Living in Maine, not far from where the recent mass shooting occurred, five lessons emerge.

First, bad things happen in good places. Having grown up in Maine, near Lewiston, the shock for everyone in this community — in this state — was enormous, unfathomable.

In Maine, as most know, we grow up trusting, and help anyone who needs it. That is tradition, the pace of life, peace of heart, sense of debt owed to others, learned from parents, grandparents, how we think.

Norman Rockwell lived in New England, and Maine is more Rockwell than Rockwell. Mid-blizzard, a Mainer will help a stranger change a tire, get out of the ditch. Lobstermen will drop everything to chase a distress call on churning seas. Mainers care, quietly and deeply.

Second, self-reliance is real. Self-reliance is not just an essay by Ralph Waldo Emerson, or theme in Robert Frost poems. It is a way of life. We do what we have to do, young to old, no complaints.

When word of the shooting went out, people called loved ones, assured they did not need immediate help, then pulled a gun from the wall, drawer, safe, or case, cleared the chamber, loaded, kept it nearby.


No one wants to confront a madman at night, but being ready keeps you from being a victim. Mainers know firearms, just a useful tool for self-protection and venison in the freezer. No big deal, we got ready.

In political terms, Mainers understand the Second Amendment but seldom talk about it. We can all use a snow shovel, rake, chainsaw, jumper cables, axe, sledge, maul, jack and tire iron, boat motor, propane heater, skis, snowshoes — and guns. Thousands of Mainers turned to their gun, in self-reliance.

Third, mental health is not just a buzzword, it is a crisis. The idea of a severe, life-threatening, mental health crisis at one’s elbow is not what anyone wants to think about. Easier to avoid blowback, deny the obvious, leave hard choices to others — until the non-decision, the not acting, becomes a decision.

Truth is, with or without guns, people even in peaceful places face mental health challenges today: too much stress, division, friction, financial, social, political pressure, drug abuse, crime, uncertainty.

On the numbers, you can see society’s stress, level and intensity of anxiety, rising. Measures of fear, confusion, judgment, alienation, and unease suggest quiet panic.

So, yes, decaying mental health is a real thing. It leads to another reality: We need to start taking more responsibility for neighbors in distress.


Fourth, hard questions linger. In this case, hard questions are not answered. If an Army reservist, gun instructor no less, talks about “hearing voices,” “shooting up” locations, killing people, is put in a mental health inpatient program, someone should have said: Use the yellow flag law, get a warrant, separate him and his guns.

Who should have done that? More than one.

The Second Amendment is real, as is the Fourth, which means all citizens — not otherwise presenting a credible threat of imminent, life-threatening criminal behavior — have a right to “keep and bear arms” and enjoy “due process” under the Fifth and 14th amendments, but this was not that.

Hard questions lead to soul searching. This event is over; the issue is not the gun. The issue is extreme mental distress, threatening, reportable, that did not get to the right people in time, or did get acted on.

Finally, law enforcement needs consistent support. This event points up the need to support police at all times.

Maine will recover from this horrific event, but in such times lessons are learned. These five will linger, can perhaps guide future thinking.

For now, we breathe easier, but only slightly.

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