Saturday, January 22, 2011

Through The Looking Glass

Watching the events following the tragedy in Arizona has caused me to think that I must have stepped through the looking glass with Lewis Carroll. The world appears to be normal, until parts of it that you don’t usually see come into view, and then you observe all sorts of bizarre and surreal things.

Within a couple of hours of the shootings, there were major public and political figures blaming it on Sarah Palin, who was in Alaska minding her own business at the time. The New York Times said it was the fault of the tea partiers. Others said it was Rush Limbaugh, talk radio in general, Fox News. Yes, it was the “harsh” political rhetoric that unhinged the shooter and made him do it. They would have you believe that normal, everyday people hear something on the radio or TV and then go get their gun and start shooting.

Next we saw the chief law enforcement officer (the sheriff) in the county where the crime occurred turn into a political demagogue and blame the shooting on everyone in the country except the guy who pulled the trigger.

Politicians everywhere started lamenting the shrill political “rhetoric” of the last two years, and bloviate on how we need to be more “civil” in our public discourse. But we heard no such calls for political “civility” during the Bush years when a book and movie came out detailing how to assassinate him, or when left wing blogs depicted him as Hitler, or when he was accused of knowing about the 911 attack plans in advance but did nothing about it, etc., etc., etc. for eight years. No, all of that was fine, but now suddenly we need “civility”.

One member of the House demanded that the bulls eye symbol be banned from political speech and print even though the terminology of “targeted” races and districts has been in the political lexicon for decades and used extensively by everyone, with no apparent ill effects.

All of this paroxysm over political speech was in spite of one of Mr. Loughner’s friends saying that he was not in any way political, didn’t listen to the news, wasn’t left – right – or center, wasn’t a Republican or Democrat, that he really wasn’t anything, and that even President Obama said there was no link between political discourse and the shootings.

Then there was that “memorial service”.

Not one member of the clergy spoke at this event; no priest, pastor, rabbi, minister, preacher, elder, deacon, or anybody of the cloth. A Native American witch doctor was prominently featured, though, even though none of the victims were a member of that demographic. And there were two members of the President’s cabinet, i.e., politcians, reading from the Bible.
The Master of Ceremonies of the service was a college president who had no apparent connection to any of the people affected by the tragedy. He seemed to function as chief cheerleader with lots of students clapping and cheering and generally whooping it up. At a memorial service for the six dead and six wounded.

Then President Obama tried to position himself as a miracle worker by saying that after he visited Ms. Giffords, she immediately opened her eyes for the first time.

The President also said that as a result of this tragedy, we all need to try to be better people. As a Christian, I do believe that I (and everyone) need to continually strive to be a better person. I believe this and try to do it because of what I read in the Bible and what I hear at church, not because of the actions of some deranged madman.

I have a suggestion for the President. If he wants to move us all towards being better people, he should exhort everyone to attend church regularly and to live their lives according to what they learn there. He could also encourage everyone to read and contemplate the Bible on a regular basis. And he could lead by example.

Now we have Congress saying that this event has inspired them to sit together during the President’s upcoming State Of The Union address, rather than have Democrats on one side of the room and Republicans on the other, as is the normal custom. Let me make sure I understand what the people running the country have learned from the horrific actions resulting from a truly dysfunctional mind: They need to sit together at the next political event. Maybe they could also hold hands and sing Kumbaya. I‘m sure all of that will deter the next lunatic from going on a rampage.

And here is the most bizarre part. What you don’t hear any of these people saying is the aspect that is the true lesson to be learned from this tragedy. The real eye opener is that our mental heath system is seriously broken.

Here we have a person, Jared Loughner, who by all accounts was truly deranged, and getting worse as time went on. His college classmates wrote emails about how they feared him and sat by the door so that if he flipped out, they could get out quickly. His class instructors complained to the administration about his bizarre and sometimes violent behavior and statements. After several episodes, he was expelled from college. But the college administrations did not give any information on him to the local police.

Mr. Loughner tried to join the military, but was denied due to “excessive” drug use. Again, no information was shared with local authorities.

Mr. Loughner had a rap sheet, having been arrested for drugs and other things.

It seems his parents were also very concerned about him, but it’s not apparent that they took any resolute actions to get him some help whether he wanted it or not.

He had put up some sort of a pagan alter in his back yard, complete with a human skull and rotting fruits.

And through all of this, somehow the dots were not connected, or if they were, nothing was done about it. Mr. Loughner needed help; he needed to be institutionalized. But he got nothing; he just ran around loose.

The final straw: About a half hour before he started shooting, he was stopped for running a red light, and given a warning.

Forget all of this nonsense about civility, rhetoric, sitting together, blah, blah, blah. No one can seriously argue that any of that had the slightest connection to the shooting or will do anything to deter the next one. The real tragedy here is that this was preventable. We had a true psychopath running around loose, and almost everyone he came into contact with knew that he was seriously unbalanced. Intervention was obviously needed, and it didn’t happen. That is why six people are dead and six others wounded.

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