Saturday was going so well for me. Loki woke me up early, which was okay because I always feel more productive when I'm awake earlier in the day (translation: more time to sit in bed and do nothing). I went on a date that was really fun. I picked up some items from Walgreens that I needed. And I even straightened up my room, which has been clean for all of 2011 (usually my room stays clean for 2-3 days before returning to its usual disguise as the fourth circle of hell). I even vacuumed. And then I crawled into bed with a little green bird and looked online.
So here's what I guess I know. Representative Gabrielle Giffords, who has faced numerous threats and actual acts of violence (her office was vandalized--rocks thrown, etc.), was at a Congress on your Corner event. This guy named Jared Loughner, who has had lots of issues (drug use, dropped out of college), went up to the congresswoman and shot her in the head. He then opened fire on the crowd, killing several elderly people, a Federal judge, one of the congresswoman's aides, and a 9-year-old girl. Fourteen people were injured, including Giffords, who managed to survive the gunshot to the head and has been in critical condition since Saturday. Loughner was tackled and apprehended before he could do further harm to others or himself, and now faces two counts of attempted murder, two counts of murder, and one count of the attempted murder of a congressperson.
Here are some more things I know. For a long time now, several individuals and groups on the right have been espousing violence--specifically gun violence--as the way to "take back" America. That is not to say that these people have actually taken their guns, gone to perceived enemies, and threatened to kill them. I'm talking about the rhetoric that's being used, the imagery that we're seeing. It's not a secret that these individuals and groups have been using this rhetoric and imagery, and I'm actually just mostly offended that now, they're acting like WHOOPS WE DIDN'T MEAN IT.
Head's up, people: words mean things. If what you mean to say is, "I know that right now, we feel hopeless because there are changes happening in our country we don't agree with. We need to stand up and speak out against these changes, vote for the people who will stop these changes, and introduce legislation to make the changes that we want to see," then don't say, "Don't retreat, RELOAD." Don't talk about "second amendment remedies." Don't threaten gun violence if you don't think gun violence is the answer!
Now yeah, sometimes you want to use analogies and metaphors in your rhetoric to mobilize your base. Cool. But if you're not creative enough to do that without actually threatening people at the same time, maybe you should find a different job?
Here's something I don't know: Jared Loughner's brain. I haven't met the guy or his brain. I don't have his medical history. I don't have an extremely accurate narrative describing his drug use. I really don't know.
And I don't fucking care.
Yeah, it's true, there's got to be something wrong if you think that it's acceptable for you to try to assassinate a congressperson and then open fire on a crowd. But we, as a nation, need to stop making the erroneous assumption that if you are capable of doing something almost universally accepted as wrong and evil, you must be mentally ill. There's really no reason to make this assumption, beyond, "I don't understand how someone could make this decision, unless their brains didn't work properly." Well, aren't YOU a talented psychologist?
I know people who are, as we say, mentally ill. Mental illness is a term that bothers me, since it implies that these people always have sick brains that don't work properly. But the people I know who are mentally ill are just like me, for the most part. I've never had to stop being friends with someone who's mentally ill because they've threatened me or done something horrible. And in many cases, I haven't even known about a friend's mental illness for a long time because it's not obvious.
So is Loughner "crazy?" I guess the better question is, "Well, does it even matter?"
Ask the victims--does it matter whether or not the guy is crazy? Or does your gunshot wound suck just as much?
Ask congress--does it matter whether or not the guy is crazy? Or are you still concerned that voting the "wrong" way will put your life in danger?
Ask the people and groups spouting crap about reloading and the second amendment--does it matter whether or not the guy is crazy? Or are you still thinking now about whether or not your rhetoric might have an impact you didn't want?
People are also freaking out about who's allowed to buy guns. Look, we can't have everything both ways. Either guns are hard for everyone to get or easy for everyone to get. Generally, if you're working hard to increase access to guns, people you'd rather not get a gun are going to get a gun. Make guns harder to get for everyone, including you, and then you can solve that. But clearly, this is like increasing spending without increasing taxes; what the hell are you trying to do here?
Sady Doyle at Tiger Beatdown makes an excellent point in her Arizona shooting FAQ. We don't know if Loughner is crazy, but it's pretty clear that he's stupid. She has a great takedown of his favorite books list, correctly pointing out what I noticed as well: no one who ACTUALLY understood these books would have liked all of them. Come on! We are not dealing with a genius.
So, to sum up:
1) This ruined my Saturday.
2) Being mentally ill does not make you kill people.
3) Do not use violent rhetoric if you do not mean to incite violence (also known as "words mean things").
4) It doesn't really matter very much if Loughner is mentally ill.
5) Jared Loughner is stupid.
6) Sady Doyle rules.