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  • Writer's pictureRandy Reid

Vibing with Cat White

May brings Sorrow ... and Hope for Change

My May vibe has been hectic, y’all. I had ideas that all seemed to be derailed by current events.

May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and I was excited because I’d planned several stories for the website that dealt with mental health, like the profile on Corning businesswoman Melanie Wood and her new podcast Going Against the Grind, which explores how local professionals balance work and personal responsibilities to achieve a healthy, successful lifestyle. Southern Tier Life also features a poetry series where, both April poet Aleathia Drehmer and May poet Charde Vera, addressed mental health issues and how poetry can serve as a helpful tool, especially for youth. STL is also lucky enough to feature Elmira humorist Jim Pfiffer’s weekly column and, let’s face it, whenever reading one of his columns, a reader often wonders if “Pfif Daddy'' might be a little mentally ill.

However, May has been quite a ride as far as mental health is concerned. My mental well-being has been tested several times this month, with news reports of one disappointment/disaster after another. Of course, the shooting tragedies in Buffalo, NY and Uvalde, TX have weighed heavy on my psyche, as well as my heart. So much hatred and destruction, such disregard for human life, makes one wonder where such depravity comes from?

Of course, this country has a mental illness problem. How can a sane person think that terrorizing and killing a group of people because of the color of their skin or their religion or any other discerning characteristic, will lead to anything good? How can a sane person think that terrorizing and killing children is an appropriate action, ever?

Yes, the United States of America has a mental health problem. It also has a gun fetish problem and, until we address both, I don’t think this country will find peace from these devastating mass shootings.

First, I’ll say that, unfortunately, I think the genie is out of the bottle with regards to getting rid of assault weapons. And, quite frankly, there has been such a rise in racist attacks, incivility, and violence in this country that I wouldn’t begrudge any BIPOC, LGBTQIA+ or woman the ability to protect themselves against these entitled American lunatics. Yes, if you believe that Americans should be able to own assault weapons with NO regulation whatsoever, you are 1) in the minority with your thinking, and; 2) a lunatic.

I would just ask all of you gun rights folks that the NRA represents when paying millions to purchase the fealty of politicians, to also emphasize your support for funding to increase and improve access to mental health services, instead of slashing it, as Texas’ Governor Greg Abbott did. I’ve seen Republican legislators and gun enthusiasts, alike, say that mental illness is the issue. Buffalo and Uvalde are not the first mass murders, and not the first ones where mental illness is blamed. So, please, at the very least, DEMAND funding for easy access to mental health services from your representatives, instead of just bringing it up as a convenient excuse to distract from the fact that another disturbed individual used a weapon of war to massacre innocent Americans.

Unfortunately, while the majority of the American people are demanding action on the devastating, uniquely American problem of mass shootings, many legislators refuse to act. A large majority of Americans believe in some gun control legislation. But, instead of listening to their constituents, NRA’s biggest benefactors feign being offended at the mere suggestion that ANY common sense gun regulation be enacted while also blocking funding for comprehensive mental health programs.

If “we the people” are tired of lying, corrupt, greedy politicians, it’s our duty as American citizens to go to the polls and vote them out. In 2020, a little over 65% of Americans went to the polls, according to The Brookings Institution. Turnout during midterm elections, the ones that deal with important local and state seats, is usually lower. The American people need to go to the polls for every Primary and election. All of us. We need to be in regular contact with our local and state representatives – they represent and work for ALL of us.

As you can see, recent events have weighed on me heavily. Just as the hopelessness was about to drive me beneath my comforter in an attempt to avoid all of the disappointment, I saw a profile of Angela Davis, an iconic Black activist. In the CBS Sunday Morning interview she said she still has hope for change. I guess if SHE can still have a positive outlook, after decades of watching this country struggle with the same problems she was fighting for in the 1960s and 70s, I should be able to muster up some sort of optimism.

The graduation (Texas) and prom (New York) pictures of my friends’ kids reaching important milestones that began coming across my newsfeed, also helped pull me out of my funk. A reminder that, although there is so much despair in the world right now, there IS also hope for the future.

As I search for meaningful ways to make my community, and all American communities, safer, I will also strive to see and celebrate the goodness in this country and the world, for my mental AND physical well-being. I wish the same for you.


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