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    Posted September 18, 2013 by
    St. Paul, Minnesota
    This iReport is part of an assignment:
    Navy Yard shooting

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    Who to Blame?


    CNN PRODUCER NOTE     Jaws1387 says he believes the most important thing we can do to stop mass shootings 'as a society, is slow down in our day-to-day lives and pay more attention to how we’re treating the people around us. Not because we should be afraid of what people might do, but because we want to be treated with respect. So, if we start paying attention to the needs of people around us, and treat them with respect, we are making them feel like they belong. And chances are, if someone’s having a bad day, and they get treated well, it’ll stand out to them and help them feel respected and cared for.'
    - katie, CNN iReport producer

    *This may be a trigger for some people* The last major shooting- Sandy Hook- I contributed a report about Asperger’s, because the media mentioned that the shooter- Adam Lanza- had a diagnosis. It also sparked yet another debate about violent video games. This time around, we hear it’s a guy- a black guy- hearing voices. And of course, there’s talk about who allows people onto military basis, what the procedures are, mental health, and again, violent video games. I’m white. I have Aspergers. I play violent video games.

    I’ve played a lot of first person shooter games, which is what most would consider a ‘violent’ video game. It’s shooting combined with strategy. In order to continue playing, you have to live, and to live you have to take out the aliens, terrorists, whatever, in a way that you’re not endangering yourself or any good guys that might be in the scenario. I like playing games like that because it keeps my hand-eye coordination up, and helps me think on my feet. I’m ordinarily quite clumsy physically, and I don’t always think on my feet very well. My fine motor skills don’t work terribly well, if not for video games and computers. In Japan, I'd be called an otaku, or a nerd. And I never paid much attention to detail before video games, which is a very useful job skill.

    Many of the traits that come with having Asperger’s, such as communicating via body language and facial expression in ways that people misinterpret, or seeing things in black and white, are aspects that are very easy to correct. Other traits, such as a lack of physical coordination, a lack of social skills, and having very focused interests are also relatively easy to overcome. That is where video games- sometimes violent ones- come in. Oftentimes, the easiest way for us to improve ourselves is to adopt an alternate persona- maybe a nickname, or a game character- and play through the game making different choices than we usually do. It allows us to experiment and be creative in ways that we would find difficult in front of most people. By no stretch of the imagination am I a spokesperson for Asperger’s, but it’s all too easy to judge what you don’t understand. Violent video games are one of those things. They can be extremely helpful.

    How does that play into this massacre? I think too often we read all the media reports we can, stay as up to date as we can about all the developments, and then try to play armchair judge about what caused it and what happened. Real life doesn’t work that way. We cannot stereotype based on a handful of factors and then say ‘you’re at risk for shooting people’. Imagine if the media said- actually said- that we should be afraid of black people because this shooter was black. Putting that into words makes me sick, and even considering the media doing that probably makes you sick too.

    If the last shooting’s ‘evidence’ is to be believed, you should fear me simply because I’ve played violent games and because I have Asperger’s. In reality, I’m squeamish. My own injuries I can stand (barely). The sight of my own blood will only make me want to mop it up as fast as I can. The thought of helping anyone with anything beyond a cut or sprain makes me nauseous. Video games are supposed to ‘desensitize’ people to violence. If anything, it makes me more aware that in a real situation, I’d have my head between my legs and rocking back and forth trying to escape it in my mind. I tell myself that in a real situation I'd be the hero so I'm not playing through 'what if' and worrying needlessly, but in reality I'd probably be a total wreck all the same.

    Mass shootings are not the result of mental illness. Mental illness is treatable. I am a prime example of that. There are plenty of people who are also prime examples of that that make my example look petty. Look up the books, ‘Look Me In The Eye’ and ‘Running With Scissors’, and you will meet a neurotypical and someone who has Asperger’s, like me, who go on to be very successful despite backgrounds that would turn most people into a nervous wreck. I’m sure you’re familiar with ‘A Child Called It’. That too is a good example.

    If you want to say it's a result of untreated mental illness, you're still off, because there are a good many people who have untreated mental illness and get by without doing something crazy. Take the would-be Georgia shooter who got talked down by love and respect. All it took was one person to say 'I care about you'. Maybe I'm idealistic and naive. But there's no way that answering the sort of violence we've been seeing with more legislation is going to solve much. It might treat some symptoms, but it won't accomplish real change.

    So, let’s make an effort this time around not to go murmuring to ourselves, ‘Better watch out for those schizophrenics, they might shoot you’ or worse, ‘black people are violent’, and let’s keep video games out of it. Let’s get stereotypes out of our analysis of mass murders, and let’s try to focus on what we can do: Stop bullying, support people that ask for help, and care about the people we come in contact with. Let’s take the time to treat people the way we’ve have them treat us, instead of trampling on them in our efforts to get ahead. Chances are, if someone’s having a bad day, and you give them respect, they’ll remember it. And if they’re having a really bad day, you might just give them a ray of hope in their otherwise dark lives. Maybe you don’t prevent murder, but maybe you give someone the strength and compassion they need to go to their dead-end job, or fulfill obligations to their family.

    The enemy we’re fighting isn’t something that can be categorized simply by slapping labels on things. The enemy is desperation, and desperation has many labels, many faces, and many circumstances: Most of which are internal, not external. And this time around, let's let the poor families mourn in peace and leave the people who'd much rather forget what happened go about their business without shoving a mic in their face.
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