Thursday, April 19, 2007

When You're Living in America .........

“He was a loner.”

How many times do we hear this after a tragedy such as happened this week in Blacksburg Virginia? Didn’t you just know that was coming?

So you know what I wonder? Was he (or any of the loners who commit these heinous acts), driven to become a killer because of the inherent loneliness of his life, or was he a loner because he was already messed up and capable of such an act? In other words which came first?

It strikes me as ironic that in such a populous society, people can be so lonely. I understand loneliness very well. It is a daily part of my life as well. That is not to say I don’t have friends, I do and I see them often, yet in my day to day work/kids/housework/repeat cycle I go days at a time with no true meaningful adult conversation. I’m sure that is one of the reasons I stayed in an unhealthy relationship for so long. A less than perfect relationship is better than the loneliness of no relationship.

Do you know your neighbors? I speak at least weekly to the neighbors on either side of me. If you go more than a couple of houses in any direction, I don’t know them or speak to them. I live in a small town, and I have lived in this house for over ten years. I’m sure it must be worse in large cities. Is my situation typical? I suspect so.

Jonathan Larson hit on this concept so well in RENT.

Disparate individuals creating their own community. –

What Was It About That Night?

Connection-In An Isolating Age

For Once-The Shadows Gave Way To

For Once I Didn't Disengage

Why is it so easy to isolate ourselves? Do we just have so many comforts and entertainments in our homes that we don’t need to seek out our neighbors?

Does the internet and comment threads help or hurt?

I don’t know.

I know one thing, Hillary was right when she said, “It takes a village.” Would a support group of close friends have stayed Cho Seung-Hui’s hand? Maybe not, but I strongly suspect that had he felt that he “fit in” and had a group of friends to vent to, he may never have gotten to this awful breaking point.


Anne said...

I hear that. Loneliness is a big part of why I'm moving away from Texas and back to an area in California where my family, boyfriend, and a close friend from high school live.

Apparently loneliness is becoming more common in the US. KQED's Forum did a show on this very phenomenon (sadly, I can't find it). They mentioned a book that I have on my nightstand, but have yet to read: Bowling Alone.

I can't speculate as to whether being less alone would have prevented the shooter from doing what he did. But I do know from experience with depression that it's easier to slide into (and/or stay in) unhealthy thought patterns when one is consistently alone, lonely, etc.

Brave Sir Robin said...


That book looks fascinating. I’m going to get it.

I didn’t realize you are in Texas. Wow, this must be total culture shock if you are from California.

We need liberals to move here, not move away!

celticfeminist said...

Those kind of things always make me wonder, too. By nature, I'm a bit of a loner; I'm naturally introverted and uncomfortable in large social gatherings. I'd just as soon stay at home with a book and my dogs than go to a party or meet up with people I'm not close too.

But I do have a strong support system - my family, a circle of chosen family/close friends - that I know I can always turn to should I need it.

I don't know if a support group of close friends have helped Cho or not. From what I've gathered and read, he was a deeply disturbed individual who needed not only familial/friend support, but professional support and help as well. I find it telling about this country that someone who exhibited his behaviors, who was institutionalized, still was unable to a) get the help he needed, b) unwilling to because of ... stigma/insurance/what-have-you.

I've been thinking about health insurance a lot lately. Having had wrist surgery in February and requiring physical therapy to regain mobility and strength, I've come to appreciate how difficult it is for anyone to get medical help that isn't a straight-up doctor visit. I'm limited on my number of PT visits - and I have good insurance. My therapist was saying in MO, the governor passed a law removing PT coverage from Medicaid. So (poor) folks who have surgeries or injuries and need PT can't get it. (If you're poor, you don't need to be mobile, I guess.)

It's the same with mental health coverage - it's deemed "unnecessary" or "frivolous" because it's not something that exhibits as a typical, life-threatening medical problem. There's no bleeding or fever or infection. Yet, compromised mental health can adversely affect a life just as much (or more) than a heart attack or a bout of pneumonia. It can even devastate an entire community and destroy a young man's life.

And still, few health insurers want to provide funding for the frivolity of something like PT or mental health.

Because if you're crazy, you don't deserve the help.