Steve Hynd Making Sense Again

Steve Hynd, whom I linked to a bit earlier, contributes a little more sense on the subject of the Arizona shooting from the Left Blogosphere:

I said I’d wait until I knew more before I wrote more about the Arizona shootings. Well, here it is.


Note that Loughner’s obsession with Rep. Giffords began at least as early as 2007, long before Sarah palin or the Tea Party – but note too that there’s not a lot of difference between paranoid politics and the worst excesses of both Left and Right. My friend, back in the 80’s, hated all government because they were “mind controlling” us and didn’t pause to differentiate between liberal and conservative varieties of government. The question isn’t whether Palin or the Tea Party infuenced this mentally ill individual – if they did it was as mere background noise to his own demons – although a pertinent question might be whether they are as mentally ill as he is, paranoid just because.

In the wake of the shootings lots of people are looking for solutions. Some point to harsh or even violent rhetoric, others to Arizona’s concealed carry laws, others to the need for “sensible gun control laws”. While some or all of those things may be contributing factors to the shootings, I don’t see a straight-line connection.

However, I do see a straight-line connection between the shooter’s apparent mental illness and the shootings. I’d challenge Steve (or someone concerned about any of thie less directly implicated issues mentioned above) to propose their solution to the problem. Here’s mine: we need more compassion. If his fellow students or the school or his friends or his family had shown more compassion, the young man who was the shooter might have received the help that he clearly needed before he’d done any harm.

Let me give an example of what I’m talking about from my own college days. Back in the mists of the distant antiquity when I was in college the kid who lived next door to me in the dorm began exhibiting increasingly erratic behavior and speech. Other kids in the dorm began to harass him for his peculiarities and that only aggravated the situation. I attempted to speak to him on several occasions but I’m no mental health professional and it was clear that his problems were beyond my ability to help him with.

I made an appointment with the Dean of Men and explained the situation to him, focusing on concrete, observable details and avoiding judgments of any kind, highlighting the potential dangers of the situation, urging the Dean of Men to intervene. And the kid got some help.

If Jared Loughner had received some help, maybe we wouldn’t be looking at a dead federal judge and dead nine year old girl and a Congresswoman fighting for her life in the hospital, yelling at each other about who said or did what to whom and caused it all.

6 comments… add one
  • PD Shaw Link

    It was somewhat disturbing to read the community college classmate who felt that “her only previous contact with someone like that came at time when she was working in a psychiatric hospital.”

    I cut her some slack because she only had one class with him and may not have been around him enough to make the assessment she reports now.

    But people need compassion and knowledge about mental health problems.

  • “Hard cases make for bad law.” I think that this is a pretty good philosophical observation.

    Political assassinations are a very rare event in American society, so I’m not really inclined to tinker with society in order to lessen risks on the basis of hope rather than certainty. If such events pick up in frequency then that makes the case for societal tinkering a bit stronger.

    In terms of reaching out to such people, no one is yet publicly questioning the role of his parents. Why focus on a classmate who saw him for a few hours per week when those who lived with him and befriended him are better candidates for the job of monitoring, policing, guiding, reporting.

    If the solution is earlier intervention and treatment via drugs then all that does is lower the risk somewhat, or so goes the hypothesis. Without a method to eliminate the risk the debate really becomes one centered on what is an acceptable level of risk. How many political assassinations per time period are acceptable? If Loughner was medicated and supervised would that have eliminated the risk or just minimized it?

    In the end, I don’t think that there is an easy solution and I don’t think that much of anything should really be done in light of this one incident. The risk of political violence in this country is very low, so the question becomes one of accepting a low rate or of eliminating the low rate. To eliminate the low rate will entail institutionalization and a severe revamping of how politicians interact with their constituents.

  • sam Link

    “In terms of reaching out to such people, no one is yet publicly questioning the role of his parents.”

    That might be fruitful, for reasons not readily apparent. According to news reports, the parents have barricaded themselves in the home and will not let FBI agents enter (though they’ve entered before). And from some of the stories I’ve read, it’s probably the case that for ‘parents’ read ‘father’.

  • Absolutely spot on Dave. We need more compassion, less “I’m alright, Jack”. But then we also need the infrastructure that can take on such mentally ill individuals and treat them, without asking if they can pay for it, because if we don’t we all end up paying for it. We need a national mental health system.

    Regards, Steve

  • steve Link

    For those interested, an estimate of the costs of mental health parity in the ACA. (Part of a fisking of a crappy WSJ article, which are becoming more frequent in the business section which used to be excellent.)


  • john personna Link

    Google search for the Financial Times article “Paranoia disfigures the Tea Party”

    I totally get that some on the left are going too far in criticism, but as you’ve noticed, I’m sensitive to too strong a defense. I think the pattern developing at OTB is too strong, frankly.

    I think they are setting a bar that we shouldn’t discuss real problems in the big picture because we don’t have “1:1”

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