Today I reflect on what happened yesterday in Las Vegas. Nothing else seems relevant.
What was he thinking? The police say he had no apparent motive.
Was the music too loud?
Was it because he lost a lot of money gambling?
Was he hearing voices telling him to shoot himself, meaning that he was psychotic?
As a psychiatrist, there is no way I can figure him out at this point. But what I can do is try to grapple with this tragedy myself.
Do we care about this just because it’s down home American country music fans in our beloved Las Vegas, the epicenter of fun and reckless abandon? Or is it because it breaks the record as our largest mass shooting?
No. It enrages us because it is no longer an aberration. It has become the norm.
The causes will be investigated, new measures for security to prevent this in the future, blah blah blah. I will leave that for the experts, politicians and the press.
We immediately want to blame someone – ISIS, his mother, his psychiatrist, the gun shop, the hotel security. But that is pointless.
We are all capable of acts of aggression. We need to be aware of that in ourselves. Depression is aggression turned inwards. Should this guy just have been depressed and saved a lot of lives?
When there was a mass shooting of 35 people in Australia in 1996, a massive gun reform action was taken within weeks of the tragedy. There have been less suicides and no mass shootings since. America will never do this – guns are ingrained in our society. The overwhelming majority of perpetrators are male, with their archetypal phallic symbol in hand. The Washington Post reports that agents have not determined if the shooter added mechanical components to a semiautomatic rifle to make it fully automatic…he could have attached a crank that simulates automatic fire, which depresses the trigger faster than the finger and can be purchased online for about $40.
It’s all intellectualization. The fact is that innocent people died. Hundreds are injured, which could mean a lost eye or limb. Thousands will be tragically affected by witnessing what they did last night. Counseling must be started now – immediate psychiatric care has been shown to be crucial in abating symptoms of PTSD.
While I can write off the shooter as “crazy”, the truth is that mentally ill are more often victims of violence than perpetrators. We will spend months trying to analyze what was going on in his head.
As a country we should and must grieve for the victims and for us all. The government would like us to stop there. But if too much time passes, people will forget. Nothing will change. I feel there was an undercurrent in the message to the public to respect the deceased and keep quiet. If laws can have an effect on this epidemic of mass shootings, we must do whatever it takes. We must look at a system that works. Let’s ask Australia for advice.
On my last trip to Ireland we were in a pub every night for music “sessions”. Reciting poetry for me substituted for musical performance, as I am unable to carry a tune or play an instrument.
My original poetry is a little over-the-top, borderline erotica. I did do a bit of that. This poem by Kim Addonizio rocked the house. It was such a hit at the pubs, I had to share it with my loveandmedicine readers.
It is a great expression of the opposing forces that drive women and the reason men love us.
What Do Women Want?
I want a red dress.
I want it flimsy and cheap,
I want it too tight, I want to wear it
until someone tears it off me.
I want it sleeveless and backless,
this dress, so no one has to guess
what’s underneath. I want to walk down
the street past Thrifty’s and the hardware store
with all those keys glittering in the window,
past Mr. and Mrs. Wong selling day-old
donuts in their café, past the Guerra brothers
slinging pigs from the truck and onto the dolly,
hoisting the slick snouts over their shoulders.
I want to walk like I’m the only
woman on earth and I can have my pick.
I want that red dress bad.
I want it to confirm
your worst fears about me,
to show you how little I care about you
or anything except what I want.
When I find it, I’ll pull that garment
from its hanger like I’m choosing a body
to carry me into this world, through
the birth-cries and the love-cries too,
and I’ll wear it like bones, like skin,
it’ll be the goddamned
dress they bury me in.
Lovability as an evolutionary adaptation
Dogs manage to maintain their loveabilty, even as they age. Human beings respond to their cuteness by nurturing. We relate to pets much in the way we treat our own children.
We see the combination of cuteness and dependence, which triggers our impulse to protect and coddle. They don’t hide their vulnerability like we do. This could be an evolutionary adaptation, to ensure someone will take care of them. Cranky old humans take heed.
3-D sense of smell
It appears that it’s quite likely that dogs can smell fear, anxiety, even sadness. No wonder dogs seem to suffer greatly from divorce or empty nest. They also have been sad victims of the mobile phone obsession which has brought them very few conveniences but has shifted the attention of their owners tremendously.
Dogs do yoga instinctively (or attend Doga classes). If we followed their lead we’d be stretching first thing in the morning and several times throughout the day. We would also be complaining less about back pain.
Old dogs, much like infants, nap nearly all day. They can sleep 22 hours in a day. They tire more easily and nap to get strength they need to function for a few minutes here and there. It comes down to listening to their bodies. Are you listening?
Learning to be still with an aging dog is perhaps the greatest lesson of all. At their age, that’s all they really want. Marley just wants to hang with people that love her. She knows who they are. She’s right beside me now, nudging me to get off the computer. So I will end here and give her my full attention. She has taught me about stillness. A lot happens in stillness. It’s the least we can do for a creature who is all about love and connection.
A Love and Medicine Fan, in Queensland, Australia