I see in the wonderful world known as the blogosphere that people are desperately trying to place Jared Loughner, the young man who shot Rep. Giffords and numerous others in Arizona yesterday, into a convenient political category. As is usually the case, the facts – aka, “reality” – don’t allow for such oversimplification. In fact, here’s what we know about Loughner:
*He listed “Mein Kampf” (far right) AND “The Communist Manifesto” (far left) and a bunch of literary classics (e.g, “To Kill a Mockingbird,” “The Old Man and the Sea”) as his favorite books.
*He made videos with “seemingly unconnected thoughts about currency and dreams, and the words ‘I can’t trust the current government because of the ratifications: the government is implying mind control and brainwash on the people by controlling grammar.'” If anyone can make any sense of that gobbledygook, more power to you, but I can’t.
*He tried to join the U.S. Army but was rejected.
*He was highly disruptive in class (at the Pima Community College in Tucson), to the extent that “campus police were called five times” to deal with him.
*He has a drug arrest on his record.
*He has no apparent link “explicitly to any mainstream political group or figures.”
*At the shooting scene itself, he reportedly made no statements, wore no clothing that indicated any political leanings, didn’t mention the Congresswoman or anyone else by name, also seemed to be “just firing at whatever.”
*He sometimes wore “Goth” clothes and “T-shirts with the names of heavy-metal bands.”
*He thought “a lot of people were just idiots.”
*He “never talked of using violence,” but “there was something there that wasn’t quite right.”
And last but not least:
*”He was like a radical against both parties…From what I got, it seemed like he didn’t like anybody that was in power.”
Now, if anyone can seriously find a coherent political ideology or leaning in that, you’re a lot more clever than I am. Bottom line: this guy appears to have been a social misfit, mentally unbalanced, with a great deal of anger and access to high-powered weaponry/ammo. Other than that, there really doesn’t seem to be a lot more that can be responsibly concluded about this guy. Of course, that won’t stop people from projecting their own political beliefs onto Jared Loughner, and that’s unfortunate. Also, just to be clear, the fact that Loughner was not overtly political in any identifiable way does not mean that the overall level of vitriol in our political discourse – and certainly in Arizona! – might not have affected a mentally unbalanced individual like Loughner. In fact, that’s exactly what many of us have been worried about for a long time, that – to quote Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik:
…when you look at unbalanced people, how they respond to the vitriol that comes out of certain mouths about tearing down the government, the anger, the hatred, the bigotry that goes on in this country is getting to be outrageous, and unfortunately Arizona I think has become sort of the capital, we have become the mecca for prejudice and bigotry…this individual may have a mental issue, and I think that people who are unbalanced are especially susceptible to vitriol.
If the “right” – particularly people like Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Sarah Palin, and their enablers – have to answer to today, it’s in creating an overall atmosphere that could — emphasis on could, because we don’t know this right now, and may never know for sure – tip an unbalanced person from “simply crazy” to “mass shooter.” And, frankly, even without yesterday’s shootings, Palin et al. have a lot to answer for, because in no way, shape or form should their type of rhetoric — including putting crosshair gun targets on specific Congressional districts, or this disgusting event by Giffords’ 2010 opponent, Jesse Kelly – be acceptable in America.