On mental health and guns

HuffPo reports that Arizona allows anyone concerned about the mental health of another to report them to authorities to have them evaluated, even as they’ve slashed the mental health budget there. (Many other states are of course doing the same.)

But the key to recovering from mental illness is wanting to change. States can’t force that nor can they lock someone up for acting oddly. This is a good thing, as such detention power could obviously be abused. Some states can invoke a 72 hour mandatory psychiatric hold, but after that the person is free to leave.

Someone close to me was bipolar, went off her meds, ended up homeless and not in contact with reality. Friends got a 72 hour hold on her and it worked. Today, several years later, she’s recovered, and happily married with a responsible job. She really wanted to change and has worked hard at it – and takes her meds religiously.

In any big city you see people wandering around talking to the invisible people. Should they be locked up? Is there any possible way to know if one of them might pick up a gun and start shooting? Not to my knowledge.

My friend DJ says, look, you can kill someone with a machete too. Sure, but you can kill them much faster with a Glock with a 30 round clip and machetes are much harder to hide. On the other hand, he and I live in an area where guns are part of the culture and there’s practically no shootings.

We have a culture of confrontation now. That can obviously make for trouble if mixed with mental illness and guns. I have no easy answers. What do you think?

Arizona sheriff links Limbaugh words to shooting

The kind of rhetoric that flows from people like Rush Limbaugh, in my judgment he is irresponsible, uses partial information, sometimes wrong information. [Limbaugh] attacks people, angers them against government, angers them against elected officials and that kind of behavior in my opinion is not without consequences.”

“The vitriol affects the [unstable] personality that we are talking about. You can say, ‘Oh no, it doesn’t,’ but my opinion is that it does.”

— Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik

To my knowledge, Dupnik is the first major Democratic politician (a sheriff of an Arizona County is a politician too) to call out the right in clear, unmistakeable terms -and then not back down.

The craven, cowardly Democrats in Congress and the White House who have never dared to say such things have much to learn from the sheriff. IMO, they are just as responsible for the current climate as Limbaugh. “The hottest circles in Hell are reserved for those who in time of great crisis, maintain their neutrality.”

A primary reason the right has gotten away with being so hostile is that no major Democrat has punched back. Until now.

Psychosis, barbarism and politics: the Arizona assassination

Rx for USA. Take immediately, as many as needed

Dave Riley in Australia.

While people can brew a quite mad cocktail in their own heads it is difficult to imagine this event at a political rally occurring anywhere else outside the US except in a war zone.

And the US has to be seen as a war zone.

If a Islamist walks into a Baghdad market place and blows himself and 30 others up — he is as mad/as pathological as this guy in Arizona. If Sarah Palin calls for the assassination of Julian Assange (as she has) she’s fuckin mad too…

At some point you have to look upon madness as an ideology embraced by both individuals and groups — political currents and otherwise — regardless of how much it is accepted as ‘normal’ discourse. And in the US ‘normal’ does no longer exist. Barbarism and psychosis are really one and the same head space.

Rather than looking for solutions, too often one side screams about how angry, unyielding, and insulting the other side is, either not realizing or deliberately ignoring that they are doing the same thing. It is possible to have strong disagreements and still respect the other person and not demonize them. Look, Dave Riley and I have had sharp disagreements at times but I respect his decades-long involvment in far left politics and would enjoy meeting him. Conflicts between people about politics does not mean the other person is automatically Evil. It just doesn’t. But too often, that what it feels like here in America now.

This country is so freaking polarized and on the edge now that it wouldn’t take much to push in into an abyss that would be very difficult to get out of, just a few more unhinged lone gunmen or, worse yet, some renegade splinter group that wasn’t crazy at all and knew exactly what they were doing.

It also seems to me that a lot of the response needs to face up to the fact that violent politics is as American as apple pie…and to defer too much to the individual case of mental illness argument merely lets the whole filthy capitalist mix off the hook.

It’s the ‘lone gunman cleans up corrupt town’ ethos. It’s bedrock in our culture. In its positive forms, it’s also the maverick, the individualist who creates something new by ignoring the accepted wisdom, and that can be good. But it sure has a dark side. That’s what we’re seeing now.

The abyss awaits. Will we turn away in time? Seriously. Because the rest of the planet is looking at us like we’ve just gone totally unhinged.

It’s time to stop the politics of fear and loathing

Putting out fire with gasoline. (Copyright Gunnar Gunnarsson, all rights reserved, used with permission)

Andy Carling writing for New Europe

As medics battled to save the Congresswoman’s life, carry away the dead and tend to the wounded, Sarah Palin and [Gifford’s opponent in the 2010 campaign Jesse] Kelly leaped into action… by shutting down their websites and feverishly sanitising their Facebook and Twitter accounts.

However, as thousands of comments were deleted from Palin’s Facebook, one seemed to survive the cull. “”It’s ok. Christina Taylor Green was probably going to end up a left wing bleeding heart liberal anyway. Hey, as ‘they’ say, what would you do if you had the chance to kill Hitler as a kid? Exactly.”

Since Obama’s election, there has been increasing anger from the Tea Party over health care reforms and…immigration. Looking at the protesters signs at their rallies, there are countless examples of threats and the promise of violence. In this atmosphere, is it surprising that such incidents have not occurred before.

As angry and hostile as the right-wing attacks are, I do not think Sarah Palin was responsible for the Tucson shootings anymore than Rahm Emmanuel actually wanted his politicial enemies murdered when he recited their names, smashed a fist into a hand, and yelled “dead.” But the marginally sane are often drawn to fringe groups where they can absorb ideas without actually being part of the group (and can be easily manipulated too.)

It would also greatly help if Democrats, especially those in Congress and the White House, would call the extreme hard right out on their violent rhetoric and oppose it, rather than being the timid little church mice they too often are, saying nothing. But this should not be done in a hostile, threatening way as that will just add to the growing tension. I came of age in the 1960’s and was politically active. It was a violent time with assassinations, cities burning, “Kill The Pigs” protest signs, Weather Underground bombings, the deranged Manson Family murders, and backdropped by a lunatic war. It got crazy then and it’s getting crazy now. Do we really want the country to fracture? Because it could, especially if the rhetoric continues to escalate.

There should be no complacency on this side of the Atlantic. There are many, including some in the European Parliament, who are as bad, when it comes to expressing hatred of immigrants and Muslims.

The US debate is just beginning. Perhaps it is a debate that Europe should also consider.

Domestic terrorism. It’s not just about guns

Vermont was the first state to allow concealed weapon carry without a permit and to my knowledge there have been few if any crazed gunmen or mass slaughters there.

So, gun violence isn’t just about the availability of guns. Most studies have found no correlation between the strictness or laxity of gun laws and gun violence. The Tucson shooter could have easily gotten a handgun in most any state (or on the streets.) I spend considerable time in rural Utah where most everyone has multiple guns, yet shootings are extremely rare.

It’s really about the shooter, isn’t it, and about a culture that thrives on confrontation and the demonizing of opponents. But it’s getting crazy when a federal judge and congresswoman get shot, and other innocents die too. This was domestic terrorism, which is generally defined as the deliberate killing of non-combatants, even if it was done by someone who clearly has a tenuous grasp on reality.

As mentioned in my previous post, we’d see such types on the fringes at public meetings when I was in a far left group. They were troubled, not coherent, and given to rants. They float around from group to group looking for something to make the voices in their heads stop. It’s not really about politics, except of course they can be easily exploited and manipulated. It wouldn’t surprise me to learn that some suicide bombers are lost souls like Tucson shooter.

Some on the very far right are probably pleased at what happened. There could easily be be more violence, if copycats or the fringes decide to follow. This is a time to be calm, not accusatory.