Like everyone, I was shaken by the Arizona shootings over last weekend and the sudden, senseless nature of the crime. And like all of you, I’m praying for the injured, especially U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords, who quite miraculously, appears to be doing well, despite being shot in the head at point blank range.
Today there’s also an article on another set of victims in all this — Jared Lee Loughner’s parents. Reports say they’re devastated, wondering where they failed and truly grieving for the Tucson victims. These two people are hurting in the worst way a parent can… living a nightmare that has no escape… ever. While you might be mad at them, wonder why they didn’t do something about their son, remember we don’t know that. You can at least admire the Loughners for NOT being out there making public statements until now… they’re going through a painful personal hell and are only today facing down cameras and up to the minute coverage.
It’s also become clear in the days since the shooting that while Loughner scared a lot of people and caused a lot of trouble, he never set off just the right combination of bells to be stopped. He was someone who needed help in a desperate way yet went unnoticed. Neighbors and classmates sensed something wasn’t right, but you can’t lock someone up for being difficult.
Interesting that according to the National Institute of Mental Health, 20% of U.S. young people are affected at some point in their lives by serious mental disorders, but a mere 36% of them get any kind of preofessional intervention.
Most likely because services aren’t available or readily accessible. Have you ever tried to get in with a counselor? It’s not an easy process and it takes time. All the while an unstable individual is living with the misperceptions and biases our society holds against mental illness.
Something to think about.
One of the most bothersome parts of the coverage of the event is the increasingly popular battle cry, which the Reuters article shares, that the shooting in Arizona last Saturday has “fueled a national debate about whether the heated rhetoric seen in recent U.S. political campaigns was a factor leading to violence.”
No… it hasn’t. If anything the shooting has brought attention to undiagnosed mental illness, the guts and grit of Gabrielle Giffords and the other lesser known wounded, the excruciating sadness of those who lost loved ones in such a horrible way, and the simple heroics of ordinary people at a supermarket on a Saturday.
It’s made me think, a lot, about the irony of being targeted and in the sights of a madman… and surviving, as Representative Giffords seems to be. Even cynics agree that is miraculous. While he took the lives of six innocent souls, Loughner didn’t get the one he was after. There’s no small bit of satisfaction in that.
As usual, most of the media (not to mention the political establishment) is missing the point… going for the easy answer, the quick sound bite and ignoring what’s right there in front of them. Thankfully m of us (57%) seem to see the reality — there’s a lot more to pushing a troubled person off the deep end than a symbol on a map or some incendiary comments by an ambitious political figurehead.
Nothing is that simple.
So let’s all calm down and stop with the gun control rhetoric and the calls for more civilized political discourse. Fair speech resolutions or enhanced background checks (not that they wouldn’t help) are not going to stop the next unbalanced person from taking a stand.
People like Loughner (and others who pursue such crimes) always seem to find a way around… a reason why… without any help from the rest of us.