The name of the game among significant parts of the media and parts of the political establishment today is to find simple demagogic answers too complex matters. One such matter is mental illness. The recent shooting spree by a youth in his twenties underscores the pill mentality which has brought this country to the brink of financial and ultimately societal disaster time and time again; the true and what will likely be severe consequences put off through half measures which have gotten bigger and more hysterical. Instead of assigning blame to the political rhetoric or the mental instability of the individual who committed the crimes against our public officials, perhaps it would be instructive to examine the conditions which created the motivation within the mind of the unstable individual which brought him to focus his anger upon those in the political order.
It is simple to say that an unstable individual is simply crazy, just as it was simple to say Osama bin laden is a terrorist, and that saddam Hussein was a dictator who no one in his country supported, or that Obama is a socialist and Sarah plain is a fascist. Even in most partisan's political self conception, they would prefer to label themselves liberals, progressives, conservatives, libertarians, or whatever other ideology strikes their mind as appealing for whatever reason. However An individual who espouses an ideology only demonstrates his or her own intellectual indolence. This intellectual indolence infects the institutions of our society to the point where spirited and open minded debate on issues no longer pervade our representative institutions. Instead procedural actions dominate our politics and party line votes are the norm to a level which would put the politburos of the world to shame.
The assassination of our public officials in Arizona by what was, by all measures, a young and intelligent, though perhaps hyper sensitive and emotionally intense individual reflects the structural failures which pervade our political system. Undoubtably the rhetoric from the right produced some of the poisonous memes which infected this young, insane, man's mind. However, without a fertile soil for these thoughts to take root, a man or woman of equal sensitivity and instability might instead choose to channel his actions, which stemmed from the idea, into a more productive means of political expression, such as forming a political action committee to "take out" the congresswoman, rather than shooting her with a gun. But the society, and particularly the media which conditions the minds of all citizens has not inculcated the level of patience required to effect this outcome within legitimate modes of action.
Some may ask at this point, who is this guy, Ed Chen, and what formal training does he have to speak of such subjects. So let me interject with a bit of personal background. My father was a psychiatrist who treated veterans at a local veterans hospital, as well as patients in his own private practice. I grew up reading his case files as well as his textbooks, gaining a broad and inside view of the mind of the so called insane. I subsequently married(under common law, since we have stated publicly we will not formally marry until the marriage laws of the state of NY are resolved in a manner which treat marriage as a civil contract between two consenting individuals, rather than a religious institution or state institution, as some social reengineers on the right would like to reinterpret as our country's tradition, which is patently false) someone who was confined for a period early in her life to three mental hospitals, and mostly the best mental hospitals in the state. These hospitals did nothing for her, limiting her time with the doctor to at most a few minutes per day and only convincing her that she was indeed insane. However, after years of patient care and careful examination of the roots of her supposedly irrational thoughts, it became clear to me that her thoughts were completely rational - it was her fundamental assumptions which were skewed.
But where did the assassin of Tuscan receive his assumptions regarding legitimate political action? Where did he learn that patient and sustained deliberative action was illegitimate while a quick shot to the head was a better solution? Where did he learn that violence trumps understanding and discussion? And where did he learn that political discussion leads only to further deadlock and that words uttered by politicians have lost any real truth value? I would argue he learned it from his elders, from our leaders in the media and our leaders in politics. And from the way our society has grown to deal with all problems in general, from health, to finance, from marriage to divorce.
Consider the response to 9/11 which arguably seared an important lesson into the minds of many in my generation -- that when wronged by political opponents, a near instant, and violent response is the legitimate reaction. Neither democrats nor republicans Were able to resist the insane reaction to 9/11, a reaction which has caused more Death to both americans and those we sought to liberate from terrorism. And forget about the fact that the perpetrators of terrorism, the boogyman of our time, osama bin laden, Was trained and equipped by our own Security forces. Forget about the fact that saddam husseine was supported by our government inr the same way we continue to support the religious fundamentalists of Pakistan, support which will likely lead to the next war. Consider the war that has raged for nearly a decade. The youth I have encountered while teaching and tutoring want to become special operation soldiers rather than scientists and doctors. Consider the quote ,"you are with us or against us.".
Consider the bipartisan partisanship which has infected our congress and media. And forget about the fact that Obama promised a new era of bipartisanship, only to shove a massive reorganization of one of the largest sectors of our economy down the throats of half the electorate. Certainly the ends were Nobel, to ensure that all Americans can know they can always have insurance, but the means were as insidious as any spawned from the ultimate Machiavellian thinker of our time, Karl rove who repeated used plays straight out of authoritarian regimes to divide and conquer the populous. Consider Keith oberlain, glenn beck, and the vitriol they constantly spew, and the liberals and conservatives who follow their words without thought. But more importantly, consider the media moguls who give Voice to ideologues rather than thinkers, and propogate invectives rather than arguments. Consider the doublespeak our public servants have taken as their primary means of communication, taking their advise from expert political consultants and pr professionals who advocate saying a lot without saying anything at all. Professionals who enrich themselves by formulating propaganda which further misinforms the minds of our youth, so that liberalism and conservatism are now ideologies rather than ideas and policies, all the while convincing the youth and increasingly the middle aged, that the political opposition is stupid, evil, selfish, and deserving of death.
Consider the promise made by democrats to end the preemptive wars, consider the promises made by republicans to be fiscally responsible. Our political speech has degenerate into political propaganda. Crazy is what propaganda does. Finally, consider the responses offered by our representatives. This man should have been committed to a mental institution earlier, that he should be tried as a terrorist, or gun laws should have been further tightened, or that our rhetoric needs to be moderated, or that crazy is what craZY does and this was just another blip of violence in our increasingly violent society. Unless we could have psychics predict killers rather than creatives who emerge from a similar hypersensitive mind, preemptively committing him would cause grave harm to an entire class of people which can only be considered discriminatory. Tightening gun laws would likely have the same effect as prohibition. I could buy a gun in nyc tomorrow if i wanted to, for less than $300, and new york city has the tightest gun laws in the country.
Instead it might be more productive to consider what the killer actually was thinking about the government, and why he felt the way he did. What assumptions were valid despite the illegitimate reaction, and how can we teach the next generation about legitimate political modes of expression, rather than which ideology is right and which ideology is stupid. Rather than moderate our rhetoric, which is what Obama has said he wanted for years, and what liberals have advocated without practice, perhaps it would be instructive for an extremist centrist rhetoric of judgment which condemns the hypocrisy of our political activists, both republican and democrat to emerge so that the cognitive dissonance of the daily doublespeak spewed by activists, and politicians and broadcast by the media can no longer poison the minds of our youth and undermine the foundations of our constitutional democracy, which rests upon rational and sincere debate, rather than crude political and procedural calculations conducted by professional consultants who tell the novice political aspirant that his or her thoughts are not liberal enough or conservative enough.
Simply spend some time to consider who is really the crazy one?
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