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Friday, December 28, 2012

The Meaningless Solution

Original Article: Daily Times
Date Published: December 20, 2012
Original link: http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2012\12\20\story_20-12-2012_pg3_6

 quickly hugged my second
grader who is always eager to go to school last Friday morning. As soon as I entered the freeway, I heard the radio giving out the annoying preamble of the ‘Breaking News’. By now, I have learned that it is rarely ever any good news that ‘breaks’. I was getting myself ready for yet another blast somewhere, when I heard the awful news of shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School. It was two people in the beginning, including the shooter. The story was still raw and details were still sketchy. By the time my 45-minute commute to the office came to an end, it brought the horrific news of the total of 28 dead. Turning the PC on in disbelief at work, my worst fears were confirmed. Another mentally sick person had struck, taking 20 children out in his rampage, not to mention seven adults, including his own mother.

My initial reaction towards the perpetrator cannot be penned here. Not proud of that verbal diarrhea, but as a parent of a seven-year-old, I could feel the agony of the parents of the victims. The sheer rage engulfed my rational side of the brain for a few moments. A coworker with family members in that part of the country started to call frantically to check on his little niece and nephew. Luckily, their school was a few miles away, but on a lockdown due to this horrific incident.

An emotional President Obama took to the podium that Friday night, appealing to the nation to come up with a “meaningful solution’ to the madness that repeats itself very frequently. As a citizen, I do not doubt his sincerity one bit, but looking at this hydra-headed menace, how can this nation grapple with it? Had it been possible, or probable, would this ugly episode repeat itself so frequently in the United States of America? What an irony, a country that goes thousands of miles away to protect other nations from their enemies, is unable to protect its own citizens from their own fellow citizens. From Oklahoma City onwards, these domestic terrorists strike at their own fellow citizens. And the media goes into its usual frenzy.

Notice how the focus shifts from the victims, whose lives are taken away for no reason, and most of the attention is diverted towards the assailant. It is the typical profile of a ‘disturbed young man’ and a ‘social recluse’ or a person with ‘psychological issues’. The underlying theme is: people, this is an anomaly, don’t worry, until the next incident unfolds and the cycle of denial, and the cycle of a so-called facade is repeated. How many anomalies, how many unusual are enough, no one knows and no one is willing to accept.

This problem is so pervasive, but in my humble opinion, deliberately tucked under the rug. The media as mouthpiece is culpable in painting it as an individual issue. Deep down, it is a societal issue. The real impediments towards any meaningful solutions are individual rights and liberties of the citizens. In an exchange with a coworker that ill fated day, I emphasised that all these so-called troubled young men ought to be airlifted and dropped into sub-Saharan Africa, the jungles of the Sunderbans, to the slums of Kolkata or perhaps somewhere in Sibi so that they could learn to appreciate their lives. All of them will get on their knees and beg to be transported back to the comfort of their cosy homes here in the US. They will start loving themselves and their fellow citizenry. It is all about perspective. When life and its daily challenges for survival hit you hard, that is the Eureka moment. You tend to appreciate your life only when you experience it from another person’s perspective who is less fortunate than you.

It is safe to say that all of us carry one form of depression or the other. Life is a strange business of needs and desires, haves and have-nots. Some cope with their depressions with turning towards God, others find refuge in drugs and alcohol. The ones with deep-rooted depression succumb to violence and harm others. In my dictionary, individual rights and liberties end the moment someone harms another individual physically. The law should be speedy, where incarceration, conviction and sentencing should be efficient. Individuals on death row for decades make a mockery of justice. The taxpayers fund their life terms behind bars. Yet this great nation is unable to grab the bull by its horns, so to speak.

In my humble opinion, the universal healthcare proposal should be amended to accommodate an annual psychiatric evaluation of all citizens. People should not be able to renew their vehicle registrations, pay their income tax, be allowed to vote, be able to obtain or renew their driver’s licence until they have clearance from their psychiatrist. This should be augmented with tougher firearm laws. It is time for this legislation to be passed and implemented in letter and spirit to avoid any additional massacres. Otherwise, the talking heads will keep on yakking and we will never have what the president alluded to as a meaningful solution to this horrific mess.

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