Who Am I?

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A nobody; a nitwit; a pilot; a motorcyclist; a raconteur; a lover...of life - who loves to laugh, who tries to not take myself (or anything) too seriously...just a normal guy who knows his place in the universe by being in touch with my spiritual side. What more is there?

10 January 2011

The Evil That Men Do

As the tragedy in Arizona began unfolded on TV the other day (and of course I’m talking about the event where Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was shot), there was one surreal moment for me.

I happened to surf by Fox News. They had one of their typically alarmist blurbs on their busy, cluttered screen. It said, “Shooting has whole country on edge.”


I wasn’t on edge. I was saddened and dismayed to hear about so many people getting shot and killed. But I was not “on edge.”

We live in a free society – one in which people are allowed (some would say encouraged) by our Constitution to own guns. The framers of the Constitution did this deliberately, knowing that an unarmed society is tantamount to slavery...which, oddly enough, they also endorsed (okay, so they weren’t right about everything).

But there’s a downside to unrestricted gun ownership that we don’t like to face. Sometimes crazy people own guns. And sometimes they use them for other things than plinking at empty beer cans.

I try to not get all upset by things I see on the national news. This is because I remember a time before there was any national news to speak of. There were three television networks, and each had a thirty minute news program in the evening. With all that goes on in the world, most of the things that happened domestically got the short shrift. There were no satellites like we have now that enable any two-bit reporter in any podunk town to be a star for 90 seconds.

I know that all kinds of bad things happened...have always happened throughout history. Multi-car wrecks, tornadoes leveling towns, murders, shootings, kidnappings, mudslides and babies getting stuck down wells... these didn’t just start when CNN went on the air. If this same Arizona shooting happened on a Saturday in 1965, you might not have even heard about it. And even if you did, the event would not have been granted the national catastrophe! status conferred on just about everything these days.

I hate that there are evil people in the world. I hate that people use violence against others. I wish it wasn’t so. But it is. And it’s been going on since the dubious biblical story of Cain and Abel.

We have already begun to hear that the young man accused of Saturday’s Arizona shootings was known to people as having mental problems. A lot of people seem to have known about it! People who knew him have come forward (anonymously, of course) to describe him in unflattering terms. And it leads us to wonder if anyone tried to reach out to him...and whether there is – or ought to be - such a mechanism in society to help the mentally troubled before they do something harmful either to themselves or others?

It's easy to become depressed and overwhelmed with all the violence and misery in the world. It makes you feel so...so...uncaring if you just shrug your shoulders and go, "Meh- it's the human condition - nothing we can do about it." But there is. What we can do is deal with our own little worlds...be kind and caring and responsive to the people around us. Be compassionate and sympathetic...and more importantly, empathetic. And we should try to help those who seem a little "out there."

But at the end of the day we must recognize and come to terms with the fact that sometimes people will do inexplicably horrible things anyway.


Bob said...

Very well put, Bob. Unfortunately and tragically, it's the nature of man. What a great point that maybe change starts with us -- in the way we treat people, the way we conduct ourselves and in the way we live.

In my lifetime, I can remember JFK, RFK, MLK, then the attempted assassinations of George Wallace, Gerald Ford and Ronald Reagan, not to mention Columbine, Jonesboro, Virginia Tech and the other school shootings. Are things getting worse or was this just another event for the "where were you when" file? I don't really know.

Do activists and politician who use poor/stupid metaphors incite this kind of thing? I don't think so. I think people who are going to commit horrible acts are going to commit horrible acts.

Bob Barbanes said...

Bob, with respect to whether activists and politicians incite such shootings, I deliberately did not go there. I believe that while their behavior is deplorable and surely doesn't help, it probably did not tip the scales in this case. However, it will be interesting to see what kind of Tea Party backlash arises from this.

From what I'm reading, this kid was a disassociated wack-job with a tenuous grasp of reality.

Reportedly, this same kid was at a previous appearance by Giffords. It is said that he asked her, "What good is government if words have no meaning?" Later, we hear that he was not pleased with her answer. Well duh.

I'm sure the congresswoman must have looked at him, blinked a few times wondering what planet he was from, and then gave as polite a non-answer as she could to a question that could not be answered even by the slipperiest, slimiest politician (and I've got a few in mind who would take a stab at it!).

This particular kid seems really out of touch with reality...IF...the things that are being attributed to him are true.

Can we predict the actions of every walking timebomb out there? Ehhh, probably not, sadly. As you say, crazy is as crazy does.

Redlefty said...

Like you I'm more interested in the pragmatic lessons that hopefully cause us to think about how we treat the margins in our own communities.

On top of that I'm concerned about what the next step might be for his spiritual journey. He was clearly a tortured soul and I have no real way to process that to guess at how/if things will be if we meet him again one day.

Bob Barbanes said...

Michael, good point! Jared Loughner is an avowed atheist. Anyone see the problem here? I think there's a stronger connection between Loughner's atheism than there is any supposed Tea Party influence.

A Godless man is one without a future; he only lives in the now. His actions have no consequence to him now (nevermind in eternity) because he does not acknowledge the very valid and worthwhile spiritual journey of the people he's killed/harmed. This is almost unbearably painful to consider - that he does not respect anyone ELSE's spirituality. Atheists can be quite selfish that way. It's almost as if Loughner were saying, "I don't believe in God so YOU'RE not going to get a God either!"

And so I wonder if there is any way to teach young people about spirituality without "cramming religion down their throats." How can we instill in young people the idea that their lives are worth something...that everyone's lives are!

Atheists would say that's bullshit, but I think with Loughner we have a clear example of the opposite effect. I know I'm reaching here, but if that boy did truly believe in a Creator...if he had any kind of spiritual side at all, could he have done what he did?

Those people did not deserve to die - at least, not by Loughner's hand. It wasn't the Tea Party that put him up to it. It was his denial of a moral code.

Debby said...

Good post and good comments. Lots to ponder.

Greybeard said...

To your post AND your comments.
And you also touch on what is now a big part of our problem...
We have shut down many of our mental institutions and turned their residents loose on an unwitting populace. The family structure in our country no longer resembles anything similar to "The Waltons", and even if it did, when you're looking at a strapping 22 year old man who thinks all those around him are mentally inferior, no family is going to be able to control him.
But they should have seen his problems, and someone, including this Sheriff Dickhead (er, Dubnik, sorry) who had prior indications of this kid's problems, certainly should have been keeping a watchful eye on him.

It will be interesting to see how the "lessons learned" will play out in this case, won't it?

Greybeard said...

More here for anyone interested.

Bob Barbanes said...

Well...I don't want to live in a country where anyone who doesn't act "normal" is suspect and put under police surveillance.

Having said that, we do seem to be lacking in our understanding and treatment of the mentally ill. It's like we just try to wish them away - until something tragic like this happens. And then you get all the stories of, "Oh yeah, we knew he was a strange guy."

Not all mentally ill people become violent. But they all deserve our compassion and help - two things we as a society do not seem willing or capable of providing.

On the other hand, you cannot force therapy on people, especially strong-willed 22 year-olds who think they know better than everyone else.

Sometimes bad shit just happens and you can't prevent it.