|See this crazy guy? It's only a matter of|
time until there are more crazies like him.
I published this post a year ago, right after the terrible shooting in Tuscon, Arizona on January 8, 2011. I'm guessing most people remember the general story - Jared Lee Loughner shot 18 people, including Representative Gabrielle Giffords, and left 6 people dead.
I read this post again as I was pondering what to say on the anniversary of this tragic crime, and I'm reminded that we Americans have learned almost nothing from the shooting. Almost nothing has changed. We're still just biding our time until something like this happens again. Calls for renewed bipartisanship, so prevalent in the days and weeks following the shooting, have fallen on deaf ears in Congress (mostly on deaf ears amongst the Tea Partiers in Congress). And American political discourse remains stupid.
The basic realities behind the Tuscon shooting are just as true today as they were a year ago:
- the mental health system in this country sucks. Everyone who ever met this kid Jared Lee Loughner knew that he was extremely unbalanced and probably needed mental health help, but for some reason he didn't get the help he needed.
- as a country, we have decided that citizens should have access to practically unlimited quantities of assault weapons and ammunition. We don't even regulate guns as seriously as we regulate toys.
If you combine those two lessons, it is not hard to conclude that massacres like this are inevitable. We are a big country with lots of people, and a tiny fraction of those people are batsh*t crazy. If you give batsh*t crazy people access to assault weapons, this country will occasionally face massacres like that in Tucson - it's a statistical inevitability. So, unless the U.S. wants to completely change its approach to mental health and/or assault weapons in the hands of citizens, we are just going to have to get used to paying the price of the occasional massacre. Since the U.S. is a pretty violent society, I'm guessing that we'll just stick with the status quo and act "shocked, shocked I tell you" when things like this happen, even though a quick statistical analysis demonstrates that massacres like this are inevitable.
On the bright side, one might say that American political discourse isn't quite as stupid as it was a year ago - Glenn Beck was finally booted from Fox News, and Sarah Palin has mostly disappeared from the political scene. Even though I'm sure Palin will find her way back sooner or later, these developments have made American political discourse a little less stupid - though now we have to contend with a Republican front-runner who seems to be a compulsive liar. Oh well, we can't win them all.
If you want to read my original post on the Tuscon shooting, click this link.