In 1964, when I was in the 11th grade in high school, I did community service work like most of the students in my class. We all did something that made sense to us and I chose to do volunteer work in a hospital in the area in which I lived.
My efforts involved working with the social and psychiatric medical professionals at what was then the Wernersville State Hospital. It was a mental institution that was probably very similar to other such institutions across the USA at that time.
I recall playing cards and checkers with patients or simply sitting and reading to them. Sometimes we also walked and talked with them inside the buildings and outside on the sprawling grounds of the hospital. It was rewarding work for me as I felt I was really doing something to help them pass their time.
The majority of these folks were institutionalized for one form or another of mental or behavioral issues that society including the courts, their respective physicians and/or their families could not deal with in any other way. At the hospital, they were safe, received proper care, regular medication and attention for their respective problems.
Then, and I cannot recall the exact timing or actual reasoning, the politicians, governments and courts – in their infinite wisdom – decided that caring for these individuals in that manner simply was no longer proper. The patients were released from the institutions and those care centers were essentially closed.
If I’m not incorrect, many years ago the Guam Memorial Hospital had such a section as well.
Prior to this massive societal change, we also witnessed very little homelessness within communities across the nation. Neither did we have the massive violence, drug problems or the ever-growing homelessness that we see happening across the country and here on Guam today.
Somehow, I truly believe there is a connection between it all and the growing problems of violence we have experienced across our nation and here on Guam. Somehow, we have to get back to protecting ourselves from those who cannot adapt in society and stop blaming inanimate objects as the cause of our problems.
If you doubt what I am saying, simply look at San Francisco where it is apparently now legal for homeless people to defecate in the streets and Seattle where homelessness is running wild as examples of how far society has strayed in these last 55 years.
David H. McDonald, president of the McDonald Group LLC and author of Saving America's Cities, conducted some very interesting research that jibes with the research of professor John Lott at the University of Chicago. Lott is a noted expert on gun laws and statistics.
Changing our existing firearms laws is not the answer to a problem. Inanimate objects can do nothing without a human handler. We really do not have a firearms problem in this country any more than we have a knife, car, baseball bat, scissors or bomb problem.
What we do have is a very serious people problem and unless we are willing to aggressively address it promptly and properly for the betterment of society overall, it will become only broader and deeper.
Lee P. Webber is a former president and publisher of media organizations on Guam and Hawaii, former director of operations for USA Today International/Asia and is a longtime business and civic leader on Guam.