In the spectacular musical “Phantom of the Opera,” there is a scene where the Phantom has tied a hangman’s noose around the neck of Christine’s lover who, with his last breath, begs the Phantom to free Christine. The phantom operatically replies: “The world showed no compassion to me.” This poignant yet pathetic response from the Phantom embodies the enigmatic mindset of those who would kill the innocent.
While countries with tighter gun laws, especially concerning assault weapons, have a fraction of the gun violence we have here, that is only part of the solution. And there is no question that kids graduate from video games and general desensitization of harm into a state of an evaporating conscience. Then the toy guns, then the real guns whose triggers are often precariously similar to the controls on the video games. But let’s go back to the heart of the killing phantoms. We as humans, all have a penchant for violence but as sane, civil, and social human beings, we learn and teach that responding with primitive rage or vengeance is antisocial behavior. Unfortunately, those who need to know this information, like Adam Lanza, often end up going to jail or, exterminating themselves as in this case. And of course, they steal innocent, precious lives.
Before Adam became a killing phantom, what could we have done to have reached out to him and, possibly, prevented the unspeakable horror that has unified the world in tears and outrage? As the father of five cherished children, one five and another six, I know that the only thing that prevented this from happening to my babies, was geography. But they are vulnerable. We don’t want to think about it but it’s true.
I contend that we are treating the mentally ill in this country like trash and as a result, they are living within their own franchise of distorted rage and anger. We all know someone who fits this profile. Some are young. Some are elderly. Many are alone but sadly, many are well connected to others but those others are too close to see the panorama of violence. In psychology, we call them enablers.
Did you hear a warning sign from someone last week that you now hear with a new perspective? In someone’s rage or crying, do you now hear a desperate cry for help. If not, what unspeakable horror will it take to wake you up?
The mental health system is under-funded and far too overwhelmed to identify all youth and elderly at risk. It is up to us as caring neighbors, to reach out in love and help to prevent an innocent soul from phantomizing. If you know someone that you feel may be at risk of transmogrifying into something harmful, reach out, talk to them, give them a Christmas dinner.
I am not talking about a police state or, growing a culture of mistrust like in the fifties. I am talking about helping those who need help, love, and understanding before it’s too late. Could you sponsor someone by taking them to an AA meeting or for drug or depression counseling? What single gesture could you do? We can each do something.
We each have an ethical responsibility to our children to pay loving attention to our friends and neighbors as if we were one giant family. Reaching out is neither easy nor comfortable. You may offend a relative, friend or a doting mother who is far too afraid to see the danger signs in their child. Saying “I care,” can get you in a lot of trouble.
On the other side, if we continue to cast off those in need, they will come back to us as phantoms. And they will kill us. Get up now and do something.