Many years ago, I did some reporting on mental illness, and interviewed the mother of a man diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. She was a real piece of work, and I recall thinking I’d have gone crazy with her as a mother, but I’m sure her burden in life was no small thing. She was insistent that her son had been made crazy by psychedelic drugs, mainly pot and LSD, which he’d taken in his early adulthood. He was a child of the ’60s, and that’s what children of the ’60s did.
I’m sure she knew that mental illness typically presents in early adulthood, and she probably knew that perhaps millions have experimented with the same drugs without tipping over into insanity. To her, it was the X factor that explained the inexplicable: How did this happen?
I’m willing to believe the drugs were a catalyst, paranoia and hallucinations being a well-known symptom of both schizophrenia and hallucinogenic drug use. A catalyst, but not the only catalyst. So is stress. So are the mystifying chemicals swirling around in our bodies. But who’s to say a brain with hallucinations and paranoia just coming to the boil might not be nudged another degree or two by a drug that induces both? People prone to depression should avoid alcohol, because alcohol is? Class? A depressant.
There’s been a lot of talk these past 48 hours about how much the martial rhetoric of the tea-party right may have contributed to the shooting of Gabrielle Giffords in Arizona. You know — that wonderful conservative Democrat, cut down by a crazy leftist (in the Fox News narrative). There’s a lot of discussion about Sarah Palin’s crosshairs map I posted Saturday. For the record, I don’t think this Loughner kid saw that map and had it act like the queen of diamonds did on Raymond Shaw in “The Manchurian Candidate.” But I do think an unhealthy mind, looking around for weak spots to blast through like so much hot lava, can be affected by the zeitgeist, whatever it is at the moment.
A pretty vague statement, I realize.
A friend of mine likes to quote a line he first heard in an interview, that when people go crazy, they tend to go crazy in three main areas — sex, religion and aliens. They flock to others who believe they are watched at all times by a shadowy being in the sky, which is also pretty much the monotheism argument for good behavior. Does that make religion bad? Of course not. Does that mean Sarah Palin had a hand in Loughner’s action? Of course not. But I wouldn’t want to be her today, either.
One of the ten thousand things about that peabrain that has bugged me from the get-go is this: The way Palin dragged into the mainstream, and held up for celebration, a certain sort of political attitude I used to only hear on talk radio. Lock and load! …I’ll give up my guns when they pry them from my cold, dead fingers. …Don’t retreat, reload! And so on. I am not a fan of Andrew Sullivan by a long shot, but I’m fascinated by this passage he found on Palin’s Facebook page:
To the teams that desire making it this far next year: Gear up! In the battle, set your sights on next season’s targets! From the shot across the bow – the first second’s tip-off – your leaders will be in the enemy’s crosshairs, so you must execute strong defensive tactics. You won’t win only playing defense, so get on offense! The crossfire is intense, so penetrate through enemy territory by bombing through the press, and use your strong weapons – your Big Guns – to drive to the hole. Shoot with accuracy; aim high and remember it takes blood, sweat and tears to win.
Focus on the goal and fight for it. If the gate is closed, go over the fence. If the fence is too high, pole vault in. If that doesn’t work, parachute in. If the other side tries to push back, your attitude should be “go for it.” Get in their faces and argue with them. (Sound familiar?!) Every possession is a battle; you’ll only win the war if you’ve picked your battles wisely. No matter how tough it gets, never retreat, instead RELOAD!
How many times would you have to read that before you realized she’s talking about a basketball tournament? She — or whoever handles her web stuff — headlines the piece, “Warning: Subject to New Politically Correct Language Police Censorship,” so it seems her ghost is having a bit of fun here, but it’s of a piece with other things this staunch Christian writes about politics — it’s a battle, requiring big guns, artillery, lots of ammo. Ha ha, those politically correct language police! She certainly has made “don’t retreat, reload!” a rallying cry of sorts, offering it in March (when the crosshairs map made its debut) and to buck up Laura Schlessinger in August. It’s mentioned in her first book, attributed to her father, although anyone who’s spent any amount of time reading bumper stickers knows it didn’t originate with him, either. That’s one reason so many of her supporters like her. Hey, my dad used to say that!
When you’ve made political disagreements — which are about ideas, after all — into something that requires big guns and heavy artillery and armies, when you’ve literally targeted a woman who gets shot in the head a few months later, can you really pull the shocked-shocked act when people notice the connection? Really? Honestly, I wasn’t all that surprised by the shooting of Giffords (although I thought it would be the president someone would take a shot at). I’ve been expecting it for months, since those water-the-tree-of-liberty T-shirts started showing up at tea party rallies. I’m sure you’ve heard by now that Palin’s people are calling the notorious crosshairs “surveyor’s symbols.” The fact they’re floating that preposterous bullshit, along with their hastening to take the graphic down, suggests that while they’ll still protest furiously, they still feel something warm on their hands, and it’s not maple syrup.
In the end, it may well be that Loughner was answering only to the voices in his head. What a wonderful world it would be if that was the only place we ever hear Palin’s again, too.
Folks, I have to be out of range for most of today, which means I may not be able to participate much, or approve comments that get hung in moderation. All I ask is that we keep it civil (which you almost always do), and that some of you (and you know who you are) try to keep it on the rails. Can we do that? I know we can.