DINNER CHAT ABOUT A LUNATIC AND… I’m sorry, what were we talking about?

Out to dinner the other night with long-time friends, the subject turned to, of course, the recent tragedy in Arizona, the sanity/motives of the shooter, our current national debate over lessons to learn (or not), and my blog postings regarding the same.

  • One comment stated as a biting joke only a long-time friend can make with the aura that they’re just kidding went something like, “Yeh, this one’s socially isolated now.” ‘Cept… t’wasn’t really said entirely in jest.
  • And the other comment said, with all honesty from a good and loving heart, “I know you don’t really think it’s got anything to do with political rhetoric. You know this kid’s just a nut ball all on his own.”

To the first comment, sure I’m a bit “out there” from the rest of the field of Americans — always have been, always got better grades in school, too : )

Now, if I were like most Americans I could cloak my true thoughts in a palatable and patriotic veil of righteousness and say, “Well, with Jesus in my heart and the Lord guiding my spirit, I just know that what I’ve said is true and inspired by the Will of God. Any true American supports my God-given right to tell others of His Word… to shine heavenly light upon the dark political world infecting His exceptional nation.” Nah!

To the second comment, I say, “Sure, Loughner’s a nut case! And, it’s true that no one can know exactly what’s in a killer’s mind. So why have we spent so much time debating exactly that?” Because, in the end, it matters.

Let’s look behind the curtain, shall we?

I think we have to accept that it’s just far easier for folks to regurgitate Jared Loughner’s lunatic library — arguing whether he favored “The Communist Manifesto” or the screeds of that shrew, Ayn Rand — than confront the larger and harsher snapshot of our current social landscape that emerged after his massacre.

So, we will naturally regress back into the ol’ familiar post-tragedy cycle of our Reality TV-stultified era — quick “closure” to the tragedy,… a return to business-as-usual,… and, finally, national somnolence (look it up).

Case-in-point: In a Jan 09 2011 “Portfolio.com” business column, the author J. Jennings Moss writes (implores) in “Blame Game In Tucson,”

Harsh voices from the left and the right are rising in the Gabrielle Giffords tragedy. None of this is good for the nation or business, especially when the only person to blame may just be a mentally troubled 22-year-old.

“None of this is good for the nation or business…” Wow, sorry. What kind of priority would place the shooting rampage upon 20 persons above business? Learning? Bad for the nation!

If we learn nothing from this tragedy — and “you” won’t (I’m going to keep referring to “you,” instead of the more embracing “we” because I am not a part of this general national mentality, so aptly pointed out at my dinner conversation) — we’re back to where we started. Get out of your goddam Lazy-Boy Recliner!… But, I digress…

And where we started was with two years of accelerating political violence — real violence, not to be confused with violent language — that should have struck fear into many… but didn’t, ’cause… ya’ don’t pay attention.

Let’s also face another tragedy that “y’all” will ignore: The only two Social Reforms (gasp!) that might have actually stopped him — tighter gun control and an effective mental health safety net — won’t happen. Even now.

  • Gun and ammunition sales spiked last week, especially for the “Glock-19” pistol and high-capacity 33-round magazine Loughner used. In Tucson, a traveling gun show enjoyed 50 percent better business a week following the shooting of Representative Gabrielle Giffords and 19 others! Even though six people died in the attack, gun enthusiasts showed up to show their support for the right to bear arms. Sick! Nothing — not even another bloodbath — will move Congress to enact serious gun control on unjustified/unneeded assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, because we’re Americans and, well, naked if not locked and loaded.
  • Mindful Americans remember that it was President Ronald Reagan who eliminated federal funding for mental health institutions and then flooded our streets with the homeless mentally-ill. Enhanced mental health coverage will still be a nonstarter since the highest republican/conservative/libertarian priority is to repeal the federal expansion of health care access — which is also, let’s just say it, sick!

Moreover, calls for civility will have no more lasting impact on the “tone” of American discourse now than they did after the J.F.K. and R.F.K. assassinations or Oklahoma City bombing. Especially not in an era when technology allows more than 300 million Americans an open silicon megaphone for unmediated rants (this one, included).

Think back just a bit to when the House passed the health care bill last year. Within hours, on Monday morning, vandals smashed the front door of Rep. Giffords’s office in Tucson. The Palin “target” map (and the accompanying Twitter decree to “RELOAD”) posted online just one day after that vandalism.

Now, what’s the big deal about a little broken glass?

Few wanted to see the truth — that the vandalism and death threats were the latest results of a swelling and ugly insurgency that has metastasized since the final weeks of the 2008 presidential campaign

Because… let’s face it, a huge number — maybe even most — white Americans just can’t abide a Negro as President (better civility prevailed, but I wanted to use the larger “N-word” deliberately since — though you might not openly use that term yourself — it is the term in most of “your” minds’ eye. It is your true unspoken feeling. I have my own personal experience with this as a white husband for twenty-one years to a black man.)

This inner disgust about your new Negro President percolated in the fiery health care conniption of August 2009. In that mix, Rep. Giffords held another “Congress on Your Corner” meeting, at a Safeway. The crowd’s rage and the dropping of a gun by one attendee prompted aides worried about her safety to call out the police.

Let’s just face it, America… you’re mean… and you’re frighteningly armed… and given a lack of civility and the cloak of anonymity (or it’s enabling cousins, fatalism and derangement) you are dangerous!

Like a puppy being house-trained, you will determine how free you — hence, we — remain in the future.

Can Americans really be expected to responsibly steward their own personal freedom? The question is begged. I mean, come on, your analytical and interpretive capacity are as limited as your performance in world-wide academic testing comparisons. Plus, you revert too easily and quickly to baser instincts of violence and tribalism. Certainly, you can’t reasonably be expected — or more appropriately… trusted — to thoughtfully balance freedoms with responsibility… accountability… when these are the attributes you as a group display.

Fellow citizens, you are afflicted, and too many of you are an affliction. You become confused too easily… delusional, even.

For instance, Mike Pence, a potential G.O.P. “Values” candidate for president (Oops, threw up in my mouth a little bit), told a C-Span audience that those bearing firearms at Congressional town hall meetings and Obama events (including one in Arizona, August 2009) were no different than anti-Bush demonstrators “waving placards.”

Right, holding signs legitimately pointing out the president’s criminality in his efforts leading the nation to illegal war is equivalent to ranting and chanting about taking back “your” nation while fully armed!? OK, so… can you see… yes, you are a delusional nation… and you’re armed. Dangerous.

As the president said in Tucson, we lack not just civil discourse, but honest discourse — which makes sense as honesty is precluded in the presence of delusion… Hello.

Since Obama’s ascension, we’ve seen repeated incidents of political violence. An incomplete, short list would include,

  • the 2009 killing of three Pittsburgh police officers by a neo-Nazi Obama-hater;
  • the shooting death by an antigovernment gunman at Washington’s Holocaust museum in June 2009;
  • last year’s murder-suicide kamikaze attack on an I.R.S. office in Austin, Tex.; and
  • the California police shootout with an assailant plotting to attack an obscure liberal foundation obsessively vilified by Glenn Beck.

If, as President Obama said to the nation at Tucson’s memorial service, “a simple lack of civility” didn’t cause the Tucson tragedy, and we assume it didn’t cause these other incidents either… then one may appropriately conclude that what did inform the earlier violence — including the vandalism at Giffords’s office — was an antigovernment radicalism as rabid on the right now as it was on the left in the late 1960s (though, in the acting-out phase, two Kennedy’s and a black preacher named King were assassinated by the radical right and not the left, as I recall).

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But here’s the point: the fact that Loughner is likely insane, with no coherent ideological agenda, does not mean that a climate of antigovernment hysteria has no impact on him or other crazed losers out there. Nor does Loughner’s insanity mitigate the surge in unhinged political zealots acting out over the last two years. Oh! Hello, Sarah

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What’s also disturbing is what republican and conservative leaders have not said. Their continuing silence during two years of simmering violence has been chilling. The few who do speak are non-sensical:

  • When a Department of Homeland Security report warned of far-right extremism and attacks by “lone wolves,” Newt Gingrich called it a smear and John Boehner demanded an apology. Really? No, I mean… really?
  • A senior Republican senator told Politico that he saw the Tucson bloodbath as a “cautionary tale” for his party, yet refused to be named. Cowards, all.

Unless and until sane, intelligent, balanced (not, Fox’s “fair and balanced,” mind you!), and truly freedom-loving, responsible, and commendable citizens and leaders can summon courage and speak DOWN to the haters and Fox News Gestapo, too, it’s hard to see what will change in our mean and irresponsible society.


One response to “DINNER CHAT ABOUT A LUNATIC AND… I’m sorry, what were we talking about?

  • Dave

    The gun fanatics in this country won’t even admit to the obvious collation between more guns and more gun violence ….they wouldn’t admit to a connection between people chewing bubble gum and blowing bubbles. The bottom line is that the gun lobby / fanatics have won the argument in this county …you can now buy any kind of gun as quickly and easily as renting a lawn mower from Home Depot. Laws are passed or being passed to allow weapons in air ports, bars, college class rooms, places of worship the work place and bringing them to political rallies …the goal is to remove all limits to possessing and carrying a weapon of any kind, anywhere.
    And, so there you have it …Americans buy 50% of the guns sold world wide and comprise 5% of the population …no limits …buy as many as you can! If there are occasional massacres of incident people …well you know they would have used a kitchen knife or a baseball bat it they didn’t have access to a gun …lock and load America.

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