In today’s society, people need to have a wide assortment of emotional and social skills in order to accomplish good things and make a difference in the world. I know what it’s like not to have those things and let me tell you, it isn’t much of a way to live.
Here’s a little bit about my background. My mother and I used to with my grandmother. I was an illegitimate child and every time my grandmother would look at me, she was critical and looked at me with disdain. As for my mother, she had various mental health problems. She was paranoid and at one point, she was even put into a mental hospital for six months. When you come from an environment like that, you’re not going to be a very capable person and if you’re at a low level like that, your chances of getting out are pretty slim unless you’re able to get help. I was one of the lucky ones – I did manage to get help. Later in life, I became part of the Lanterman Regional Center Board of Directors. For the first time in my life, I was working with people who were truly capable of doing good things. That was the greatest shock of my life because up until then, I had assumed that if somebody told me they were going to do something, they would be capable of doing it, but oftentimes I found they couldn’t. Many of them came from abusive backgrounds where there were all kinds of violent things going on. On top of that, some of these people had mental problems as well. When you’re in that kind of situation, you’re not going to be able to do much. So when I found myself on the Lanterman Regional Center Board of Directors, I had to confront the reality that there were various levels of capability, and these new people I was working with were on the high end of that spectrum. In the beginning, I was on the lower end and faced a very bleak future, but I had a choice – I could either move forward or I could consign myself to a life of defeat. The latter was not an option for me, so I took the challenge head on. I am now a very capable person and have been doing advocacy work for many years. My story turned out to be a success, but I am one of the lucky ones.
Brandon Hole, the former FedEx worker who murdered eight people in Indianapolis a few weeks ago, was not one of the lucky ones. He had almost no future and basically had only three options open to him – 1. live a life of failure and defeat, 2. commit suicide, or 3. get a gun and kill people. For him, the first option was not acceptable, but he didn’t know how to get out of his situation. He knew that something was preventing him from accomplishing good things in life, but he didn’t know what that was. It’s almost impossible for people like Brandon to find out why because they are totally cut off from the world of high spectrum capability. So the first option was ruled out; he wasn’t going to live a life of defeat. The second option, suicide, he tried to go through with. He brought a shotgun home one day and told his mother he was going to take it, walk up to a police officer, and aim it at him so they’d have to kill him. His worried mother contacted the police, who then came and confiscated the gun. The FBI was also called to investigate, but since no crime had been committed and there was no evidence that he would commit a crime, they let him go. That proved to be a very fatal mistake. In August 2020, Brandon got a job at FedEx. Just two months later, he got fired. He had no job. No skills. No hope. In April 2021, six months after he had lost his job, he exercised the third and final option - he took two rifles and killed eight people at his former workplace. When the cops arrived, he then committed suicide.
This tragic story is being repeated all too often. Here we are living in a society in which we play Russian Roulette every time we walk out the door, running the risk of being shot by someone who simply does not have the skills they need to function successfully in society. We need to set up specialized programs to help these people and allow them to live rich, fulfilling lives. For some, living a life of bare survival is enough; they’re satisfied with what they have. But other people want more, and if they can’t get it, that poses a problem because they don’t know what’s holding them back. People can’t get the skills they need from parents who are abusive or mentally ill or angry. This is why we need specialized programs staffed by professionals who understand what these people are facing. I think I truly understand what these people are facing because I, too, grew up in a harsh environment and would’ve gone down a bad path if I hadn’t been one of the lucky ones. We need more good outcomes; we don’t need any more tragedies. We need programs run by therapists who can re-engineer peoples’ whole way of thinking. These people need better social skills so they can learn how to hold a job, how to get a girlfriend, and how to communicate effectively with others. This calls for more than just talking to a therapist for an hour or so a week; it calls for roleplaying programs that show these people how to handle different situations. It is in our best interest to do this because if we don’t, there are going to be a lot more shooters killing innocent people. We are living in a world filled with hate. Many people think violence is the ultimate power, so they act on it. We need to find a way to rewire these people’s thoughts and shift their way of thinking so we won’t have to live in fear any longer.