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Early start might help

Matt Zalaznick

I’m panicking. I’m desperate. I’m scared. And Arn Menconi’s baby-sitting, Mary Poppins spoonful-of-sugar, community-coddling, cuddly-teddy bear, warm fuzzy, children-are-our-future, free play-pen giveaway tax may just save the day. Seriously. I didn’t think I was going to vote for it. I thought my wife and I could develop our daughter ourselves. But then all hell broke loose all over the heartland. Little girls getting shot in schools by wannabe sexual predators? The congressman who was in charge of preventing the exploitation of children caught exploiting children? What’s going on in this country? And we wonder why so much of the rest of the world thinks Uncle Sam is completely full of it when he tries to smear his red-white-and-blue family values all over the planet. We’re a bunch of barbarians – but that’s another outrage. One of American society’s big problems is that it shuns, rejects, mocks and simply fails to tolerate mental illness. But these gunmen who have taken lives and revolted the country over the past few weeks were and are obviously mentally ill. That doesn’t excuse their grievous crimes, but how come our society rallies around cancer, AIDS and multiple sclerosis patients? Those are terrible diseases, but how come mental illness isn’t included on this list of scourges with which Americans permit themselves to fully sympathize? Mental illness isn’t nearly as tangible as a tumor. It’s mysterious, it’s all in the mind, you can’t have surgery for it. But when it’s left untreated, when it goes haywire, boy can it make the nightly news. It can keep the 24-hour news hyperventilating about the country’s decaying moral fabric for days. During the coverage, the bad guy in the story – the gunman, the pervert, the woman who fakes her own kidnapping on the eve of her wedding – will get called a loony and a wacko and an immoral maniac, but not once will the anchor lead his or her array of babbling heads in a serious discussion of how the country could better deal with mental illness. That’s not to say everybody who suffers from mental illness is bound to go on a rampage. I’ve been seeing a shrink for years. I’ve been medicated. Like I said at the top of the column, I’m anxious, and like I also said, Arn’s child development tax and similar programs (with a little tighter gun control in our trigger-happy homeland) could just prevent a few of these national tragedies. Let’s let ourselves worry about children’s emotional state early – really early. While we’re spending billions and billions of dollars on the military and prisons and expanding police forces and tax breaks for zillionaires, let’s spend a few bucks on trying to ensure our children grow up emotionally and physically healthy and don’t go on shooting rampages. I think that’s the goal of Arn’s tax, and even though these programs won’t stop all of the tragedies like the one which occurred at the Amish schoolhouse last week, we as county should vote for the tax in the hopes early childhood development methods could prevent a few such catastrophes. But our intolerance doesn’t stop with schizophrenia and manic depression. We can’t stand homosexuals and that causes a whole lot more repression and in turn, more perversion and violence. Acceptance won’t prevent every cook who also happens to be gay from doing hideous things, but if our society would get over its bigotry toward homosexuals a few people on the fringe would feel comfortable enough about their sexual preferences not to slip over the edge. We wring our hands over school shootings and priests who molest little boys, but we have no interest in examining the root causes of these crimes. Actually, we have even less interest is sparing a bit of our paychecks to pay for programs that would explore the origins of these crimes for us. But until this country sheds some of its bigotries, they will continue to come back and haunt us – they will continue to make sensational, lurid and bloody headlines while we’re still busy rejecting potential solutions like Arn’s child-development tax.Vote for it. City Editor Matt Zalaznick can be reached at 748-2926, or mzalaznick@vaildaily.com. His blog is at http://www.vaildaily.com/section/BLOG Vail, Colorado


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