I will take heat for this I am sure, but as we pointed out yesterday, when others were debating rhetoric, Jared Loughner showed every indication he was sick, mentally sick. Not a whacko, not nuts, not looney, not a sociopath, and all of the other terms that have been used to describe him. As psychiatrist Charles Krauthammer points out so well, he demonstrated all of the symptoms of a classic schizophrenic. Take the time to listen please.
I am sure the debate in most circles will now switch to mental illness but it’s important you hear it from a trusted source. None of this excuses his actions, nor does it excuse the failure of a community to get this man off the streets, but if we do not address the real issue here, we are doomed to seeing this happen over and over again. All of the rules and laws banning guns or political speech will only serve to clamp down on individual freedom without making us any safer.
As the clinical psychologist “Kathleen”, who called us yesterday, pointed out, his mental illness was such that he would have evntually done this to someone else: a neighbor, a friend, a random person. It’s much easier to use “crazy” terms and dismiss the incident then it is to help, because, as she says, we fear mental illness. We need to stop using the old terminology, which only serves to dismiss the problem and not look for solutions.
Ed Morrissey had an interesting take on this yesterday. He understands the issue but also does a great job of pointing out the difficulty in tacking the issue of mental illness.
The changes in handling the mentally ill helped put an end to those abuses — but gave rise to other problems, such as chronic homelessness. As the tragedy in Tucson shows, occasionally the new policy can lead to far greater problems and the death of innocent people. Galston uses this tragedy to consider whether we should go back to the older system, or at least take steps in that direction.
It’s a fair question, unlike some of the other nonsense that has been spouted over the last 72 hours. However, there really is no evidence that the former system would necessarily have worked to keep Loughner locked up, at least not as a certainty. We had insane people commit murders under the old system, too. The abuses that come with the older versions of commitment laws would be difficult to prevent if a doctor could keep someone locked up on his say-so without allowing for some sort of habeas corpus-like procedure that would prove that someone is a danger to others — a system we have now.
It’s not unfair to open this debate after what happened in Tucson.
There is no way to excuse these actions and no defense for what Loughner did. He’s guilty of mass murder. But the system that might have prevented this tragedy broke down in so many places and it would be a huge mistake to blame this on rhetoric or labeling him as a “nut job”. Make no mistake, it is very difficult to deal with schizophrenia, but millions are forced to deal with it every day. Drugs can help but unless we begin to tackle this issue like adults, learn more about the problems of mental illness, we will forever be forced to live in fear, and the mentally ill will be forever doomed to a life of terror.