Palin and Tea Party Rhetoric Was Not the Reason Gabrielle Giffords Was Attacked -- America's Treatment of Mental Illness Is to Blame

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The attempted assassination of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, the incidental execution of Arizona's Chief federal judge, the collateral killing of five bystanders, including a child, and the deranged wounding of 13 politically curious civilians is not the result of the First Amendment's perversion by talk radio, Sarah Palin or the recent emergence of vitriolic speech.

 

Hateful speech, in point of fact, has not emerged with Republicans; it preceded tar and feathers in America.

The suggestion that yesterday's carnage in Tucson, Arizona, is the result of words gone wrong trivializes the bloodshed and ignores a grotesque reality.

The civil society advocates cloud the fundamental issue of Giffords' shooting: mental health.

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The crazy who roam our streets without notice or treatment, not loudmouths, are the menace.

Jared Loughner attempted to get into the army of the United States. He was rejected, according to an early television report following a mental health evaluation. He was too crazy to go kill the Taliban, but he was simply fine to wander around amongst the rest of us.

Now the army has muzzled up. It won't speak any longer about why Jared Loughner was rejected. An organization that we arm and send across the world to shoot its way through Iraq and Afghanistan is too worried about civility and privacy to use its words.
Instead, the military turned Loughner loose upon the rest of us.

Jared Loughner was thrown out of Pima Community College because he was so menacingly disturbed. Loughner was told he could not come back to the junior college unless he saw a mental health counselor.

He was too crazy for the community college, so administrators simply turned him back into the community.

Civility is not the issue.

The shallow, self-serving calls for the moderation of rhetoric, for the elimination of passionate politics, for the muzzling of the Tea Party's adoption of an American symbol of the revolution -- a gun -- is a hypocritical repudiation of this nation's particular embrace of principle.

It forgets the aggressive ideals of the civil rights movement and the anti-war movement. Such calls for Norman Rockwell's vocabulary is the sugar coating of the struggle for equality that remembers only Martin Luther King Jr. and forgets H. Rap Brown, Stokely Carmichael, and the Malcolm X.

It remembers Hubert Humphrey but forgets Abbie Hoffman. It memorializes Mothers for Peace but forgets Students for a Democratic Society.

But the sanitizing of our contentious history is small beer.

In 1971, a University of Arizona graduate, Geraldo Rivera, exposed the scandalous conditions in Willowbrook, a mental institution in New York.

Rather than triggering reform, Rivera's report began the abandonment of the mentally ill, who were dumped upon the streets of America, where they remain.

In Arizona, as in much of this nation, the single largest source of mental health treatment, such as it is, occurs in jail.

America's refusal to address mental illness institutionalized homelessness and yields a deadly cocktail of rampant drug abuse and violence that we are too civil to discuss frankly (In San Francisco a census of the homeless population was crippled when auditors were not allowed to ask street people if they were homeless because these words were not considered civil.)

The problem isn't outspoken and outrageous Tea Party remarks; the problem is the silent majority. (When people step over the line, arrest them. But for crying out loud, The New York Times editorialized today against someone hanging a politician in effigy).

The problem isn't that Sarah Palin asked the faithful to reload.

The problem is mental illness.

The problem isn't the Second Amendment.

The problem is that we have let crazy people exercise the Second Amendment.


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123 comments
Monica
Monica

the insensitive term "crazy" is ignorant and repugnant all in itself. how, exactly, are you allowed to be a journalist with shallow reporting like this?

Jay
Jay

Gun control. Guns are to easy to obtain. The Second Amendment was written about MUSKETS! Not semi-automatics.

Jesus
Jesus

lessons I learned from reading all these post- You can't stop crazy . . no one can- you live in a dream world if you think you can. Guns don't kill people only crazy people with easy access to them do and if you think yourself as a leader who's words are meant to inspire others, then you have to recognize that you can inspire crazy people too- marketing is marketing whether it is to sell a product on tv or a political message- they impact the crazy in different ways. It's just silly to pretend otherwise.

redeyed
redeyed

Well when Palin called Assange to be hunted down and assisanated what type of speech is this called?She is one dangerous woman who cannot keep hermouth shut. Not fit to run for any office whatsoever.Look she beats a poor fish to death and enjoys it, the news ran that one. Something is wrong with this woman. Enough said!

Docbob498th
Docbob498th

And guess which state ranks 50th in caring for the mentally ill? Stumped? The answer is Good Ole Compassionate CONservative ARIZONA.

Kathy Monkman
Kathy Monkman

My sister was violently murdered in 1988. My schizophrenic brother went off the deep end after her homicide and never returned. He often now has delusional paranoid ideas about homicide and people plotting to kill him (which is what in fact happened to his and my sister). To think mentally ill people are not influenced by messages and intense experiences going on on the OUTSIDE is, in my experience, incorrect. Like we incorporate our waking life, often in to our dream life at night in a nonsensical way, delusional systems often incorporate some distorted aspect of what they've been exposed to. As paranoid delusional systems often revolve around "religiosity" and "government plots", it's a natural conclusion that paranoid people will be influenced by what they are experiencing and hearing "on the outside". I'm not talking blame but I am talking about a DIRECT RELATIONSHIP. These inflammatory statements about targets, crosshairs, fear, reloading, are meant to inflame. I guess you could call Loughner himself "collateral damage" for the greater intent of the vitriolic rhetoric. Loughner in the State of AZ, even if presented for involuntary commitment would likely have been denied. Again I know of what I speak having accompanied my paranoid, hallucinating, engaging in self destructive behavior brother to the County hospital on more than one occasion in the middle of the night being turned away and having to bring him home like that because he wasn't sick enough, hadn't actually killed himself yet or injured someone else. THAT is our system here. There are no clear cut answers or "targets" for blame but there are many many areas and levels of this tragedy which need change and inspection.

Mark
Mark

Instead of going on dozens of talk shows and blaming Rush Limbaugh for the awful events in Tucson the Sheriff should have been called on the carpet for his incompetent behaviour that included arresting Jared Loughner five times, yet although having a law in Arizona that could have remanded him for 72 hours for psychiatric exams his deputees decided simply to release him each time . If they had forced him to have psychiatric evaluations he would have been sent to a place for therapy but instead the nation is grieving at the loss of six innocent lives, lives that should have been long and filled with happiness and good health. This did not have to be and if the sheriff had done the right thing we would not be mourning the loss of these innocent people. The sheriff needs to look in the mirror for the reason why this deranged loser was let back on the streets to commit murder.

inconginio
inconginio

everyone mentions amendments while most of us only know there for our good and not what they are, lets mention making sure the other person is right someone is wrong no one says anything just laughs them away, or walks away, if one helps one can get hurt. we have to change our value's just care & stop saying we do.speak out its better to be a alive fool, then a dead nothingness.

Anon
Anon

The problem is the silent majority.

Anon
Anon

Mr. Lacey, Thoughtful and insightful article, though most of the bloggers here don't seem to understand it.

Pissed-Off Reader
Pissed-Off Reader

Umm, the report by Geraldo Rivera, at least part of which can be found on Facebook, concerns Willowbrook, an institution for "the profoundly and severely retarded", not a "mental institution".

Willowbrook does not support the writer's thesis.

Don't they have fact-checking and editors at this newspaper?

thomas mc
thomas mc

I've seen the vile, Satanic hate spewing out of local Tea Party members, there is no justification for their behavior. They are destroying America!

ColonelDrapes
ColonelDrapes

Is it true that the Pima County Sheriff's Department arrested Loughner a few times? Maybe the sheriff is covering his own butt when he attempts to blame Sarah Palin and Rush Limbaugh. Can George W. Bush be far behind? Oh, wait, that's Obama!

ColonelDrapes
ColonelDrapes

I'm intrigued that you would blame the Army for this. I remember the days when a judge would tell a suspect, "Go to jail or join the Army." Now we don't have to take people like that.

My view is that the destruction of families is the biggest problem. What are the responsibilities if Loughner's and Virginia Tech shooter Cho's parents in identifing that something is wrong with their children and getting them help. Those parents are the ones who foisted these two killers onto society. Loughner's parents wouldn't even let the FBI into their house yesterday. They appear more culpable when they act like that.

Slaveof
Slaveof

The sheriff was a part of the LOCAL Tucson law enforcement failure to protect HIS community and as a smoke screen he is blaming "the right". Someone needs to investigate all local law enforcement interactions and responses to possible threats involving this psychopath. I think you will find they did little or nothing.

Stacy
Stacy

This is, to me, the clearest, briefest responsible explainition of the reality of the Gifford murder.

Oksi C. Narf
Oksi C. Narf

Now you are blaming the army for not sending him to Iraq. He was not admit because simply he is not qualified for obvious reasons. I hate this blame game by liberal media.

SicknessofChoice
SicknessofChoice

Had Loughner been assessed as mentally ill then he would not have been able to even buy a gun! The Army rejected him because he was too mentally unstable? Imagine that, too unstable to whack Islamic militants yet he is out walking amongst society like a time bomb! That's another reason we need to change the laws and allow police and other entities to intervene in cases like this where the person has clearly demonstrated mental instability? If they could even do an emergency mental health assessment order which would be similar to a temporary restraining order in structure which would serve to prevent a person who is demonstrating mental instability from buying a gun, at least until they can be assessed as to their mental state? We need something like this to be enacted in order to start addressing this problem! This would be a step in the right direction and wouldn't disarm the law abiding or prevent them from defending themselves from the criminal element!

SicknessofChoice
SicknessofChoice

What gets me about this is that people knew this guy was unstable for at least a couple years and yet nobody intervened to get him at least assessed for his mental state which was not good? As long as America continues to ignore people who are mentally disturbed we will continue to have violent incidents like this, not to mention all the secret murders, rapes and other atrocities being committed by people who should not be walking around in society because they are criminally insane and should be institutionalized because they are a danger to society! Prohibiting guns will do nothing but disarm the law abiding who obviously need to defend themselves with all the nuts and violent criminals who are loose! People who are mentally ill or criminals do not recognize or care about laws, they will continue to get guns regardless of what the law says and a gun ban would open up another lucrative black market for arms traders and other elements of organized crime! We would begin to see REAL fully automatic assault weapons on the streets of America just like they have in the Middle East and South America and other hotspots! Guys like Loughner intent on causing mayhem and death could just as easily make a bomb or use a vehicle to cause mass death? What are we going to do ban gasoline, matches, lighters, vehicles? We cannot ban our way out of this issue! We need to address the mental health issue ASAP, perhaps as part of the current Healthcare debate! Also psychiatrists have stated that the "lone wolf" killers seek notoriety and a type of immortality gained from doing something horrendous like killing a famous person and it doesn't matter if it's a singer like John Lennon or a political idol? If they were disgraced and not recognized in the media as they are now, perhaps it would prevent some from acting? It's a complex issue which a gun ban will not solve and I for one refuse to be unable to defend myself from this type of element in society just because some knee jerk Libs have a one track mind which proposes nothing which will actually help!

Klauszus
Klauszus

When I taught school in california we were required to report any suspicion of child abuse under penalty ofa fine if we did not. Why are not schools and colleges required to report suspected mental illness ti authorities?

Sober&Straight
Sober&Straight

Liberalism is the mental disease at fault in this case. And the liberals cultivate support by keeping a large portion of the population intoxicated on their mind-altering drug of choice. IN this case that was marijuana.

Itsnotallgood
Itsnotallgood

Being able to crank out 30 rounds in less than 15 seconds is much different than tar and feathers. I'm a gun owner I know that there will be more nut cases out there that will kill more people, no matter what we say, but wouldn't it be nice if our elected leaders took a moral high ground when it comes to discourse of an issue. Saying things like "Second amendment remedy" or praising constituents as “great Americans” for saying they are “proud right-wing terrorists” is not what I want to hear from my leaders.

joann
joann

Oh so very true. I have a self medicating autistic son who is in and out of jail with absolutely no idea why. He just does not understand why your rules and my rules are better or worse than his own rules and why does he have to listen to ours? Why don't we just all follow our own rules. . thus his logic runs in circles that I can follow but not endorse. And because he is an adult I cannot make him get care or take his medicine or anything else. Fortunately, he is his only enemy and the rest of the world is safe from him.

Edmund Burke
Edmund Burke

Loughner, like many psychotic killers, gave his teachers, parents and others plenty of warning of his dangerous mental state. Unfortunately, when teachers and others reported their concerns to authorities, nothing was done. Police can do little until an actual crime takes place, while mental-health authorities are hamstrung by federal and state laws designed to protect the rights of mentally ill citizens. While laws, like the Americans with Disabilities Act, are well-intentioned, they often leave the general public at risk, while blocking adequate mental-health care for those who desperately need it. The late 20th century movement to “deinstitutionalize” the mentally ill did free many patients from oppressive mental institutions, but simply dumped those patients onto American streets. It is time to forget movies about 18th and 19th century insane asylums and face the real problem—how to identify, treat, and if necessary institutionalize dangerously psychotic people.

Atlanta
Atlanta

The writer of the agenda filled article has obviously never listened to the continuous diatribes of right wing radio that we in the South are subjected to daily on AM radio. People in the government are referrred to as vermin and traitors bent on taking away our freedom. Freedom to be uninsured, I guess, but the hate and vitriole is constant, paranoid, and a person who listens to it everyday soaks it up like a sick sponge and regurgitates it instead of thinking. Rush Limbaugh used to call President Clinton "serial rapist Bill Clinton" every time he talked about him. Just listen to it late at night on a southern expressway sometime. Its sick and incites unreasoning violence. Look at the tea party nuts screaming at senators at town hall meetings. And as far as there being nuts on "both sides" how many death threats do you think McConnel and Boehner have actually gotten compared to people on the other side. Give me a break.

Jeffrey Dillon
Jeffrey Dillon

The comments are asinine and ridiculous. You and I both know that the Army recruiters have laws to comply with regarding people's privacy. This article suggest the Army recruiter's should have screamed on a soap box, "Insane-Reject-Take Notice". Ask me if rhetoric kills. I am gay. Hate rhetoric kills. The mentally ill are among us, and some of them get paid to spout rhetoric about all kinds of subjects without any circumstantial backing. I am very sorry for all and I note that the young girl was born on September 11th, 2001. We are at war with ourselves and our neighbors. The message of love would go a lot further towards calming people down and making friends in the world. Please, Arizona, and all you Tea Partners, stop being mean.....There is no reward....Why can't there be hope without a backdrop of fear?

Keith Jennings
Keith Jennings

"the First Amendment's perversion by talk radio" LOL you're such a dope.

STL
STL

No one, especially the Republicans, wants to adequately fund mental health services, but they are quick to castigate the mentally ill for not getting treatment. If we don't provide adequate services, people like Loughner will continue to fly under the radar. That being said, I don't think you can ignore the role of the violent rhetoric in this situation. My own son is schizophrenic. Fortunately his delusions don't involve the government; his are always about the Russian mob and the Mafia. But I got to thinking....what if Pres. Obama was portrayed on all those Tea Party signs as a mob boss, instead of Lenin, Stalin, or Hitler? What if they were calling the Democrats mobsters instead of socialists? What if they were scaring the public about mob hits instead of "re-education" camps? It is conceivable that being constantly bombarded by such rhetoric and images could push him over the edge.

howardfein
howardfein

Hey PEOPLE! Y'all are acting like this was the first politician shot in public!

Andre, O
Andre, O

Impressed with this article. Your usage of words and descpitiveness puts you at the ranks of the seasoned legends. Keep on making us happy.

Gg
Gg

The Tea Party is not to blame.America's treatment of mental illness is not to blame.The shooter is to blame. Get over it and learn to hold people accountable.

Theitguy
Theitguy

I cannot believe the level of ignorant crap being spewed because of this event. The facts are:1.) A man used a gun to kill a nine year old child, a federal judge, and a serving congresswoman, among other deaths that were caused by this person. So far, he has yet to say why or what drove him to do it. But thanks to the saturation factor on our 200+ media outlets looking to scoop everyone else with new minutiae and meaningless hearsay, we now rush to blame (Palin, conservatives, liberals, communists, Homeland Security, little green men from Mars, you take your pick) something that may or may not have anything to do with this horrendous crime. So, instead of rushing to judgment (" He's crazy/liberal/overdosing on Glenn Beck/Hannity/should have been denied a gun") why don't we wait for someone who has actually interacted/investigated this crime to announce why/what drove him to it.

Old Timer
Old Timer

I am 70 years old and most of you are too young to remember this. Its true. Look it up.

Back in the 1970's there was a big push by the ACLU and liberal Democrats to release many people committed to mental health institutions saying their civil rights were being abused. This was taken before the then very liberal-leaning Supreme Court by the ACLU and afterwords many mentally ill people were let out from these institutions and it was made very difficult to commit anyone to a mental institute against their will. The Democrats in Congress were behind this movement and promised that these people would be taken care of in government-supported half-way houses where they could live (voluntarily) and would be taken care of. The only thing was these "Half-way houses" were never funded and built. This is the reason why we have so many demented homeless on our streets and the reason people like Jared Loughner cannot get the help they need.

I am very familiar with this event as my neighbor across the street at that time was the psychiatrist in charge of our state's program to do this. I discussed it with him often.

Old timer

Jesus
Jesus

Not buying it. This is not Law and Order- that not the way it works in real life

Niblick8
Niblick8

David J. and Sheila M. Rothman wrote The Willowbrook Wars; these records are the Rothmans’ research files on the Willowbrook case. Included are publications relating to mental health care and photocopies of reports, memoranda, legal briefs, correspondence, and other records from official sources (such as: the State Office of Mental Health and Mental Retardation, the Willowbrook Review Panel, and New York City mental health agencies). Also available are an extensive number of community placement files that include information on individual cases, reports on other community placement programs, reports on the Willowbrook community placement program, legal papers on community placement, and duplicate copies of professional literature on community placement.

Steve Muratore
Steve Muratore

Even IF the Pima County Sheriff's Dept had arrested Loughner a few times, Dupnik wouldn't necessarily be responsible for releasing him without treatment. That would be a decision from a court or a prosecutor's office. I'm not sure I buy the premise of letting Palin and the Tea Party completely off the hook, but Lacey does make a compelling point regarding lack of treatment of mental illness.

Jesus
Jesus

dude - this is not a lib issue or conservative issue- your too self absorbed into your own politically ideology - how do you know that guy is crazy- because the same libs in the media you attack told you so. I think it is just a easy excuse to label the guy crazy. Nobody knows why he did what he did. Should he be excused from getting proper punishment because you label him crazy. That is absurd.

Docbob498th
Docbob498th

Arizona has had a "Fourth Standard" law on the books since the early 90s so that we don't have to wait for someone to harm himself, or others before they can be involuntarily committed. I know because I was involved in the very first use of this law to prevent a patient from being discharged from the forensic unit at the state hosp.

David
David

yes just listen to rush limbaugh for one day and you can see how out of control the right is, calling the left every name in the book EVERYDAY. tone it down and lets all work together to bring this country back

Docbob498th
Docbob498th

As soon as you hold Bush, Cheney, Brewer and Pearce accountable.

Nomis 1
Nomis 1

GG:

Fox new is running a new show this year called "Accountable" The shows premise is to get their guys elected by using any means possible. Contestants are made up of hate spewing Tea Party members who have their cross hairs on local reps and politicians who they don't quite see eye to eye with, The drama builds when one of their own actually pulls the trigger, ruing it for the others by focusing the eyes of the world on their cause. To diffuse the situation they then blame everything on some crazy kid from Tuscon. Holding him accountable for their actions.

Sounds like a show we have been watching for the past 3 years.

Docbob498th
Docbob498th

Maybe you should ask your neighbor who controlled the Az legislature which failed to fund "Community Based" treatment. Oh, wait.........................that's an easy one since republicons have controlled both house and senate for the 25 yrs. I have lived here (including the 9 yrs. I worked at the AZ. State Hosp.)

Guest
Guest

Got proof? I'm old enough and I've worked with the ACLU and have access to their archives. I can't find anything to substantiate your claim.

So, how about some proof?

Bill Stoller and Gerri Cocozza
Bill Stoller and Gerri Cocozza

An Associate thanked "Old Timer" for supporting the first post we made in here,

"Yeah, i never post in there directly 'cuz i heard Joe arpaio's guys monitor those New Times blogs.....you know, cuz Lemons hates pearce and arpaio so much. joe's collectin intelligence online i heard. probably will tag me as a human smuggler or something. ROTFLMAO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Cant catch me now joe!!!!!!!!!!

So I appreciate you guys postin for me then I know joe isnt watchin me.

i'm older too - like old Timer, and that Mistalee is just starting trouble because you guys brought up good points in the post. That asshole Mistalee just gets in there to start trouble."

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For the latest on Phoenix police and government corruption, check out www.BadPhoenixCops.blogspot.co....

That's www.BadPhoenixCops.com - where the TRUTH hurts.

TIF on the blog, online and on time.

Thank old timer."

SicknessofChoice
SicknessofChoice

Just like a Lib to be obstinate and not address the real problem which is not political? He was mentally ill and someone should have intervened a long time ago! That's the problem! Not a d**n radio show or Conservative personality!!

Eyeout
Eyeout

Yeah let's strip Rush of his show and his rights because he offends you. One shooting happens and let's tear our constitution apart! A Democrat has been shot! Silence the Right! Wait, the killer was an independent who...didn't vote in 2010...and is mentally unstable. Maybe rush isn't to blame. Please flag this comment if you don't agree with it. It's the new American way. Silence those you don't agree with at all costs.

Eyeout
Eyeout

Wow that's how it happened. I thought that a crazy person unloaded on a crowd but it was Fox News and their Tea Party gang. Cool, I'm with you Nomis 1. What do we do now? I mean you surely have a plan, or are you just spreading hate filled propaganda. Careful, that'll be against the law soon.

Klauszus
Klauszus

Who is going to believe anything the ACLU member says? Amentally ill person on the street is more sane.

Docbob498th
Docbob498th

No, lets strip Rush because he is an oxycontin addict.

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