize mental health difficulties so often that people are scared to get help. These things do not happen in a vacuum, these people do not live so isolated that no one notices anything going on.
Please don’t misunderstand me here. Does the US need better gun laws- absolutely, no argument. But I don’t think the overhaul needs to stop there, we need to begin to recognize when people need help, offer it to them, and make sure that help is free for everyone. Governments need to make mental health (and gun laws) a priority now, and not wait until something else happens on their watch.
Just my humble opinion. My heart goes out to both the families who have lost someone and to the children and the families that will be dealing with the repercussions of witnessing such an awful event for many years.
Steph also shared this link for further reading.
PITNBR FK was another reader who included helpful links for those of us wondering what we might do at this time:
I called my senators, representative and the White House to say that I want them to fight for better gun control. There’s also this petition:https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/petition/immediately-address-issue-gun-control-through-introduction-legislation-congress/2tgcXzQC
If you’re against gun control, so be it, but if you’re for it, consider signing and/or calling or writing your reps. Politicians won’t tackle this issue unless they know they’ll get support in their fight against the NRA. I actually started crying during my first phone call, but that’s ok. I think all of our hearts are breaking over this horror. Also, if we could change our mental health system, that would be amazing. The investment that would require seems so out of reach of our current national mindset. I hope I’m wrong about that.
PITNBR Ella was one of many to weigh in on our conversation about music , pop culture, and the messages that we send our young people when we avoid conversations about the truth behind what they’re listening to and what they’re absorbing. She was right to bring in one of my favorite songs of the year, Lupe Fiasco’s Bitch Bad:
Shannon I love these thought conversation starting posts of yours because they are important to have. I don’t think blaming Rihanna or hating Chris or trying to figure out their deal is not what’s important. It’s starting a real conversation for their younger more impressionable fans. Like you said, their music and music like it, needs to be unpacked for them. They really don’t understand what they’re hearing or what they’re reading on social media sites like Twitter.
Consider this huge chunk out of Lupe Fiasco’s B*tch Bad:
Yeah, now imagine a group of little girls nine through twelve
On the internet watchin’ videos listenin’ to songs by themselves
It doesn’t really matter if they have parental clearance
They understand the internet better than their parents
Now being the internet, the content’s probably uncensored
They’re young, so they’re malleable and probably unmentored
A complicated combination, maybe with no relevance
Until that intelligence meets their favorite singer’s preference
“Bad bitches, bad bitches, bad bitches
That’s all I want and all I like in life is bad bitches, bad bitches”
Now let’s say that they less concerned with him
And more with the video girl acquiescent to his whims
Ah, the plot thickens
High heels, long hair, fat booty, slim
Reality check, I’m not trippin’
They don’t see a paid actress, just what makes a bad bitch.
Our society still applauds bad behavior (See-Jersey Shore and that new horrid WVA reality show on MTV) so young people are getting a lot of mixed messages about what’s “cool” and how to act. As a future English teacher I want to take popular music and talk about the lyrics with my students.
We can easily roll our eyes and say say who cares, but keeping silent no matter how annoying Chrihanna are, is as dangerous as as the message their “love” is sending.
PITNBR Stephanie responded to Trent’s post Sandy Hook and the gun violence epidemic in America (along with many other readers) and shared her perspective of the massacre as an Australian, whose government made a huge change in its gun laws after the 1996 Port Arthur Massacre. I read Stephanie’s own blog post about this issue and I loved how she included videos of speeches from our last three Presidents, all of whom have spoken out just after a school shooting and vowed to do something about it:
I completely agree, Trent. As an Australian, I love America, I would love to live there, but it’s times like this that make me glad that I don’t, because the notion of a ‘God-given right to bear arms’ is absurd, outdated and completely irrational.
I actually have a celebrity gossip blog of my own, and although I normally steer clear of talking about ‘real’ issues, I couldn’t help but address this because from my point of view as an outsider observing this gun culture and the mentality that goes along with it, it’s devastating and baffling to me that America continues to allow this to happen, instead of standing up for the victims of these senseless tragedies that so easily could have been prevented. I would love it if you read my take on the situation athttp://popcultureperversion.com/2012/12/15/lets-take-a-break-from-our-regular-celebrity-chit-chat-to-talk-about-sandy-hook-for-a-hot-minute-oh-and-read-what-the-celebs-are-saying-about-it/
PITNBR Heather responded strongly when the father of the Connecticut shooter released a statement on behalf of his family. Some readers suggested that the family– specifically the mother, with her collection of guns– should take some responsibility:
I couldn’t agree more…this one is on Mom. I am a mother of 4 boys…and while I am not the perfect mother by ANY means, I know my boys. I know what they are capable of, I know their behaviors, I know when there are things changing with them, when they are having issues at school and the like. I know my boys are not angels and they are going to do shit kids do. But most importantly I PAY ATTENTION!!!! Blaming it on anything else is sugarcoating it to spare feelings, or trying to push ones own agenda. Facts are this kid HAD issues, no sane person goes into an elementary school, or any public place and kills numerous people ESPECIALLY innocent kids, mom was with this guy for 20 years you know what he’s working with….or not…after that length of time…She gave him access to weapons. I feel sorry for this woman…she like I’ve said in another post paid the ultimate price. But ultimately if it weren’t for her lack of action in her sons mental health care…and the fact that she had this stuff accessable to him…we may not be hearing these stories.
PITNBR Maggie shared a very different response to the same conversation, highlighting the difficulties of living with and understanding a family member who suffers from mental illness:
I respectfully disagree with the idea that the family is to blame for their son and brother’s actions. My brother has bipolar disorder. He is very tall, very strong, and a bully to our family. He has been sent to in and out patient treatment centers. He can be very charming, and one of his psychologists told us that he knew what to say to get out of treatment, which limited what they could do to help him and us. We tried individual and family therapy sessions. He skipped all of them. How do you set limits on someone who is unstable and stronger than you? How do you force them to get help? Unless he were to do something illegal, no police officer would arrest him. Eventually, my parents told him he had to go to treatment, or he had to move out of their home. Again, he skipped the treatment, so they had to change their locks. My parents are good parents, and the rest of their children are “normal” and “well-adjusted.” We were all raised the same, but he is the outlier. They raised us all the best they could, and they attempted to get my brother help when they saw a difference in him. He never acted on his aggression, but the threat was there and my parents did their best to maintain peace and stability in our home and family.
What could this mother have done to stop her son, other than attempt to get him help? If he refused to cooperate with treatment? If he has no criminal record, then there would be no reason to think he would be capable of such a horrendous act. Could she have better hidden or limited her family’s access to the guns she reportedly collected? Possibly. But again, if he had no criminal record, and no extremely aggressive behaviors, why would she have reason to believe her son would turn those weapons on her?
The most difficult thing about making sense of others’ actions is that we cannot possibly know what is going on in their minds. We do not know what inner struggles this man kept secret, nor do we know the trigger for his behavior.
PITNBR RachelW was also moved to share a personal story during our discussion about Rihanna, Chris Brown and domestic violence. I love how eloquently she wrote about her friendship, and the difficulty in trying to define a relationship where you are trying to support someone who puts themselves in harm’s way:
I read this article and realize that I am guilty of something completely different. I will define what that is as I write this because I can not find the word for it right now. I read the comments of those who said they would ‘fight’ for their friend if she was in an abusive relationship. I read the tips on how to talk to a friend who is an abusive relationship and how to and now talk about the abuser.
But I also know what it is like to truly be the friend of a woman being abused. The panic every time the phone rings, especially after 6pm when you know he is home from work. The anxiousness that is caused when you don’t receive at least 10 texts from her during the day to make sure she is okay. The brave face you have to put on in front of him and company until she can make her escape and make her escape for good.
My point…Rihanna and Chris fascinate me because I can place them in the category of OTHER. I don’t know them personally so there is no call to action, no sense of obligation to do anything. I mean they have managers, lawyers, agents, assistants, etc. Their relationship also serves as a point of reference. I remember the day my friend called me to say “Love the Way You Lie” perfectly described her relationship with her ex. I had to inform her the song was about domestic violence.
My friend is no longer with her ex but she is different. I guess I struggle with following Rihanna and Chris Brown’s personal life because it is so easy to get yourself lost in a toxic relationship, even if you are not one of the main parties. I have struggled with guilt since at times I resented her for “just not getting it” and taking so much of MY time versus my unfaltering loyalty to her. The more I tried to create boundaries the more attention she sought.
I am sure everything that has been mentioned here has been done at some level but the bond between Rihanna and Chris – unhealthy as it is – is too strong. And I do believe that somewhere in both of their camps someone is tired of fighting it; tired in the name of self preservation. (Please excuse any typos–It’s late and I’m catching up on my blogs :)
PITNBR Dana J commented on the story that’s since gone viral– a mother whose son suffers from a mental illness wrote about her personal experience, and her connection to Adam Lanza’s mother:
I’m glad she was able to speak up about mental illness. I’m bilpolar with psychotic tendencies and I at times feel like there’s a stigma hanging over me. I have to take medication for the rest of my life because of it but I’ve come to accept it mostly and make the most of it. mental illness is something that needs to be talked about and focused on. the Va Tech killer had psychological problems and got a gun and I believe there needs to be a open dialogue about those living with depression, PTSD and other disorders and how to help them. there isn’t enough support for family to do how to deal with loved ones, and us living with it are in an internal struggle and can’t express ourselves at times for people TO UNDERSTAND.
I hope these events will (and I just saw a commercial yesterday for mental illness support on TV) will not cast a shadow on us, but lift and bring us together and bring some good out of it, not bickering.
Thanks to all of you who weighed in on all of these stories, and the others. I truly hope that, even as we go on to enjoy the awesomeness that is celebrity gossip and pop culture, we all remain in dialogue about the issues that affect our society and our lives every day. And I want to thank Trent for creating such an amazing space in PITNB, where such a juxtaposition of frivolity, fun, and social consciousness is encouraged.