Friday, January 14, 2011

Guns. Speech. Madness



Seems the editors of Time are working overtime to capture a surreal sense to the tragedy that took place in Tucson this past week.  Whether it is the ghoulish cover of Jared Loughner or the Andy Warhol-inspired image of "Gabby" Giffords, Time seems to want us to look at this incident from a variety of lenses, which is why the editors chose to devote an entire issue to the events that took place in Pima County.

David Von Drehle is first up to bat in this special issue, telling us of The Real Lesson of the Tucson Tragedy.  He seems to be channeling the great Gonzo in his article, wanting us to look with fear and loathing on the incident, but also feeding on the more poignant aspect of Christina Green, in an appeal to as many readers as possible.

The magazine is filled with articles, photos and photo-shopped images, such as the lurid article on A Mind Unhinged, with John Cloud attempting to psychoanalyze Jared Loughner.  It closes with a round table survey of sorts entitled Are We Becoming An Uncivil Society? polling the opinions of leading national media figures like Tom Brokaw and gurus like Deepak Chopra.  Seems like there is something in it for everyone, but at the same time devoid of any real content.

I liked the wayThere are no easy answers as President Obama eloquently said at the memorial service in Tucson.  We have to look inside ourselves for the answers, and strive for greater national unity.  

46 comments:

  1. I suggest that no attempt to psychoanalize this guy can succeed. His mind is wired differently and schizophrenics do not respond to such a procedure. He is not a personality disorder. He was born perfectly normal and somwhere between age 18 and now, his brain underwent profound changes, changes beyond his or anyone elses abilility to control or change. Based on available information and with 30 years experience treating schizophrenics who were addicted, I have no doubt about his condition. Ideology had nothing to do with his behavior except to justify to him, his behaviors. Pathology always supercedes ideology.His paranoia governed his action, justified by a distorted belief system which could have changed in a hearbeat. Needing a reason for his inordinate behaviors, he found a logical answer (in his now distorted thought process)in right wing beliefs and in very bizzarre beliefs) There is no sense, no logic involved here. We cannoct expect rational behavior to emerge from an irrational person. So don't even attempt to do so. He wrapped his pathology in his ideology and ran with the paranoia which held it all together---and nobody did a damned thing about as he slowly slid into an insanity which filled him with a fear so terrifying that he murdered the perceived source of that series of fears, fears bordering on terror. Ideology, I submit, was as little as 5% of the problem. When the hell are we going to learn to treat the insane instead of shving them off until they they harm or kill themselves or others. NOBODY DID ANYTHING WITH THIS GUY--and now we all pay the price of our national and cultural neglect. It will happen again, as sure as God made little green apples--and we will all, once again ask,WHY?

    It is my sincere belief that the House Republicans will vote to end the Mental Health provisions of the Health Care Law--0ne last ironic legacy of this horrible series of events...

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  2. I too think the guy was working on some underlying pathology. Whether his latest foray into "right wing" literature triggered this action is anyone's guess. I liked the way Obama chose to bypass all the political rhetoric swirling around the incident. He probably was obsessed with Giffords, and probably came to the sad fatal conclusion he couldn't have her.

    Still, there is the matter of handguns being so easily available to disturbed persons like this. It amazes me that Republicans don't feel there should be more responsibility in the sale and registration of handguns, or any type of gun for that matter. I thought "responsibility" was one of their leitmotifs.

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  3. I have struggled for years over what rights need to be restricted froman emotionally disturbed person. I have no answer, but I think the Supreme Court would allow reasonable restrictions for the protection of the public from the consequences of allowing a gun permit to an irrational person, but the problem always came dow for me to be who would determine whose rights were restricted. At least five patients I dealt with shot themselves to death and owned guns legally. A similsr number assaulted others using a handgund. None of the ten should ever have been permitted a permit--they were stark raving mad--excuse the language--but somebody better figure a way and maybe lives can be saved and families spared from the devistation of suicide and society from the devistation of seneless assaults and murders.

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  4. Seems the NRA is just too strong in this country. They view any restrictions as an "assault" on "gun rights." Never could understand this mentality. Sounds to me like paranoid schizophrenia ; )

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  5. I don't doubt that Loughner acted alone. I don't think anyone put him up to this. My concern is with the deeply adversarial political climate created by the Republicans and the Tea Party in particular this past election.

    I don't think there has been this kind of angry rhetoric since the height of the Civil Rights movement, when the South was fighting the new measures kicking and screaming. When you create such an environment it puts public figures in extreme danger.

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  6. For one thing, it is too easy for people in this country, both those who are probably sane and those who are probably not, to buy high powered firearms like the one used by Loughner. Lax laws have consequences.

    For another, our film industry glorifies the use of firearms. Having just sat through the coming attractions at a local movie theater, I was once again disheartened. A twisted profit motive has consequences.

    Finally, political speech of the "reload" and "cross hairs" variety has consequences. I'm not blaming you know who for Loughner's actions, but twisted metaphors have consequences.

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  7. Twisted metaphors lead to twisted minds. Seems Loughner was steeped in hard right wing propaganda, but it probably was simply an outlet for his disjointed thought process.

    Whatever the case, the Repugs appear to be at a loss of words to describe what happened. Sarah, Rush, Newt, et al. pretty much babbling incoherently. I don't imagine any of them want Loughner to become the "face" of the right wingers.

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  8. Well, it is madness, that's for sure. NRA madness.

    I live in a gun-rich culture here and have no problem with hunters. But anyone who says they are going hunting with semi-automatic weapons are not hunting for food.

    Sadly, the NRA is so powerful that, as I noted earlier, even someone like Sherrod Brown is afraid to say anything about guns. Sad state of affairs in this country.

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  9. Some AZ congressman said he wished there had been more guns at the Saturday event, and actually there was at least one more.

    A young man in the drug store next to the Safeway rushed out with his gun, safety off, and admitted he almost shot a man taking away the shooter's gun as they tried to subdue him. Talk about Tombstone!

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  10. Yea, let's just have an old fashioned shootout. You really have to wonder what goes through the mind of this Congressman to say something like that. Sadly, we are a country obsessed with guns.

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  11. It was funny watching "The American President" the other night. I hadn't realized it dated back to 1995. In it Michael Douglass took on the gun lobbies, carbon emissions and other topics in his speech toward the end of the movie, as well as all the aspersions that were being cast on his lady friend,

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mWRVbWMvi7c

    I guess it was everything the Hollywood Dems were hoping Bill would have said at the time.

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  12. If my facebook page is any indication, it does seem that the tragedy in Tucson has given some Republicans pause. Most of my old high school and college friends are dyed-in-the-wool conservatives, but they all seem at a loss for words to assess the event, and it appears were subdued by Obama's speech.

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  13. But you can't help but notice that all the comments in the news and the commentaries end with "but there's not much Congress can/will do about it." I'm sure that's true about my state's two democrats. They are all terrified of the gun lobby.

    I finally stopped voting for Pat Williams, one of our state's best representatives ever, because he claimed that guns laws were not the answer. Had something like a 99% rating or something from the NRA. He had his own liberal agenda, and didn't want the NRA to get in his way. Ridiculous when you think about one group having so much power.

    We now have a right-wing congressman who will probably support the guy from Texas who wants to carry guns on the floor of the House of Representatives....

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  14. Regardless of my thoughts posted above, I'm in agreement that the rhetoric is too high pitched. Keep in mind that Gintaras likened the high pitch to the Civil Rights disputes in the 1960's.... Well, it certainly is---these are the same conservatives and their children and grrandchildren who walked out of the Democrat Party in 1965 in a snit over LBJ's Voting Rights Act. Thry ere into gun rights then and they still are--they formed the base of Nixon's New Republican Majority and latched on to The Moral Christian Majority of Pat Robinson in the 1970's and then developed into the Radical Chritian Right of Ronald Reagan. They have never changed since 1860 and never will...I feel sorry for the Bill Buckley Conservative and their tradition, which has nothing to do with this ideological crap. Remember that in 1963 there was high pitch right wing rhetoric calling for the Impeachment of Earl Warren for his desegregation stance and thaat Adlai Stevenson was hit by a plackard in Dallas teo errks prior to November 22. The sixties was a violence filled decade of poltically motivate assassinations from bot the left and the right--but mostly from the right.

    These people hold an unfounded paranoid belief, indeed an obsession, that the government is the enemy andwants to do away with the right to bear arms. Its a sad, sad commentary on the collective paranoid style of a larrge segment of America...Hofstadter was rigth--but nobody listens--we should all read his PARANOID STYLE OF AMERICAN POLITICS

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  15. And here's what is really sad...Arizona's law allows any teacher to obtain an order for a psychiatric evaluation based on behavior. This guy had the campus police called on him ehile he distuptrd class five time--but not once did the instructors innvolved ever demand an evaluation ===they just told him to not to come back to class untill he had one---did they really think that was enough--they better think twice in the future--it'll happen again!!!!
    The rjetpric will arise again tomorrow as one of the victims threatened the life of the head of the Tuson Tea Party--he said to him=="Your DEAD" oNE WEEK LATER AND IT STARTS AGAIN!!!

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  16. The teachers were afraid of being sued for asking for that evaluation. Another manifestation of the nanny society we have become; "let's make sure not to injure young Loughner's amour-propre by suggesting he may need medical attention."

    There used to be violent and cruel teachers; I saw a few growing up, but they are rarer than hen's teeth these days.

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  17. I don't know if they were worried so much about being sued as they were singled out by Loughner. God knows what tipped the balance in that crazy mind of his but for whatever reason he chose to take it out on Gabrielle Giffords. My guess is he was obsessed with her, judging by the letters they found.

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  18. The whole "grammar" thing I find the most interesting. Apparently, Loughner was reading some extreme right wing literature by a group called the Sovereign Citizen Movement that claims the government is using "grammar" to ensnare the public. Here's an article from Mother Jones,

    http://motherjones.com/politics/2011/01/sovereign-citizens-jared-lee-loughner

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  19. Very odd thinking.

    On the other hand, it could be argued I think that it is the right that has used language most effectively. "Operation Iraqi Freedom" for example. Or the "Job-Killing Health Care Bill."

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  20. That's what I would say as well, yet this group points to the 13th, 14th and 15th amendments specifically. Seems they are trying to couch their blatant racist views in some kind of "grammatical" word play.

    Also interesting the Scalia recently called women's rights into question recently,

    http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,2020667,00.html

    I wonder if he is part of this group.

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  21. I should have an Op/Ed column appearing in the Atlanta Journal Constitution within the next week or so dealing with the punctuation issue. When I worked in the state's court system I came in contact with people who inserted a comma between their first and last name. They thought this would allow them to avoid paying debts and taxes. They had other odd ideas as well.

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  22. Who would have thought that it would get worse when Bush was out of office? But there really is a scary racist overtone to all of this.

    Remember the calls to "lynch him" that came during McCain/Palin rallies? I actually wrote to the McCain campaign protesting -- not that it did any good.

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  23. Rick, be sure to remind us when it's online. Those commas are powerful forms of punctuation.

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  24. One of my favorite comic strips is Candorville, by Darrin Bell. Today's strip is a commentary on this subject, particularly the use "of" the pejorative quotation "mark." I hope you are able to see it somewhere.

    I struggled mightily but failingly to get my students to understand the actually ironic, citing use of quotation marks and the ignorant unironic use, and to get them to avoid both. I certainly look forward to Rick's op/ed piece.

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  25. avrds & carol: As a lowly freelance columnist I never know when exactly something I've written will appear. The column I just turned in is somewhat time sensitive, although this story doesn't look like it is going anywhere for a awhile unless of course something equally insane happens within the next few days. I've been halfway expecting a copycat shooting any day now but no news is good news in this instance.

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  26. I think it was LBJ who commented on Kent State was something like: When rhetoric leads to violence, it can only lead to tragedy.. can somebody google this and see if I'm right?

    Bill Clinton, sfter Oklahoma City warned public figures to remember that when they speak, they are speaking to both the hinged and the unhinged. When they arrested the perpetrator of Oklahoma City, he was werearing a tee shirt with the quote from Jefferson: THE TREE OF LIBRTY NEEDS TO BE WATERED BY THE BLOOD OF PATRIOTS...." Words have consequences and in that case the perpetrator was perfectly sane and was executed.

    Also, it is very possible this guy was legally sane when he shot those people. Insane people don't apologize as he did on the internet --insane people believe they are doing the right thing and have no remorse or compunction regarding their acts--he did--leaving open the possibility the prosecutor will use his statement against him... interesting!!!

    NOTE: Most state laws allowing teachers to order manditory evaluations protect those teachers from civil and criminal actions. I wonder if Arizona's laws do so.... In Pennsylvania the complaintant on a 302 cannot be sued, nor can the mental health officer who issues the order. Section 302 of the Mental Health Act provides for individual to be taken to an inpatient Mental Health facility and admitted for a period not to exceed 120 hours during which time he is tosee a psychiatrist and evaluated, treated and released or committed involutarily for an additional 20 days afte a hearing is held and it is determined he continues to pose a danger to himself or to others... You cannot be prosecuted civilly or criminally for participating in either of the two procedures. In my early career I initiated 302 procedures a couple hundred times...a 303 can be initiated ony by a psychiatrist, but the 302 petitioner is required to be present at the 303 hearing. A 302 is a summary hearing, a 303 is advesarial and the patient is represented by counsel to protect his rights and defend him against the charges...it is very serios since a 303 commitment deprives the patient of his freedom. It is not done lightly.

    I never met a shizophrenic whose condition was active who agreed to treatment and who was willing to sign in on a voluntary basis...They all required involuntary commitments, but very few required 303's because they were given medication which returned them to normal very quickly and were discharged at the 120th hour with a normal thought process.

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  27. Sharon Angle in Nevada was fond of that Jefferson quote. She also recommended "2nd amendment remedies" if Congress kept going in the same direction. Talk about talking to the unhinged!

    I think that other quote you referenced was Nixon:

    "After the four students were gunned down, [Nixon] found no reason to censure the Guardsmen. All he could bring himself to say was: 'When dissent turns to violence, it invites tragedy.'"

    He also advised his aides:

    When the action gets hot, keep the rhetoric cool.

    This is actually an interesting slice of history, with Nixon roaming around Washington talking to anti-war protesters:

    http://www-cgi.cnn.com/ALLPOLITICS/1996/analysis/back.time/9605/20/

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  28. As much as I don't like Harry Reid, thank god he won over Sharon Angle. She was the most repulsive of all the Tea Party candidates.

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  29. http://candorville.com/

    very "apropos."

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  30. I'm very much troubled by this idea of "original intent" of the Constitution. Scalia and Thomas both are major advocates of this, sounding as though they have some special insight into the Constitution that we all lack. Stephen Bryer's book is a welcome relief to these two grandstanding Supreme Court justices.

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  31. Thomas must be the only African American in the country who would willingly go back to the original intent of the Constitution.

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  32. I invite any of you who might be interested to visit a blog I started late last year. I plan to use it in a conference presentation in February when I discuss the Canon of American Literature and the Marginalized Writer. The Google blog address is:

    http://sinclairlewisandthecanon.blogspot.com/

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  33. Yea, Thomas promoting original intent truly is absurd, but then he used the 13th amendment to strike down local gun laws.

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  34. Nice blog you have going Rick. Sinclair Lewis is indeed much overlooked.

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  35. I second that! I have been trying to convince a friend to start a Chautauqua here -- they are very popular and a great way to bring informal education and civil politics to rural areas.

    This guy is amazing:

    http://www.jeffersonhour.org/

    He also does all of these characters:

    http://www.jeffersonhour.org/?id=18

    There is a relatively new biography of Lewis out there -- might be fun to read it here sometime.

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  36. Now here's some real fun -- a Merle Haggard sound alike:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ewm-XOsODho

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  37. Good blog, Rick.

    There is a Chautauqua-ike summer program in Lakeside, Ohio. Haven't been there and never would have heard of it except that one my flute teachers played in the Lakeside Orchestra for many summers. That was his most lasting orchestra job.

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  38. On another note, seems Sarah is reeling in the wake of the "gun fight" in Tucson. She now finds herself defending her "blood libel" statement. Her facebook video has been universally condemned. Even Republicans have a hard time coming to grips with what she had to say in the wake of this unprecedented tragedy. When is the last time anyone had shot down both a Congressperson and a Federal judge, not to mention indiscriminately shoot many others, and all Sarah can do is defend herself.

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  39. marti: Thanks.

    Gintaras: Palin seems to appeal to people who can (at least in their own small minds) do no wrong. Every criticism leveled against her is nothing but lies and distortions; every misstep she has taken was caused by one of her many enemies. Although no one will ever mistake me for Nostradamus, I predict that within the next year she will experience some kind of major meltdown. That much hubris, like Banquo's ghost, will not down.

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  40. Seems the meltdown has already begun judging by the way she is reacting to the "Gun Fight in Tucson." Even among Republicans, Obama got more favorable ratings (71-56%) than Palin in his response to the tragedy.

    Not even Ted Nugent can bring himself to support Palin for President. Yet, there still seems to be enough Republicans who will stick with her come hell or high water, which I'm sure deeply worries the party establishment. They have McCain to thank for thrusting this self-ascribed "grizzly mom" on them.

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  41. My guess is we'll hear more and more republicans distancing themselves from her, fearing that she could pick up some early primary support and threaten the establishment. She has no big picture political skills, but she sure does know how to rile up those of the far right (like the Merle Haggard guy).

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  42. Nice to see we have so many friends in the Netherlands. Thanks for looking in!

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  43. Greetings to Canada, UK, Germany, France, Moldova, Sweden and Austria as well!

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  44. We are a friendly group. Join us!

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