I recently read an article about autism and mass shootings. The article was in the New York Times. In my opinion this article is great, it points out that people who have autism are being scapegoated by the media and by people who want an explanation for the violence. If you read the article, you can easily substitute the word schizophrenia for autism. Because before this new scapegoat was discovered and targeted, it was almost always schizophrenia that was to blame for mass shootings.
As a society we have allowed one group of people who have long been scapegoated for gun violence and crime to be exchanged for another group. Each of these groups consists of some extremely vulnerable people in our society. Both groups of people (those with schizophrenia and those with autism) are far more likely to be victims of crime than to be perpetrators of a crime.
The best article I read for explaining mass shootings is in Slate. In the article, mass shooting are blamed not on the mentally ill (you can add autism to the article) but on people’s anger.
Of course, there is occasionally going to be someone with schizophrenia, or someone with autism that also has a problem with anger. The very number of people who have a mental illness or the diagnosis of autism, make it statistically impossible not to have some people in these two groups who possess problems that are not associated with their diagnosis (like anger).
It is easier to point to people with schizophrenia or people with autism and scapegoat them as the cause of gun violence than to accept anger as a cause. Why? Because people can point to people with a diagnosis as being “other” “them” “one of those” but the same is not true of anger.
Anger is a part of all of us. We all have anger. There is no pointing fingers and saying “Those people are dangerous.” Anger is dangerous in anyone. Road rage is the perfect example. Where I live many people are severely injured and even killed in incidents of road rage. It is absurd to think that accidentally cutting someone off on the freeway may very well end your life in an act of violence, but it happens.
There are many angry people walking among us. There are people who don’t handle the stress of a job loss, or rejections by others, the break-up of a relationship, or an error in traffic, etc. in a resilient manner. Most of us can cry, feel badly for a while, talk to friends, mourn, take action, something – our coping techniques kick in for our very survival. This isn’t true of everyone. Some people act out in violence and rage.
I hope other people will step up and speak out about the claims that mass shootings are tied to autism. Even if people with schizophrenia are not in the spot light right now, they could easily be again. I don’t accept scapegoating any group of people.
Let’s start a dialogue about how to identify the kind of anger that leads to violence. Let’s stop wasting time pointing fingers in the wrong direction. Let’s do something that doesn’t scapegoat people and actually saves lives –innocent lives.