After any horrific event, it's logical for thinking people to look at what might have led to it. That is what a culture should be doing after Representative Giffords assassination attempt. This didn't just impact the Congresswoman but also those who were at the event, wounded, murdered, and those traumatized by what they saw.
It also impacted our whole country as everybody of a certain age has gone through this vicariously many times. It might be a leader we followed or for whom we had voted. It might be somewhere we could have been.
The question is what could make a difference and stop it from happening again? Are we truly without options and just have to wait for the next tragedy which might be in a kindergarten or in our own neighborhood?
We are in a culture of death threats and anybody who runs for office politically has probably experienced some of it. It's not unique to Arizona. It's an element of our society that sees a violent response as acceptable and threats go along with that. It's just politics some say. Most of those threats are intended to intimidate and ideally shut the person up. Some though have real violence behind them.
The more that comes out about the shooter in Tucson, the more his mental illness seems obviously to be a factor in what he did. Reading more about it, we can see evidence of his obsession with Giffords that went back years. It might have been her beauty as well as her politics, her Jewishness, her success, or her position as a government leader. He may not even be able to tell anyone what was behind his obsession.
He was certainly picking up right wing talk but from the extremes of the right, not so much the Sarah Palins probably as more the farther out fringe, that shadowy region where most of us don't even know the people's names. Who knew some of their bizarre ideas until we read about it after this blew up? People who want to go looking for weird concepts can easily find them today with the Internet.
The violent rhetoric, the death threats, the singling out one person as evil personified, the personalizing policies to become individuals which leads to wishing them dead and verbalizing it, that isn't healthy whether it had anything to do with Saturday's tragedy or not. Those threats are about trying to shut down a political viewpoint and fear is one of their tactics.
There is a way to tone down the rhetoric from the responsible people on the right and the left. Stop making it about a person. Stop demonizing people and stick to the issues that are being debated. Get all upset about immigration but don't demonize Jan Brewer. Be fervent on anti-abortion but don't single out George Tiller. Sometimes words lead a deranged mind to go a step further.
So that's the first thing.
The second is what are we going to do about mental illness in this country? This young man was clearly seen as a risk and yet nobody was able to do anything about it. Go to The Daily Beast for an assortment of stories on him. After you read that, check out some of the other articles that go into where we are in our country in terms of violence as an 'answer.' Some still see it as a tool that is preferable to the ballot box when the vote doesn't go their way.
Daily Beast had a good article on the developing mental illness of this shooter. It is unclear exactly what was wrong with him mentally, but he was in his own world clearly and it was inhabited by a lot of very violent ideas. He was removed from Pima Community College after an assortment of threatening events and an Internet post. The officials said in order for him to return to class he had to have a mental health evaluation. He just dropped out. Isn't there some way to force people like that to have that mental evaluation? Is that really damaging their civil rights for the country to make sure people who might be mentally unstable are not also inclined toward violence? They don't have to go together, you know.
I realize how those who advocate for the mentally ill won't like what I said but time after time we have these kind of tragic events and almost always people knew ahead of time that it was a time bomb; but they couldn't do anything about it.
Not everyone who has schizophrenia is dangerous. Some hear voices and that typically develops in their late teen years; but those voices don't have to be a threat to the world around them. I am not saying this young man was schizophrenic. I certainly have no idea; but when people are, they typically don't want to get help for it. They often have to be forced into taking the medications that can control the chemistry in their brain enough to allow them to lead normal, or almost normal lives. Let's say-- in control of their own lives.
Because our culture has no way to force mental health evaluations for those who are suspected of being deranged mentally, we have these outbursts every so often (and would maybe get some even if we had a more effective policy toward mental illness) where not only the lives of other people are ruined but also that of the mentally ill person. Isn't there a way to deal with this before it goes so tragically wrong?