America; we have a problem. There; I said it and now the questions are, what exactly is the problem and are we going to solve it?
Well, no solution can fully be proposed and expected to solve a problem, without first fully understanding what factors are contributing to this crisis. Make no mistake, this is a problem of crisis level. The very first of these, that I can recall was Columbine. I was in my senior year of High School, attending Journalism class, when the teacher wheeled in the TV cart and tuned to the news. She announced simply, everyone, please watch this. A mass murder and possible hostage situation was playing out, in the news broadcast. Two seniors: Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, on April 20, 1999, at Columbine High School in Jefferson County, Colorado, murdered 13 people in cold blood and injured an additional 21 people. The motives of these young adults was never made clear, other than to spill the blood of their peers. The latest such incident occurred on February 14, 2018 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, when Nikolas Jacob Cruz entered the school he previously attended and murdered 17 people in cold blood, wounding an additional 14. I wish these two incidents were isolated, however these are the first and last, in a string of incidents spanning all these years.
These cold blooded murders of our children, at the hands of their peers, is hereby listed as the problem at the root of the crisis. But, what are the causes of this problem? Is it a gun access problem? Is it a cultural problem? Is it a mental health problem? Or is it a bullying problem, resulting in a victim snapping? These are only a few of the snap judgements, I've witnessed over the course of the nearly two decades, watching the reports of these massacres. As a generation that grew up, inside the culture of the school system that bred this crisis; I can attest it is most likely every one of these problems to varying degrees. The difficulty is identifying to which degree every factor in play, is setting up an environment favorable to these massacres.
In order to properly identify the radicalizing factors at play, creating this favorable massacre environment, we must be able to study all these factors. This will require all the comprehensive legislative reform, allowing science and public health agencies to study the epidemic of wounded civilians in hospitals and morgues, involving gunshot wounds, both fatal and nonfatal. Currently, legislation exists in law, banning advocacy for and banning in effect public health agencies from studying the issue. This law, known as the amendment sponsored by Jay Dickey of Arkansas, forbade advocacy for research into gun related violence by agencies like the CDC, and Congress later cut the CDC budget by the amount used to promote research. The effect was clear, a loud message that research is banned. In 2016, medical professionals numbering more than 100 strong, signed a memo asking for the Dicky Amendment’s repeal. It is my understanding, that no such repeal was undertaken, and by refusing to do so, we as a society have no real measured data on this topic, in which to formulate an understanding of the problem. We must lift the fog of apathy and dissembling obfuscation, in order to reveal the truth and breadth of scope of this crisis. After which, we must then take a hard long look at the student aged assailants.
In understanding the psyche of these young adult aged assailants, we can finally come to grips with the full scale of society's failure. By this I mean; if this is a mental health problem, were there easily recognizable signs, patterns, and/or indicators in each and every one of these assailants? If so, then what were the patterns, signs, and or indicators? If there were no patterns of mental health issues, then what was it in society that radicalized these assailants into rationalizing and wishing for the cold blooded, gruesome deaths of their peers?
On a side note of children's mental health, our country is already known to be failing our children.
These statistics are courtesy of NAMI & NIMH.
If however, it is not a crisis, brought on by a failing mental health care system, or a problem of gun access, then what is a cause? A cultural shift in the value of life, has often been proposed, as a possible cause, but is notoriously a quest that proves insurmountable, as it requires changes in hearts and minds to solve. In addition, our world history is littered with bloody and gruesome times, in which all humanity, regardless of age, was well aware of and desensitized to mortality and death.
In conclusion, of my statement, our crisis is one in which is likely caused by various factors. Each with a unique set of challenges, but entirely solvable, once we as a nation set out to identify the underlying patterns, symptoms, and indicators. Once identified, we as Americans will live up to our reputation and will relentlessly work to fix these problems and stem the tide of lost souls, lives, and spilt blood in our schools. I urge all my fellow Americans, to follow the lead of our children, and demand that we as a country begin this conversation. We must as a nation, solve this crisis of our age, protect our children, and pass on the lessons learned to the next generation of leaders. This is our duty as the adults of this generation, it is our duty to protect, educate, and allow them to rise up. As such, I stand with the children, all our children who are demanding action.
Mark Bignell, Candidate for Michigan State Senate District 33
Mark Bignell is an alumni of Montcalm Community College and Grand Valley State University. He is a former Democratic Nominee for Michigan State Senate and current candidate.