Archive for the ‘politics’ Category

And the violence, it goes round and round . . .

June 11, 2014

Let me make one thing clear.

As of May 2014 there have been at least 70 mass shootings or shooting sprees with legally purchased guns, according to Rolling Stone.

As Ezra Klein reported in 2012, while violence in general declines, more episodes of a lone individual, or team, involved in killing sprees or mass murders increase.

Why? And, as Tim Kreider recently wrote, do we really care?

No one answer can solve this problem.

Is it even worth trying? Do we have an obligation to murdered children, youths and adults? To their families?

Do we even owe it to ourselves because any of us or our families or our kids could be next?

Pundits, politicians, the NRA reach for the simple answers. Yet, no one explanation moves us forward to stopping this crazy epidemic of young men going wild upon the world around them.

Mental illness alone doesn’t cause a person to buy a gun and shoot a bunch people.

Access to guns makes violent crime easier to commit but they don’t motivate the shooter.

Exposure to violence can impact how people process information, but individuals vary widely in how they internalize violent imagery. Most violent gamers don’t become mass murderers.

Overstimulation in general can alter how a person perceives others.  Yet, many people with even the most sensitive temperaments or the propensity toward reactive anger don’t decide to kill.

The confluence, however, of persons with unregulated temperaments, who have learned violent pathways to manage emotions, and who have easy access to guns enables more people than ever to enact this complicated call from within their psyches.

So while calling for more mental health treatment, legislating new gun safety rules and placing limits on kids’ access to violent imagery, also ask this question: how come so many people with the above described profile have emerged in the past thirty years or so?

Perhaps these individuals with a particular skew toward vulnerability enact exactly what they have been taught by the world in which we live: rush to do violence.

Children around the world have this in common: suicide bombings, acts of terrorism, exposure to the effects of nuclear arms and chemical weapons, savage treatment of animals in the production of food, obliteration of the world’s beauty and environmental health, sexual aggression towards women and children, pornographic representation of said violence, idolatry of gang culture, and massive overexposure, albeit fantasized, to destructive acts between humans.

Of course these behaviors have always existed. And yes, people have always killed. Mass murders and killing sprees punctuate all of history.

The beauty of the modern world, however, resides in our exquisite technology.  The violence we can commit is so much grander. The vulnerable and confused children who grow up under its shadow can enact their vehemence with far greater power.

So limit guns and enhance mental health. In the meantime, think about this: are these troubled lone gunmen with easy access to weapons behaving any differently than that which the world reflects back to them?

Thanksgiving=Diversity Squared

November 25, 2013


On Thanksgiving do we recognize collaboration between diverse peoples or do we inadvertently celebrate the return of Pilgrims from a successful massacre of over 700 Native Americans? Without a unifying narrative to give shape to our national values, most people will shop instead. Diversity has become an exponential issue generating more anxiety than solutions – all the more reason to participate in and continue this unwieldy conversation.


Thoughts about Trayvon Martin

May 24, 2012

I wrote about Trayvon Martin for CNN’s InAmerica blog.

Summer 2010: Paralyzed

August 19, 2010

Picture: Getty Images / Julian Finney

This blog has gone dark since the end of June.  Why?  Every morning the heat rose trapping me in a vapor of thick intoxication. When the sun burned high in the sky the humidity coated my skin in a waxy sweat.  The news was no lighter. The every hour on the hour triviality emerging from the 24 hour news cycle bludgeoned my mind like high fever hallucinations. The summer that has seen the first effects of climate change has also been a summer of paralysis. (more…)

Gulf Coast Oil Spill #4: Teens

May 25, 2010

If you are wondering just how bad things really are in the Gulf see this ABC news report. Philippe Cousteau (Jacque’s grandson) calls it a “nightmare.”

Transocean is holding a memorial today for those who died in the Deepwater Horizon in Jackson, Miss. .

People have died.  The US government is now calling it the worst oil spill ever.

While most adults seem to be taking this in stride, rationally calculating the ratio of a country’s need for oil to the spill’s impact, many kids feel defiant and betrayed.  This is their planet.  As they watch adult authority figures still unable to stop the flow of oil into the ocean, cynicism molds childhood laughter in a wary grimace, the dull mask of survival.  They believe that the world they know may be coming to an end, and sometimes, as one adolescent explained, “it is simpler to just harden up and ice over.”

Another young man said, “The subdued reaction to this crisis makes everything seem very false. As long as everyone around us denies that these things are happening, we tag along: the as-if generation in an as-if world.”

Three teenagers from New York City’s Upper West Side, however, tried something different.  This is their story and here is their petition.


Gulf Oil Spill #2

May 4, 2010

Read this.  Krugman echoes comments by Glenn Albrecht.  The surprising issue is that given the severity of this disaster, so few people seem as upset as I might expect, at least here in NYC. I venture to say, however, that unless you live along the Gulf coast or work in it waters, the implications of this oil spill event are being conveniently tucked away in the dark corners of people’s minds. At a dinner over the weekend, friends commented, “This is terrible,” looking anguished and frightened in a manner that tightened their eyes.  No one that I spoke to was motivated to do anything. There are, however, psychological concepts that can explain such apathy. They can also suggest strategies to enable a more authentic national dialogue about our energy choices.  The Gulf Coast doesn’t only need Obama. It needs the citizenry.


A Yearning for the Past

April 29, 2010

The dark hair of a twenty-year-old female college student gleamed against her long-sleeved white shirt. Her rounded collar denied even the possibility of cleavage. Her denim skirt fell well below the knees and she wore stockings with her sneakers.  She complained that her matchmaker thought she was too picky. If I had met this woman in a Jewish orthodox neighborhood this encounter might have made sense. Instead, I met Tzipora (formerly Jennifer) in my private practice in a Manhattan neighborhood where even the dogs wear tank tops. As I heard her lament about her preference for Chassidish men, I had to acknowledge that this previously secular woman now devoting herself to Orthodox Judaism was not the first such character to wander into my office of late.  Deepening religious observance is but one manifestation of people’s attempts to tune their behavior to a different historical note. The evocation of the past seems to be a critique of American materialism, an analysis useful in understanding individuals as well as our nation’s current political turbulence.


Facing Unemployment: Going Local

February 16, 2010

graphic from

The United States economic outlook is bleak, and predictions for the cultural fabric rather ominous.  Don Peck writes in this month’s Atlantic that joblessness “is likely to warp our politics, our culture and the character of society for years to come.”  While I tend to agree, I’m also working hard with folks on what to do to stave off this impending doom. What seems to help is going local, or investing in community, according to Dr. Robert Leahy, or recommitting “ourselves to cleaning up democracy” (2/2/10), according to Economist Robert Reich. Going local means re-investing in the place you live and re-establishing possibilities that your local environment can support. David Brooks comments “Somehow there must be a way to use the country’s idle talent to address freshly exposed needs.” That’s right. People must focus on the places they live, see what needs doing, and get started with the task of creating, developing and providing new services, ideas, products and systems that can help usher in the new economy of the better decades awaiting us. Some people are trying.   (more…)

Support Our President

January 20, 2010

Keep in mind that the year hasn’t gotten of to a good start.  A devastating earthquake hit Haiti.  Try to imagine how it feels when one person you are close to dies. Now start multiplying.  Sarah Palin has decided to join Fox News, meaning that the most popular media is now fully controlled by a single ideology. The very same people who fear a fascist takeover are in fact enacting an ideological takeover.   Unemployment remains high.  Large banks appear to be the only people with money.  Lots of people don’t have health care. As a provider of mental health care services, there are some very fine and hard-working people who can’t get care because they don’t have the money, or were sick before, or mistakenly sent a COBRA check a day or two late. With all of the difficult problems we are facing why are so many self-appointed experts naysing our President? How about a letter of support instead,  empowering President Obama in his moment of need so he can do the job we elected him to do?


The Pope says Green Begins at Home

January 5, 2010

In his New Year’s address, the pope called on Catholics (and I assume the rest of us can participate) to consider protecting the environment a personal responsibility as well as a political event. The Pope said, “An objective shared by all, an indispensable condition for peace, is that of overseeing the earth’s natural resources with justice and wisdom.”

If we don’t protect our planet and treat it as the sacred entity that supports life, we risk our own lives, we threaten humanity.  Political decisions and legislation often brings about social changes. Copenhagen was a little more important than the Pope might wish to acknowledge. Yet, I also believe that change begins at home.  Most of us wonder, what might living differently entail? How would it help me? What follows are three things anyone can do that will help the environment and support psychological health.


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