I first heard about the shootings in Tucson, AZ on Saturday afternoon. Early news reports were sketchy, disjointed and error prone, but the thrust of the underlying story came through loud and clear. Another angry man had gone off and killed a lot of people. All day Sunday, TV, NPR and the web echoed back and forth to each other the still developing aspects of this tragic story. Salient aspects of this story include the traumatic wounding of a US Congresswoman and the murder of a Federal Judge and even a little nine-year-old girl. The totals are grim, 6 killed, 20 shot. On Monday, the perp made his walk, appeared before a judge and was arraigned. He appeared in court, both reticent and to all the world sane. A political back-story to these shootings developed almost as soon as the gunman’s smoke had cleared. The county sheriff, Clarence Dupnik (D), began this debate with the following comment:
When you look at unbalanced people, how they respond to the vitriol that comes out of certain mouths about tearing down the government. The anger, the hatred, the bigotry that goes on in this country is getting to be outrageous. And unfortunately, Arizona, I think, has become the capital. We have become the Mecca for prejudice and bigotry.
Dupnik’s comment and all of the Democratic secondings have created the expected pushback from the Republicans and their conservatives allies. I won’t wade into this morass except to say this to those demagogues that formant hatred: As you make your bed, so must you lie in it.
The danger to our country is that our two-party system has evolved into something much like our judicial system, an adversarial system. If one side says Yea then the other side says Nay. In the confines of a courtroom this system works, but in the open streets of politics adversaries also invite murder. I fear that the solution is going to be more security. I met my Congressman last year. He and his wife posed with me for a photograph, for free. I fear that this shooting will add another cost to our democracy, making it too expensive for some and cheapening it for the rest of us.
It is sounding from some things I’m reading today that this young man is schizophrenic (which I had earlier speculated, based on the “disruptive outbursts” in college classes). Of course, I have not seen that from the keyboard (or quoted from the mouth of) any psychology professionals, but there is definitely *something* going on.
It is just too sad that our current mental health system pendulum has swung so far away from protecting people from themselves in these instances that they are allowed to walk around unwatched, unmedicated, untreated, and untouched after they reach the age of 18 – even under the protest of their own family members. Not that I advocate locking up people just because they are “different” or the family doesn’t feel like dealing with them; there has to be a basis – moderation and “checks and balances”. Just like with our political system, as you say above.
Any thoughts on how to dampen these pendulum swings??
Years ago, at MSU, I took a class in criminal psychology. It was a great class and the professor was superb. What I remember most about that class was the irreverent attitude that the professor had for law enforcement in general and for law enforcement personnel in particular, but it was also an attitude of grudging love. The kind family members have for each other. They know all of your secrets, all of your flaws, but still they love you. The professor was also great at telling stories too. This story epitomizes both his attitude and his great story telling ability and this has stuck with me.
More curriculum related, the professor also covered criminal insanity laws. They are much stricter than normal sanity standards. That is, it is harder for a defendant to prove themselves criminally insane than it is to show a patient is insane in a non-criminal sanity hearing. This lesson occurred before Regan gutted our nation’s mental health program. So, I am not so convinced of the perp’s lack of criminal sanity.