Saturday, December 22, 2012
A week ago, a terrible thing happened in Newtown. The limited intelligence of the beat bike blog can offer no answers as to the circumstance, but it got me thinking about my small state. I've lived here for all 29 years of my life and over that time I've developed some connections throughout a lot of the state. That's the nice thing about living in one place for a long. However, when terrible things happen, they don't feel remote, because you are connected.
In the last week of stunned, depressed confusion, I've been thinking about Connecticut. Most tragedies like this happen elsewhere and I can fall back on this notion that we don't do that here. Although, I live in a city with a gun violence problem. It's getting better, but we've still had 21 homicides (I don't know what the weapon was for those) and 119 shooting victims. Not that there's a ranking of tragedies, but shooting up an elementary school was not a level of evil contemplated by many. It is still beyond my comprehension as to how someone could muster the hate to kill a room of six and seven year olds.
And, not being a teacher, I also wonder how someone musters up the courage (not to mention the incredible bravery shown the day of the attack) to teacher a room of six and seven year olds. It seems really difficult. I can only handle one or two kids at a time. Who knows, maybe someday I'll be able to be a little league coach, but two hours a week is probably my maximum with a group of kids.
So, I wondered how this came out of Connecticut. I like it here and despite what people say about chilly Yankees, I think people are friendly. Excessive small talk is for people who don't have the fortitude to deal with silence. I went to do some thinking; this is how: Johanna and I got a Christmas tree and wandered around the Canton Land Trust trails on Ratlum Mountain (or maybe it's Breezy Hill). I attempted to walk to my parents' house, but dad got concerned and picked me up with his car at the Farmington line. I rode around Middlefield and Middletown and discovered Middlefield has an awesome skatepark. (I also rode passed CJTS, which is a dark spot in our state's recent history) I went for a hike in the greater Rockland (yes, that is a Mapquest link, because Google didn't seem to recognize Rockland, CT as a place) area and discovered lots of awesome trails on and around the Mattabesett. I went to Home Depot and ran into a classmate and former coworker of mine. Johanna and I went to El Sarape. Between the geology and Mexican food, my faith was renewed in Connecticut. I probably could have used more human interaction, but I had two take home exams this week, so when I wasn't standing in the woods, I was holed up in my living room writing about Dillon's Rule.
I think all communities probably have evil lurking at their margins, but their good can be measured in their responses. I was impressed that a vigil materialized in Bushnell Park Friday evening. Politicians in our state, and elsewhere for that matter, seem to want to address this with meaningful legislation (Where you aware that you can buy weapons that look like they're from Doom (my violent video game knowledge stops in the 90's) right off the internet?). Regular people seem even to want to address this with action beyond hand wringing. The outpouring of emotion that I've seen makes me think that as a community we're not callous to tragedy. And, unlike other times when this has happened, people don't seemed resigned to mass shootings as an acceptable way of life. They really appear to be demanding of changes to gun laws and our mental health system.
When I was riding passed CJTS, where the Connecticut Valley Hospital used to be (it's a wicked depressing place on top of that hill), I was thinking about the decline of public mental health facilities. I live right near Cedarcrest and that's gone now, too. Obviously, publicly run mental health institutions don't have a great history, but I don't think their demise has done anything other than put the mental health infrastructure in prisons. Therefore, for people without means, access to mental health services may mean that you have to commit a crime to get them. I know of two people with children in their 20's with mental health problems that have led to serious criminal or antisocial behavior. The problem is that once these 20 year olds are off their parents' insurance, their access to mental health services disappear. Middle class people cannot afford to get services for their children in these circumstances and there's no public service to pick up the slack except the prison system. One of these kids (I say kids, but they're like the same age as me) has been in and out jail and the other may be soon. It's only once the criminal justice system intervenes that access to mental health services seems to start. Why do we have to wait until a crime has been committed? That's really stupid public policy.
So, I originally had wanted to write about my cyclocross season. I had finally upgraded to a 3 and rode singlespeed all season. It was a lot of fun and maybe I'll tell you about it sometime. That's the kind of stuff that people want to read about on a bike blog.