Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Armchair Psychiatry in the Wake of Political Assassinations

Everyone seems so comfortable pronouncing Jared Loughner mentally deranged.  I've seen him called paranoid schizophrenic and/or psychotic yesterday on Facebook, and heard nearly every pundit on MSNBC or CNN  make similar pronouncements including calling him a homicidal maniac with the sole exception of Rachel Maddow.  If we can agree that anyone who commits mass murder and/or political assassinations is crazy, then we can stop calling political assassinations terrorism when the person committing mass killings with a handgun has a Middle Eastern last name. 

In the sense that Jared Loughner's had problems in school, was kicked out, tried to join the military and was not allowed to do so because he'd taken drugs or was on drugs or some other vague something about Jared Loughner and drugs is another fairly common part of his mental health assessment the armchair psychiatrists out there cite as proof that he was unhinged. (Drug use as evidence of insanity would make a high percentage of young men and women officially crazy on every single day in every place in the country at one moment or another.)  He was arrested for having drug paraphernalia, but the charges were dropped. I haven't heard how long ago that happened, but it's part of his history and I trust an arrest record and a courts dismissal of charges.  Are they determinative of his craziness?  Not in my book, but I'm just the bipolar lady living in her garage who makes little secret that she self medicates with pot and has her whole life long.  But then I believe almost all of you are self-medicating with one thing or another at any given moment.  And who didn't go through a period of experimenting with some kind of intoxicant that your parents might have called you crazy for (if they'd only known what you were doing) back when you were young and rebellious?

The attempted mass assassination of United States Congresswoman Giffords and murder of her staffers and constituents, with a Federal Judge as collateral damage, is horrific, unspeakable.  We can only make sense of it if the angry and alienated young man who bought the gun and ammunition and went on a very targeted killing spree was insane, was a homicidal maniac.  No, he was a just another angry and alienated young white man in America in a state where the crazy seems to be in overdrive and anyone can go to the local store for guns and illegal ammunition.

 It's a pretty safe bet that money for routine screening for mental health problems is nonexistent in Arizona where money for life saving organ transplants has been cut from the state budget in favor of providing $500 million to private prisons.  Besides that, how many angry young men in America do you know who would avail themselves of the opportunity for a voluntary mental health evaluation?  I'm guessing that a lot of young men would rather lose their left nut than be diagnosed with a mental illness. But once insnared in the system and diagnosed and treated with drugs and therapy, it's almost impossible to force young men to take the drugs that would manage their illness.  Men are under served by the mental health system because they can't and won't admit they have a problem that requires medicating.  It's stigmatized like nothing else in this country. I bet it's easier to take being called a fag than a psychopath.  This has to be part of the reason that his schools, the police and courts, and the military were not willing to make treatment mandatory after coming into contact with a young man like Jared Loughner.  Either the evidence of mental illness was thought to be too flimsy to make it mandatory in any of his brushes with authorities, or we don't know anything yet.  But can anyone who targets large numbers of people for killing be considered sane?  Is there a family in this country of 90% gun ownership who doesn't have an angry, alienated young man who isn't talking about why he's so angry, why he feels so alone?

We know that Jared Loughner was trying to get an education.  He was attending a Community College and was evenually asked to leave and prohibited from coming back.  He tried to join the Military and was rejected there.  I'm sure each of these rejections fueled his alienation and anger.  And even if he hadn't been able to buy a gun and amunition legally, he could have bought one from a private seller at a gun show or out of someones trunk in the parking lot of Wall Mart.  Guns are easier to buy than antidepressants, and cheaper when you get right down to it.

Monday Rachel Maddow held up clippings for twenty or so mass shootings by young men with handguns all over the country in the past twenty years (which was a fraction of the actual number of such stories).  It's not as uncommon as it should be.  I'm not as shocked as I should be.  Yes, I'm filled with sorrow for the family's of the victims.  I'm hoping for a good recovery for Congresswoman Giffords.  I'm stunned that no amount of slaughter with a single handgun with an extended clip can make us talk sanely about gun control.  We are the most heavily armed nation on the planet. This is the one area where we are number one.  There are 90 guns for every 100 people in the United States. I know, for most of you that's just a ho hum statistic. That's a sickening statistic to me.  Because there is no way to force anyone into a taking a psych evaluation prior to buying a gun and ammunition.  I think it should be a requirement for anyone buying a gun, but I'm just the crazy lady who takes her medications and doesn't own a gun.  But I'd bet money I could go to any sporting goods store and buy a Glock drive a couple of blocks to Wall Mart and buy an extended ammo clip.  It would make committing suicide a lot easier.  The difference between a crazy old woman and an alienated young man is, he's far more likely to kill other people before killing himself.