The other night Omar Thornton led the national news, shooting eight co-workers and then himself at a Connecticut beer distributorship. He was about to be fired. I blogged about it here at theopencase.com, but think there is more to it than that.
The second big news item, pun intended, was how rates of obesity are rising. Still.
Yes, Thornton was being fired for cause, stealing beer. But his feelings of rage, despair and desperation are in no way unique to the man who shoots and kills in a murderous rampage. Millions of us feel them, over work, family, illness, grief, job loss, unemployment. A new sub-category of misery are the “99ers”, people who have used up every bit of their 99 weeks of unemployment benefits and have not yet found a job.
From The New York Times:
In June, with long-term unemployment at record levels, about 1.4 million people were out of work for 99 weeks or more, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Not all of them received unemployment benefits, but for many of those who did, the modest payments were a lifeline that enabled them to maintain at least a veneer of normalcy, keeping a roof over their heads, putting gas in their cars, paying electric and phone bills.
Without the checks, many like Ms. Jarrin, who lost her job as director of client services at a small technology company in March 2008, are beginning to tumble over the economic cliff. The last vestiges of their former working-class or middle-class lives are gone; it is inescapable now that they are indigent.
Ms. Jarrin said she wept as she drove away from her old life last month, wondering if she would ever be able to reclaim it.
“At one point, I thought, you know, what if I turned the wheel in my car and wrecked my car?” she said.
Nevertheless, the political appetite to help people like Ms. Jarrin appears limited.
That piece elicited 697 comments and no more are being accepted.
We are dying by inches — adding them to our bellies and asses and thighs by consuming the wrong food and drink in enormous quantities. Every time we stuff too much of something greasy, fatty, sugary and/or salty into our mouths, we are often really desperately reaching for comfort, for ease, for a quick, cheap way to feel better. If we were truly joyful and at ease in our lives, would we behave thus? I think not.
We are dying by inches — of homes and dreams and degrees and graduate degrees and years of experience, training and skill worth nothing to an indifferent job market. I see a very clear correlation between these two forms of despair.
Every time someone goes on a rampage in their workplace and kills co-workers, there is such surprise, such shock. What exactly, people demand, pushed him over the edge? As if you can parse lethality so tidily. You can’t. The sub-text? If it was X, then we’ll make sure X isn’t part our our lives or workplace. It is never that simple.
We forget how many people, millions of us now, already live on the edge. We are terrified of losing our partners, kids, homes, jobs, status, cars, bank accounts, retirement savings, our physical and mental health.
It can take a mere zephyr of a breeze to send someone hurtling over the edge if that has been their neighborhood for weeks, months or years.
Whether you reach for a handgun or a doughnut, the choices are ultimately self-destructive, devastating, lethal. One is faster, bloodier, criminal and public.
No, we should not be at all surprised.
Related articles by Zemanta
- Family: Racism caused Conn. gunman to snap (msnbc.msn.com)
- Long-Term Unemployed Face World Without The Lifeline Of Benefits (huffingtonpost.com)