We're the antidote

The shooting in Arizona has been on my mind, and the minds of many others of late, as well it should be. Here's hoping that the victims, the survivors, and their families are well taken care of for the rest of their collective lives.

While the spark of violent political rhetoric has often been referred to, and while it's not necessarily strongly correlated in this instance, I feel like the deeper sinister roots of the problem largely haven't really been addressed.

Before he was a Senator, Al Franken published a book called "The Truth (with jokes)." Unlike Michael Moore's works, which at one point caused me and a reference Librarian no amount of trouble trying to verify a "fact", Team Franken's research was impeccable, accessible, and easily referenced. In that work, he talks about how fear, queers, and smears played a strong role in conservative rhetoric. When combined with some of David Brock's insight, I didn't like where my puzzle pieces were pointing.

I chew on ideas a really long time. So this problem has stewed many a night. It's not enough to know that the problem is there. How do we solve it, or at very least ameliorate it?

My mind wanders back to a rather panicked social worker I conversed with in Albany Public HeLl. She related that the budget cuts were simply unlivable, and apologised that we were the recipients of their "best" former mental patients. I took a very deep breath here. I thought on the scant training I had dealing with mental health issues. Of the many things I didn't sign up for in information science, this was certainly towards the top of the list. Thank goodness my small reservoir of street smarts has always allowed me to know the difference between truly harmful and mostly harmless.

The mentally ill in our Libraries, if a disturbance, are best dealt with through the proper channels of the mental health system. Staff ought phone their local social services staff *and* the police. If we miss out on this, we let Patrons fall through the cracks, as unsavoury as that might be.

But again, this is just the surface mental health issue. Arguably one we've no business addressing.

Yet, aren't we the antidote in terms of the larger picture?

If we go to the root, it's fear causing this. This is the sinister fuel that makes this social fire white hot.

Isn't our information provision the cure? A drama teacher I had a long time ago mentioned that folks loved popular plays since that was what they knew. You love what you know. I think there's a kernel of truth to this. Our ability to provide information, in especial controversial information, is crucial to diffusing this situation. It is only through understanding that we can get real social progress.

When you're in the Army, the way they get you to shoot another person is to dehumanise them. Our soldiers seldomly have to see the proverbial whites of the enemy's eyes any more in the heat of battle. I railed constantly in the lead up to Iraq that there was something sinister in having a bunch of hawks that wouldn't know the ugliness of war if it bit them in the arse. Chances are, if you're in uniform, you value life highly. How do we teach people to react mentally when they're fed rhetoric that serves to dehumanise? Sure, it won't make our circulation statistics climb (but maybe it will ;) ) but isn't this part of what our vision of Libraries as community centres is about? There have to be Libraries out there holding panel discussions on this. Isn't that something to be proud of?

Sometimes I wrestle with the idea of making this a political blog. I'd probably be sniffing about trees I don't belong near.

Alas, it is true that in my young life, the most glorious day I lived was 9/12/01. This was because, as an Upstate New Yorker, I witnessed a gigantic social change. People were downright as civil as possible in the wake of that tragedy. New Yorkers were having debates at street corners on who enjoyed the right of way. Citizens cheerily greeted one another instead of doing the MIT shuffle. Having lived that, I'd dearly like to see it as a daily occurrence.