Everything here is just like a simile, and almost completely alliterative.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Walk Civilly and Carry a Straitjacket

I am much interested in all the talk about renewing civility in our political and national discourse in the wake of the Tucson shootings, and I take Paul Krugman's point about the need to well, eliminate eliminationist rhetoric, and the difference between rudeness on the one hand and eliminationist rhetoric on the other. However, I will say this: I do not think that the rhetoric of any right-wing politician, commentator, personality, or pundit led to the tragedy in Tucson. I'd like to talk about a couple of actual facts, as opposed to made-up ones.

1) Paranoid schizophrenics (and the preliminary evidence does seem to point to that diagnosis for Loughner) should not be able to purchase guns, and absolutely no one needs to be purchasing an assault-grade Glock. American politics has been full of violent verbal nastiness and personal attack since long before Grover Cleveland's illegitimate child or Andrew Jackson's scandalous marriage. So yes yes, let's be nicer to each other by all means, but while we're waiting for that to happen, how about some practical action to bring back the Assault Weapons Ban and other recommended actions of the Brady Campaign? More people died than needed to because Jared Loughner had a 30-bullet ammo clip, and that is a fact.

2) Paranoid schizophrenics often have problems with authority, and feel persecuted by those in authority, particularly when those authorities are an "other" the mentally unstable person feels to be beneath him. (I say him deliberately, since most paranoid schizophrenics who resort to violence are male.) For Loughner, a female congressional representative embodied everything wrong in his world, and I firmly believe that if his Congressperson had been named Gabriel Giffords instead of Gabrielle Giffords, Loughner's tottering mind would have fixed on another target. Among all the other possible labels for this tragedy, a sexist hate crime is surely among them. Nor is Giffords' Jewishness an irrelevancy here; if Loughner were aware of it, her religious and ethnic identity would certainly play into his paranoid fantasies of oppression and rejection by an unworthy other.

So no, I don't think that anybody caused Loughner's mind to stray into the thorny thickets it began to meander into, apparently, several years ago. The articles I've read that explore his home life and his parents -- God, those are just painful to read. His parents are probably in enough hell without being punished like that, and the truth is, mental illness is not something somebody gives you, even distant or inadequate parents. No, Rush Limbaugh is not responsible for what happened, any more than Mr. and Mrs. Loughner are. Which isn't to say, however, that I think the line people are drawing between Loughner's actions and right-wing rhetoric is crazy; the connection exists, just not in the way people think that it does. Both paranoid schizophrenia and right-wing ideology are fear-based mentalities, in which the ability to perceive rational threats is distorted. They are both, to some extent, crazy. The connection between Loughner and the Right Wing is not one of cause and effect. The link isn't common political ground; it's common mental territory. They inhabit the same space of fear, of distaste for the other, of narrowness and paranoia. Loughner is just a longer walk along the same path of mental darkness.

So, Sarah Palin, in case you are reading this, I for one do not think you are guilty, and you're welcome to tell anyone who suggests you are that I said you weren't. See? You and your ilk aren't guilty; you're just fucking nuts.

P.S. Sarah, if you are reading this, an ilk is not a baby elk.

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