IT TAKES THE LACK OF A VILLAGE TO RAISE A JARED LOUGHNER

12 02 2011

Well, I suppose I owe Sarah Palin and Bill O’Reilly and all those guys an apology.  When I first heard the news about Jared Loughner’s shooting spree, it seemed natural to blame the hysterical gaggle of right-wing rabble-rousers who have come to dominate our national discourse.  So, sorry, guys, for my knee-jerk reaction.  Jared is not one of yours.  In fact, it seems to me he could just as easily have shot John McCain.

After all, when you get beyond the blustering rhetoric,  tea partiers and neo-liberal Democrats are both part of the problem, not part of the solution, and I think Jared Loughner’s perception of the problem–the meaninglessness and irrelevance of government–was, in some ways, 20-20.  It’s his solution that was deeply flawed.  His “logic” was pretty schizophrenic, and violence? Violence, like mainstream politics, is part of the problem and not part of the solution.  But nobody was close enough to Jared to convince him of either the flaws in his logic or the futility of violence.

Several fingers have been pointed in the search for the answer to how this young man came to shoot 18 people.  Some say it means Arizona’s gun laws are too loose.  Some say it means the “mental health safety net” is stretched too thin.  And some say the fact that he smoked marijuana means that we need to tighten up our drug laws.  I think all of these miss the point.

Tighter gun laws?  As long as firearms are being manufactured, there will be a market for them.  If it becomes more difficult to buy guns legally, there will be a bigger black market, and they will be even more out of control than they are now.  Look at the war on drugs, for an example.

“Better mental health care” is another non-solution.  Mental health care in America has become largely a way for the pharmaceutical companies to sell more drugs and make more profits.  Judging by the record, hese pharmaceuticals don’t seem to be very effective in keeping people from going on shooting sprees, nor have so-called “mental health professionals” been able to spot those with the potential to run amok.

Jared’s use of marijuana, likewise, is no reason to tighten up marijuana laws.  After all, President Obama, ex-President Clinton, Al Gore, Newt Gingrich, and Clarence Thomas all used marijuana when they were more or less Jared’s age.  If marijuana helped make Jared what he is, it also helped make them what they are–for better or for worse.

But the mental health and marijuana issues do intertwine to point to how Jared Loughner ended up going off the deep end.

Jared and his entire generation are staring into the void.  There is no imaginable decent future for them, and many, many of them are painfully aware of that.  The American dream of a house in the suburbs, a plethora of consumer goods and high-end vacations, and a no-sweat job that pays the bills is increasingly hollow and unattainable.  The college education our youth are urged into as “preparation for life” is a debt trap, which cannot even be shed by bankruptcy.   Politicians, including Gabrielle Giffords, do not address this; they spout meaningless platitudes and dodge the real issues.  Jared is not alone in noticing this, by any means.

So, how does this relate to mental health and marijuana?

Several ways.  First, unless Jared was growing his own, he was getting his marijuana from a dealer.  If you are engaged in the illegal business of selling marijuana, in order to protect your own ass, you need to make sure that all your customers are sane and responsible enough that they will not get you in trouble.  Clearly, whoever was selling herb to Jared Loughner was being far too “whatever” about his customers.

The dealer’s responsibility to vouch for his customers’ state of mind is about the only shred of the wisdom tradition that is still attached to marijuana culture in this country.

You’re probably wondering what I mean by talking about “wisdom tradition” with reference to marijuana.  Here it is:  in cultures in which cannabis is historically embedded, marijuana use occurs in certain contexts.  In India, for example, many people only use cannabis when they are visiting their spiritual teacher, to make their minds more open to his influence.  However it is used, a tradition of thought, belief, and certain standards of behavior is passed on along with the chillum or hookah.

That is not the case in America.  Due to our restrictive, punitive drug laws and attitudes, parents and children hide their marijuana use from each other, and the wisdom chain is broken.  If Jared Loughner had lived in a culture with a better understanding of the proper use of marijuana, he would have been more likely to sort out his saner thoughts from his crazier ones, and learned not to believe everything he thinks, through the simple mechanism of long, marijuana-inspired talks with not just his peers, but his parents and other elders.

Of course, if he were in a saner culture, he wouldn’t share with most of his contemporaries the uncomfortable feeling of having nothing to grow up for.  It took the lack of a village to raise a Jared Loughner–and thousands more just like him, who have yet to bring themselves to our attention.

music: Tom Robinson, “End of the Rainbow” (written by Richard Thompson)





WHO ARE THE REAL BABY KILLERS?

13 06 2009

Some of us were stunned and saddened last week when Dr.  George Tiller was murdered in church.  Some of us were not.

“I am glad George Tiller is dead”

That’s what “Reverend”  Wiley Drake, a former officer of the Southern Baptist Convention, told Fox News.  Drake said he has been praying for Tiller to  have a change of heart about abortion,but in the last year had been praying for Tiller’s death, because:

(Dr. Tiller) had obviously turned his back on God again and again and again,”

Drake called Tiller “a reprobate” and a “brutal, arrogant murderer” who “bragged on his own website how many babies he had killed.”

“Would you have rejoiced when Adolf Hitler died during the war?” Drake asked. “Or would you have said, ‘Oh that is terrible for him to be killed’? No, I would have said, ‘Amen, praise the Lord, hallelujah, I’m glad he’s dead.'”

Drake says Barack Obama is now the object of his “imprecatory prayers.”  Let me put it bluntly:  he is praying for Barack Obama to die soon.  Since Mr. Obama seems to be in excellent health, this sounds to me like a public call for the assassination of our President.  Now, I’m not a big Obama fan either, albeit for very different reasons, but that is going WAY too far.  C’mon, Homeland Security, ain’t this domestic terrorism?  But hey, he’s not a right-wing terrorist, he’s just exercising his freedoms of speech and religion…and the guy that murdered Dr. Tiller is one of the Lord’s avenging angels.  No causal connection between Drake’s hate speech and trigger man Scott Roeder.

Drake is just one example…. Bill O’Reilly, Ann Coulter, and many other right wing pundits have been beating the drum against Dr. Tiller for years.  Coulter, commenting on other murders of abortion providers, said that you could say they had been shot,

….or, depending on your point of view, had a procedure performed on them with a rifle.

OK, let’s change our focus for a little while…mountain top removal, anyone?

In spite of their stated commitment to science over politics, the warnings of every credible climate scientist in the book, and Al Gore’s call for civil disobedience to prevent more coal plants from being built, the Obama administration appears to be ready to approve at least 42 of the 48 mountaintop removal projects currently on the EPA’s table.

The coal that will be produced from this massive environmental destruction will make a few corporate balance sheets look good, but it will release more poison into what’s left of the waters of West Virginia, where mercury levels are already dangerous for women who are or might become pregnant, and also, of course, cause the release of massive amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, where it will eventually contribute to the deaths of millions, possibly billions, of babies–and adults–all over the world, as global warming creates a world in which the living may well envy the dead.  Kofi Annan, former UN leader who now runs the Global Humanitarian Forum, estimates that global warming is already killing 300,000 people a year, not counting the number of miscarriages due to malnutrition, which would probably swell that 300,000 by quite a bit, since about 45 million of the world’s 900 million hungry people are considered to be directly affected by climate change.  My reaction is, “only 45 million?!  They must have had to work on the numbers quite a bit to get it down to that level!”

Dr. Tiller helped women who did not want or felt incapable of raising the babies they were carrying.  The coal industry is indiscriminately slaughtering hundreds of thousands of children whose parents value them and do not want them to die. But hey, it’s totally indiscriminate–they’re killing parents and grandparents, too.  Not picking on the helpless unborn, nossir.

So, Reverend Drake, Bill O’Reilly, Ann Coulter, where are you on this issue?  If you’re really concerned about “the rights of the unborn,” maybe you should commence  “imprecatory prayers” against the coal companies and their many allies in Congress and the administration.  Or is it that “the rights of the unborn” is really just a cover, and your real agenda is the assertion of patriarchal control over womens’ bodies, and that’s why the destruction of the atmosphere and the murder of millions by the coal industry is irrelevant to you?

In the church I grew up in, we had a different name for “imprecatory prayer.”  Asking for bad things to happen to other people was called “black magic,” and needless to say, we did not recommend it.  Here we have a clear case of somebody who alleges he is a Christian practicing the dark arts….gee, just like Satan.  In my church, we all understood that if you asked for  evil to happen to someone  else, you had better be prepared for it to visit you.  So, when I consider the right-wing punditocracy and its sick, sad culture of death threats, I’m not going to wish evil on them.  They have already summoned it to themselves.  May God have mercy on their souls.

music:  Frank Zappa, “Jesus Thinks You’re a Jerk“(excerpt)








%d bloggers like this: