There’s enough insanity to go around – and then some

Gun control activists are not just concerned about the criminally insane having guns. (Such diagnoses are too often only made after a shoot-’em-up anyway!) Otherwise sane people can act violently, too, and guns just make things that much worse.

When I hear criminals dismissed by news-jockies as “crazy”, “unbalanced”, “off”, I sometimes take on those stigmatizing labels – and I may be a lot of things but I am not paranoid.

Even some of my best friends…can be described as having, at least, a nodding acquaintance with mental illness.

While, as far as I know, a police check would not flag me as mentally ill, I probably owe that more to the fact that my only direct personal contact with police has been cordial and no investigation into my mental state, from their point-of-view, has been necessary (again, so far as I know).

In this blog, I have made no attempts to hide my interest in, and my personal diagnosis of, mental illness – beginning with major depression shortly after being diagnosed HIV-positive in 1989, then post-traumatic stress disorder, which was the result of a cab running me down in 2003, and – in more recent years – bipolar II, just one sobering assessment of which is here.

Bipolar II, which may have gone undiagnosed for years, manifested itself in me as a prolonged absence of depression.  I can look back at events in my life which coincided with a similar feeling.  First an absence of depression, then a sense of elation and euphoria in measures disproportionate to anything happening.

A search of this blog proves that I have no secrets.

The stigma of mental illness, characterized by an inability to talk about it intelligently, a tendency to mischaracterize and stereotype it and, therefore, a reluctance on the part of clients to speak about it, is pushing some of my buttons this weekend in the wake of Saturday’s terrible shooting spree in Tucson.

From this Canadian’s perspective, anyone with a grudge and a gun is dangerous. Yet it seems so hard for Second Amendment-obsessed Americans to see past someone’s mental illness and look critically at his ability to own a 9-mm Glock gun (and gain access to two 31-round clips). Are they afraid that mental health means testing might weed them out?

Six people were killed, including U.S. District Judge John Roll and a nine-year old girl the media likes to point out was born on September 11, 2001. Fourteen others were wounded.

Getting the most publicity, however, was the gunman’s clear target – Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz. – who was holding a constituency event at the time outside a local supermarket. While there will no doubt be wide coverage of the funerals of the dead in forthcoming days it is the targeting of Giffords by the alleged gunman, Jared Lee Loughner, which dominates the news as her prognosis of recovery from a “through-and-through” bullet wound to the brain is described as precarious.

Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik says Loughner has a troubled past with the law and there is reason to believe he may have a mental issue. (There was news in there somewhere.)

As seen in previous examples of high-profile medical issues in the news, there has been no shortage of armchair analysis, reminiscent of other prominent health cases.

“Physician, heal thyself.”

Variously described as “mentally disturbed” and “a madman”, Loughner has had the presence of mind to invoke his Fifth Amendment rights (silence). His internet presence is being examined with the cyber equivalent of a fine-tooth comb. It is the questions about his mental health which allow many Americans to rationalize their citizen army mindset. The sanity of the most liberal gun laws in the world, for which Giffords herself has strongly advocated, is not up for much discussion.

Loughner dropped out of high school in 2006, after his junior year. In 2008, he tried to enlist in the U.S. Army but was rejected.

Media shorthand: he was a nut-job who became a loner. The mentally ill are dangerous. Guns are fine. Don’t blame the over-the-top rhetoric of Sarah Palin or other whingers.

As I tweeted after turning off CNN at noon, “Final seg of Reliable Sources with Howard Kurtz, Rachel Sklar & Steve Malzberg: is there any sand left in that sand-box???”

Here’s some great further reading from

Gail Collins

Jeffrey Goldberg in The Atlantic

at Feministe

Slate’s Vaughan Bell
with “Crazy Talk”.


Sarah Palin incites stupidity, why not worse?

“If a Muslim put a map on web w/crosshairs on 20 pols, then 1 of them got shot, where would he b sitting right now? Just asking.” (tweet from Michael Moore)

I have nothing but best wishes for the victims and families of today’s gun madness in Tucson. Speaking from family experience, the first brain surgery on Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) was probably more about relieving the swelling than about making pronouncements on her prognosis. She does have youth and a ‘through-and-through’ bullet wound in her favour, however.

When Sarah Palin – this one – was reminded today of having put a “target” on Congresswoman Giffords, and others, someone on her staff quietly removed the campaign ad/map from her website.

Remember how many of us shook our heads in disbelief a couple of years ago when guns were found at Barack “Hussein” Obama election rallies and when gun sales increased after he was elected President?

Many Democrats can’t hide their excitement over the prospect of taking on Sarah Palin in 2012 but just how much more of the “Don’t retreat…reload” crap can we tolerate in our political discourse?

But, “Oh no,” gunners always protest, “guns don’t kill people, people kill people.”

Well just suppose Sarah Palin and Ann Coulter and Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck (and on and on, ad infinitum)…suppose these people of influence, however dubious, actually had more bricks in their load than we usually give them credit for? (It’s their ideas I actually find crazy not their marketing ingenuity!) Their followers, however, are not all (dare I say not at all) equipped to filter through incendiary rhetoric; and some may be set off, as it were, swept up en masse, yet often acting alone. We must use guns, they attempt to reason, when we have so much to fear.

Politicians are fanning out to reassure themselves that they are all, regardless of political affiliation or beliefs, elected to serve. It’s a comon bond. If we were to base everything we think about politics on what we hear on talk radio, cable news or in “gotcha” sound-bites we would not know that many people we elect, and of opposing political views, actually get along quite well with another.

But, alas, as Keith Olbermann attempts to point out we’d never know that.

Next year will mark 200 years since the start of the War of 1812, when the British, and Canadians loyal to the Crown, defeated the U.S. A. at historic sites along our shared border Re-enactment ceremonies are bound to be part of the commemorations. Do we need to remind people that no live ammunition will be tolerated?

Sarah Palin has a tough first week on the “Going Rogue” book tour

The #2 and #1 stories Friday on MSNBC’s “Countdown with Keith Olbermann” (Lawrence O’Donnell filling in) were a major public relations glitch for Sarah Palin at a book-signing in Indiana and then a montage of the late night comics – Steven Colbert, David Letterman, Conan O’Brien, Craig Ferguson and Jimmy Fallon – having great fun at Palin’s expense this week.

Bookstore by bookstore, this may be an even tougher slog than any political campaign – although leave it to her to claim it as good practice.