Paranoid schizophrenia — not political fervor — should be considered in Tucson tragedy.
AND NOW I WRITE THIS ON MAY 25, 2011 -- FOUR MONTHS AFTER JARED LOUGHNER WAS ACCUSED OF KILLING ONE AND WOUNDING SOME IN THE HORRIFIC SHOOTING OF INNOCENTS IN TUCON. LOUGHNER HAS BEEN FOUND INCOMPETENT TO STAND TRIAL BY REASON OF INSANITY.
I DO NOT FEEL SATISFACTION IN THIS. BUT I MAY BE JUSTIFIED IN FEELING VINDICATED. ON THIS DAY. A JUDGE HAS ANNOUNCED THAT THE ACCUSED SHOOTER WILL NOT STAND TRIAL. IT IS JUST AND WISE. I WROTE THE FOLLOWING PIECE FOUR MONTHS AGO. MY FAMILY'S HEARTBREAKING EXPERIENCE HAD EQUIPPED ME TO CALL THIS ONE -- AND CALL IT RIGHT.
January 10, 2010
It will almost certainly be announced that Jared Lee Loughner suffers from paranoid schizophrenia.
Easy there. I’m not a psychoanalyst. I had a brother who suffered from this cruel and pitiable disease. A talented artist, sculptor and teacher (MFA), he died at 52 at a nursing home in Angier, NC.
It is ghastly what Loughner did, and the anger and incredulous emotions that have erupted are justified.
But these intense feelings are misdirected. They should not be directed at the Tea Party, or Sarah Palin, or any political persuasion – or even the “alleged” shooter (we must be politically correct, mustn’t we?)
The 22-year-old drop-out and loner was and is sick. Desperately sick. Not sick in the sense of being a warped political lunatic. Sick with a disease which makes him unfit to wander about in the world of the sane.
I will be surprised, therefore, if it is not found that Loughner was a clear threat and could have been stopped long ago, and helped long ago, by being discovered as a ticking time bomb.
No one can say with assurance that an individual like this will kill or attempt to kill. But in this day and age, many opportunities to defuse this prospect existed, and should have been noticed.
My brother never killed anyone, and thank God for that, nor did he ever offer clear evidence that he might be such a threat. But he heard voices, thought the FBI, the CIA and the KGB were shadowing him, and wrote fantastic and often unintelligible statements which he sent to the newspapers, to prominent political figures, and others he knew personally.The disease ruined his life, his marriage, and brought untold grief to my father and mother, as well as to my brother and me. I cherish the memory of Bruce’s good years. There were too few of them.
Paranoid schizophrenia usually strikes its victims when they are in their twenties. It is an inherited disease. Both men and women are susceptible.
My mother’s sister, a vivacious young woman who loved life, was also stricken. She died mentally wasted years later in an institution in Baltimore.
My brother Bruce also spent much time in mental institutions, and was incarcerated frequently for bizarre and potentially harmful behavior.
And he was helped. He wasn’t cured, of course. But he was accorded good medical and psychiatric care, including powerful prescription medicines which calmed him and allowed him to function with some degree of normality.
If not for this, I do not know what the outcome might have been. At times, when he was off his medicines, the savage disease came back with a fury. It was a chilling lesson. Sanity of a sort is in the prescription bottle. It is ignored at one’s peril.
Conservatives believe passionately in assuming responsibility for personal actions — noble or otherwise. So I never thought I’d find myself saying this, but society, the Tucson community, this young man’s family, his teachers, and others who were close to him and observed his bizarre behavior were – while certainly not criminally negligent – at least incredibly naïve to have ignored the deafening alarm bells that were going off all around Jared Lee Loughner.
In the news this morning, there are reports that the alarm bells actually were heard – over and over. But no one acted until the unthinkable, but predictable, tragedy was played out.
And so we hear unfortunate statements that America’s freedom of speech – twisted in this case to focus on the conservative movement – should somehow be blamed and curtailed. That is irresponsible and cruel in the extreme.
It was not a political persuasion that took the lives of the innocent at the wonderful “Congress on Your Corner” event, and critically wounded Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, who is even now fighting for her life.
The evidence is already suggesting that what triggered this violent and deadly eruption can be traced back to a disease which can be inherited, treated and managed before it leads to a tragedy like this one that has horrified the nation.
One immediate reaction was that the death penalty should be sought for Loughner. This from the father of the precious 9-year-old Christina Green, who died in the hail of bullets.
This is not surprising from a grief-stricken parent. But it will not happen.
It is fortunate – if anything about this can be so described – that Loughner was stopped before he loaded a second ammunition clip into the semiautomatic Glock pistol he wielded, and that he was taken alive.
If suicide was a part of his “plan”, he was denied the chance to take this exit, which often is a grisly punctuation mark after mass shootings like this.
We will now have the opportunity for some careful and much-needed analysis, and calm reflection, to determine what did – and didn’t – spark this deadly tirade in Tucson, Arizona.
Our politicians, including Congressman Mike McIntyre, needn’t fear another outburst like this. At least not from any right-wing zealot. To be fair, McIntyre has not in so many words indicated that this is a suspicion he harbors.
But this is a familiar mantra which is commonly employed by left-wing media and partisans to pillory conservative Christian Republicans and portray their fervor as madness of a sort.
That’s not fair. It’s not right. It’s misguided. And it’s ignorant.
McIntyre should go ahead and bring in a phalanx of law enforcement protection at his next speech if that will make him more comfortable, and he shouldn’t be blamed for doing so.
But it does appear a bit melodramatic. And unless one of his rallies is attended by a few people suffering from paranoid schizophrenia, he’ll probably be safe.
Normal people don’t do this. And among these normal people I proudly include patriotic Americans, of any political persuasion, who feel moved to become actively involved in the political process — and bold enough to voice their hopes and concerns. It’s the great American way.
I loved my brother Bruce Owens Strickland. His bright and lucid intellect was struck down by a demon that he didn’t want or invite. I suspect the same demon is working fiendishly in the tortured life and soul of Jared Lee Loughner.
May God forgive him. And may God rest the souls of those who were slain, comfort their loved ones who are left to grieve, and bring healing grace to our beloved fellow American Gabrielle Giffords.
I will take criticism for these things I have said. And I may be in error with some of my conclusions. May God forgive me too if I have strayed off course. But I don’t think that’s the case. Time will tell.
Be assured that I have spoken sincerely and in good conscience, for what it’s worth.