Sunday, December 6, 2015

The Robot Elf on the Shelf

Today my kid came home from our babysitter's house begging for an "Elf to sit on our shelf."

My sphincter puckered up when she said it. 

I'd just been gloating to the Mr. last night about how lucky we were to have dodged that particular bullet early on, since roughly 3/4 of my parent friends who have started the Elf thing in previous years had taken to my Facebook feed over the last couple of weeks to bemoan the existence of their elves and the added holiday pressure that moving them around caused them.  

I had also recently read this  article, which points out that the Elves are conditioning our kids to live under constant surveillance... which I'd honestly never considered before, but now that I have read it there is simply no way to click the "ignore" button on the concept in my mind.  Of course, this mass-surveillance concept is not logic that makes sense to a 6-year-old.  And I didn't want to just tell her the Elves were fake, since that would both kill the fun for her friends, and lead to more questions about whether or not Santa was real.  

I didn't want the entire Christmas "gig" to be up.  

So this is roughly the conversation that transpired at bedtime tonight when she brought it up again:

Kiddo:  Mom, why can't we get an Elf for our Shelf?
Me: Well, honey, the grown ups in a house have to sign a paper saying that it's ok for the Elf to come in and watch us all the time.  And mommy and daddy don't want to do that.
K:  Why not?
M:  Because we think it's kinda creepy.  Santa can already see us all to know if we're good, right?  
K:  Yes, with his magic eyeballs.  But the elf isn't creepy! He's cute he just... smiles a lot and stares at you!  *Does impression of elf face*  
M:  Well, I think that's creepy.  Besides, why would Santa need an Elf to live with us?
K:  I dunno, just to, like, help him and make it easy for Santa and things like that.  
M:  I don't think Santa really needs their help though...
K:  Yes, he does!  Elves work to make the toys and stuff, mom!  Gosh, we just watched that movie, remember?
(She had me there: We've watched Elf twice this year already.)
M:  Yeah, I know he needs them to help with toys.  But why would he need extra elves around the world like that?  And, *lowers voice to a whisper* have you ever noticed how all the elves on the shelves look exactly the same? 
K:  Yeah....
M:  Well, why do you think that is?
K:  *thinks for a while* Maybe they're actually robots?
M:  Oh yeah?  Robots?  Like robots pretending to be elves?
K:  Yes.  Like, the real elves make the pretend elves at Santa's toy shop and then make them robots and give the to people to try to make it easier for Santa to use his magic on people who don't have the shelf elves.  
M:  I bet that's exactly right!
K:  But maybe the parents just move the elves?
M:  Uh, maybe.  But if they were robots, couldn't they move if someone controlled them?
K:  YES!  So maybe someone is controlling them!
M:  See?  NOW do you think it's kind of creepy?
K:  Yeah, I think you're right.  That is SUPER creepy.  
M:  Yeah.  So if other people have elves, that's their decision.  But we don't want a creepy robot elf here, do we?
K:  No way!

And that, my friends, is how my daughter reasoned her way out an Elf on our shelf.  

Friday, December 4, 2015

OK, so I Can't Scapegoat Mental Illness. NOW WHAT?

It was brought to my attention today that my previous post about the need for mental healthcare in our country was based on bad assumptions on my part: Apparently mass shooters are more likely to be adolescent or young adult males who are poor, have easy access to guns, and are abusing alcohol or drugs than they are to be mentally ill. This baffles me, honestly, since I cannot imagine a sane, rational person committing such horrible acts of violence... but then again, most people aren't rational a lot of the time.

Since I am a grown-up who can admit when I'm wrong, that's what I'm doing here.  

But now I'm also left with this uncomfortable chasm of uncertainty and sadness.  I have a very human need to blame SOMETHING when I feel that I've been narrowly avoiding violence these past 15 years since I moved out of my parents' house.  

I also work in the public with a LOT of young adult males who are impoverished, and their use of drugs and alcohol is something I've learned to detect pretty quickly.  For a public librarian, hearing about the trifecta of causes that go along with a mass shooter is just horribly scary.  

It would be nice to blame guns in all this, it really would.  I am not a fan of guns myself, and I fervently wish that they had never been created, let alone necessary in our past to resolve conflicts worldwide.  Guns are designed to bring death to others: that is their ultimate purpose. But it really does come down to the choices that a person makes behind the weapons they hold, and it's people, not guns, who are pulling those triggers and choosing to kill others.  

We're at least 100 years too late in realizing that a gun (or 5) in every house is a bad idea.  There's no backing out of the 2nd Amendment at this point, and even I would object to a country-wide seizing of all weapons from the hands of citizens.  Our police forces use militarized weapons, sometimes against our citizens, and I am not comfortable enough with The Man to think that the powers that be will always know best or act in our best interests.   

Of course, I'm a big believer in universal background checks for firearms, but even with strict regulations in place that deal with firearm purchases, you still can't predict when someone might choose to use that weapon against others.  

Without an ability to read people's minds, we're left to find problems with our society and decry them, without being able to DO anything about them.  
How do you get the angry loner to become less angry?  
How do you create a world where poverty isn't a problem for anyone?
How do you get people to understand that kindness and selflessness help make us all better?   We WORSHIP selfish assholes who squander their wealth on shit they don't need!  We give them television shows and follow their lives on social media... hell, we even let one of the biggest, most selfish assholes in our country run for president!  
Where are our shows about good-hearted do-gooders who want to make our planet a better world?  Where are our shows that teach compassion an empathy?

Oh wait, we lose those when we stop watching Sesame Street.  
Instead, we get a media full of rich jerks flaunting their wealth, news of gunmen getting famous for killing, and of everyone acting outraged that these shootings happened in the first place.  

So you know what?  I give up.  I'm not going to solve this problem.  I don't even know enough about it to write an accurate blog post when I'm mad.  

All I can do it show kindness and give help to those who come into my library and into my life.  And raise my kid to do the same.  

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Everywhere I Live Gets Shot Up by Psychos... er, by Gunmen Likely Suffering From Psychosis

Does anyone else mentally check off a city they have once lived or worked in when they hear about a mass shooting?  Or is that just me?

I grew up in the Mountains above San Bernardino, and worked in San Berdoo's main mall for years while putting myself through college.  There was a LOT of gang violence in San Bernardino for many years, but I remember it mostly being gang-on-gang violence with limited numbers of casualties each time.
The mountains I once called home also had that fun Christopher Dorner manhunt and police slaying incident happen in them, and the final cop that that guy killed was my childhood next-door-neighbor.

I attended college at UC Santa Barbara, which, you probably know, had a horrible mass-shooting from a chauvenist nut-job a few years after my family and I left the area.  Some of my best friends from college had previously lived on the same street that asshat started the shootings on.

We moved to Marysville, WA after we left Santa Barbara, then to Lake Stevens, WA a year later.   I worked at the Marysville Library when a clinically depressed guy  drove around shooting at police officers both in Marysville and our new hometown of Lake Stevens.  A few weeks later, the Marysville-Pilchuck High School shootings occurred and our library staff had to help distraught parents without cell phones try to get a hold of their children while the school was on lock-down.  

I am EXTREMELY lucky to be able to say that I have not personally lost anyone in any of these attacks.  

(Technically I have lived and worked in two smaller towns that have not yet had the misfortune of having a mass-shooting... but I'm not about to publish their whereabouts because even though I don't believe in superstitions, I still refuse to jinx them.)

I'm not going to use this blog to take a stand for gun control or against the media for their roles in glorifying and over-hyping gunmen.  
I'm just a librarian who is FUCKING SICK OF THIS SHIT.  

You know what I am going to take a stand for?  Kindness.  Compassion.  And working to reduce the stigma of mental heath disorders.  
Without kindness, we have intolerance, meanness and mercilessness.  
Without compassion we are jaded, self-centered assholes whose focus on our selves as individuals makes it impossible to make the world better for our future generations.  
And without our country actively working together to help those who need mental health services, we get armed gunmen whose anger and desperation leaves them thinking that shooting a bunch of innocent people is the best way to get what they want.  

Gun control only works when you have pre-cognition and can accurately predict when gun violence will occur... and guess what?  That's NEVER GOING TO HAPPEN, folks.  
The media will only get its shit together when we stop watching them constantly and take a stand against their ludicrous sensationalization... and guess what?  That's ALSO NEVER GOING TO HAPPEN, folks, because the instant we all hear about a shooting we immediately start tweeting and blogging and yelling about how sad it is, thus adding our own voices to the neverending OUTRAGE that circulates without any solutions.  

So, to the presedential candidates out there jumping toward gun control stances I say this:  Focus on making our stand not against guns, but against cutting funding toward mental health facitilites.  Overturn Reagan's bad and short-sighted policies and OPEN more long-term mental healthcare facilities.  Work to staff them with people who are adequately trained how to deal with these kinds of violent patients that cost us millions each year.   Create a campaign blitz that empowers those with mental health needs to seek out treatment and not hide in the shadows.
The easy way is not the best way for us.  Rhetoric needs to MEAN something, so, for the love of all things sane, DO SOMETHING THAT IS ACTUALLY HELPFUL THIS YEAR.  

EDIT: Yes, I should probably not call people "psychos" in my title if I want to reduce stigmas. I would never call any person seeking help or even exhibiting signs of mental illness "psycho" in a million years.  But if a person goes around killing innocent people because their mental illness makes them think that's a good idea, that likely falls under the DSM-V's definitions of a person suffering from a psychotic disorder or psychotic break and, thus, are very likely "psychos."