Sunday, January 09, 2011

It's Not The Ideology, It's the Humidity

Since the violence in Tucson yesterday, much of the talk on both left and right has centered around the ideology of the shooter, and many have suggested holding off on making conclusions until more is known about him and what he believes. There is also much discussion about how he appears to be mentally ill, and how important that might be in determining why it happened and what preventative means might be explored because of it. Ultimately none of this matters.

First, there are many, many people with mental illnesses in the country, but very few are violent or prone to violence. You could hardly argue that a person with agoraphobia, or OCD, or disabling social anxiety, should be automatically denied the right to own a gun. On the other hand, many violent individuals who should never be allowed to carry a weapon go about threatening and attacking others (especially their significant others) with impunity, simply because they lack a diagnosis, in turn because we accept a very high baseline level of violence as normal behavior in this culture.

Second, it is that acceptable high level of violence in our culture that has allowed the gun lobby to insist that any constraints on the right of the citizenry to own and carry weapons is a tyrannical leftist plot, intended to enslave the proud patriots and noble hunters whose 2nd Amendment rights are the only thing standing between those sovereign citizens and monarchist liberal totalitarianism. In fact, the NRA is nothing more than a flag-draped whore shilling for an industrial lobby with tentacles across every nation in the world, whose main work is to ensure eternal war at every level and thus eternal profits. It is this monster that has so overpowered our government that now not even sensible gun control is allowed. It is this shambling beast that has encouraged countless Republican candidates to lean on the implied threat of firepower and the vicarious mantle of power and manliness that is lent when appearing in campaign flyers with an arsenal. And it is the regulatory capture of our law-making that enabled Jared Loughhner to spray 20-30 rounds into a crowd with such lightening speed that no one could stop him until at least 6 were dead and 19 wounded.

Finally, it is the violent rhetoric and implication inherent in our political dialogue that lowers the bar against acting out violent impulses. Anyone can point to any number of blogs and websites and say, "It's the fault of both sides. Look, look at how violent the right-wing and left-wing posters and commenters become on the web!" But the facts show us that it's not both sides, and it's not blogs, most of which attract relatively little audience. It's the major political celebutantes of one side of the ideological spectrum, those with followings of millions who have access to national public forums, it's the leaders and aspirants of one political party specifically, who regularly throw off these kinds of violent wisecracks and then when something happens, retrench with specious defensiveness, claiming that no one could have predicted such a tragedy.

So when someone starts trying to sidetrack the discussion with questions about the shooter's ideology and mental state, don't fall for it. None of that matters. What matters is that we have a political party and its fellow travelers who regularly use the language of violence to refer to those who oppose their philosophies. And we belong to a nation that will soon accept the selling of rocket launchers to 10 year olds as part of the growing reactionary consensus of Constitutional interpretation.

The final, and saddest, irony of it all is that this sickness is spreading, and the chickens are roosting. It was by a Glock similar to the one she herself owns that Giffords was shot through the brain. And it wasn't so long ago that she herself was shouldering a weapon to establish herself as manly enough to sit in a chair and vote, although it left the orcs at the NRA unimpressed.

This is how it begins, and this hothouse atmosphere is what makes it grow.