We failed them

Dear President Trump,

Behind all of the drama about what Barr said Mueller said has been another devastatingly sad story; the deaths by suicide of two Parkland, FL teens who survived the mass shooting at MSD high school last year and the death by suicide of a Newton, CT father of one of the first graders who was murdered in the mass shooting at Sandy Hook elementary school six years ago. All three of them died within a week of one another and the most obvious connection is that they all lost people to mass shootings and suffered emotionally in the aftermath. I’ve read a number of news reports about their deaths and every one of the reports focuses on their individual suffering in the wake of the trauma they endured. The most recent stories about the Parkland students particularly focus on the additional suicide prevention efforts that the school district and parents have undertaken and always, the obligatory suicide hotline number is given.

One article did call out how Jeremy Richman, father of Avielle Richman, and his wife were targeted by Alex Jones and Infowars, accused of being crisis actors who were faking their daughter’s death. The articles about the two MSD students haven’t mentioned whether they too were subjected to this type of cruelty, but we know that many of the more vocal MSD students have been thusly targeted. Being personally targeted or having one’s friends targeted by an apparently whacked conspiracy theorist (who probably gets a handsome stipend from the NRA) almost certainly added to these people’s suffering and may have been a factor in their decision to kill themselves.

I also think it is very likely that our country’s completely inadequate response to gun violence contributed to their sense of hopelessness and despair (and probably rage). Look at the timing – all three killed themselves within days of New Zealand having responded decisively and significantly to their first mass shooting ever – they robustly changed the gun laws within a week of their tragedy. And what have we done? Pretty much jack. The NRA still holds the GOP hostage (and you all are completely complicit in that) and aside from some lame legislation on bump stocks, not much else has happened on the federal level. Today the Senate talked about whether to put forward federal legislation that would allow authorities to temporarily take away someone’s guns if he or she were thought to be a danger to themselves or others. It didn’t get very far; Lindsey Graham said on NPR that “there’s not a market” for it federally, but maybe some states will adopt it. Like I said – you all are lame and useless.

Yes, those individuals were certainly suffering horribly within their individual lives, but we are not going to stop the scourge of suicide by focusing on individuals and trying to get better at detecting each one’s suffering so we can address it individually. Of course we need to do this – each of us is a precious, unique work of art worth cherishing and saving – but we’ve got to address the systemic issues that are causing so very many of us to take ourselves out of the picture. Watching your friends get mowed down by a fellow student with an assault weapon or burying your child whose body is riddled with bullets from an assault weapon and then being attacked by alt-right assholes and having your country f*cking fail you and the memory of your loved ones is more than enough for many of us call it quits.

We’ve got to do better by one another. And clearly we need to vote you and your ‘thoughts and prayers’ posse right on out of office so we can clear the decks and get down to the business of actually taking care of one another.

May we be safe in our schools, homes, churches, movie theaters, everywhere.
May we be willing to stand up to the NRA and misguided 2nd Amendment proponents.
May we prioritize health and well-being over dollars and bullets.
May we stand strong for non-violence and peace.

Tracy Simpson

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