Let the Tundra Tabloids first state that this piece by, Benjamin Kerstein, which was first published at Pajamas Media, is brave foray in the realm of mental illness, self disclosure, and how it relates to the perpetrator of the Tucson Arizona mass murder that took place this past Saturday.
Benjamin Kerstein does an amazing job of getting to the heart of the issue, mental illness, and how the population at large relate to it, instead of the talking points that are currently being bandied about the blogosphere and the media. Like the TT has mentioned before, this is not a “right-left” issue, but one of a highly mentally unstable man, who’s totally responsible for his actions, but for some reason never underwent any kind of treatment for his ailment in spite of all the signs.
The other under told story of the Tucson shooting is the bravery shown by some of the people in the immediate vicinity who first took action against the shooter. The fact that the TT couldn’t immediately come up with their names, but knew the Sheriff’s name by heart, Clarence Dupnik, that tells you just where the media has invested its time and effort.
After some searching, 74-year-old retired Army colonel, Bill Badger, and a 61-year-old woman, Patricia Maisch were the ones who initially stopped Jared Loughner from killing yet more people, these people are heroes, and should be celebrated. Not that Kerstein would want to be placed amongst them, but the TT honors this brave man for speaking about such a private, personal situation, for the benefit of all, in that he exhibits the same spirit as those who wrestled the gunman to the ground.
In the aftermath of the tragic shooting, we have an opportunity to talk openly about how we treat our mentally ill, and how that in spite of all the warning signs, some individuals manage to slip through the cracks and never manage to get treated at all. That’s where the focus should be, instead of all the finger pointing that’s replaced any serious debate. KGS
When I was twenty years old, I smashed through a plate-glass tabletop with a hammer. It scared the hell out of my co-workers and, I must admit, it scared the hell out of me too. I did not do it for any logical reason. It was an eruption of raw emotion, mainly rage and frustration. The immediate cause was nothing less innocuous than hitting my thumb with a hammer. Almost immediately after it was over, and I looked down at the shards of glass and felt the eyes of other people on me, I felt nothing but confusion and shame. I had no idea what had come over me. But I knew that it was a sign that something was wrong. Very wrong. Looking back on it now, the fact that I was suffering from a form of mental illness is so obvious that I wonder how I managed to miss it, or deny it, at the time.
My illness is a relatively mild one, a form of chronic depression marked by occasional hypomanic episodes. It is somewhat more severe than ordinary depression, but a great deal less severe than bipolar disorder and other, far more terrifying diseases of the mind. It requires no more than two pills a day to keep it relatively under control, and the side effects, while irritating at times, are negligible. In many ways, I count myself lucky. It is perhaps for this reason that I found myself, somewhat against my will, identifying with Jared Loughner, the young man who shot and horribly wounded Representative Gabrielle Giffords and killed six others last Saturday.
I don’t wish to be misunderstood. I have no sympathy for what Loughner did. Even those suffering under severe mental illness can usually distinguish right from wrong. I could, even when it was at its most severe. I imagine Loughner could as well. Unless he turns out to have been completely delusional, he is morally responsible for what he did.
Nonetheless, I confess to having some sympathy for him. Perhaps this is because I recognize so many of the things we are now reading about his life: the youthful intelligence done in by academic failure, the social isolation, the inappropriate public behavior, the sudden bursts of emotion masquerading as ideas, the incomprehensible obsessions with bizarre subject matter, etc. More than anything else, however, I recognize the response of others. For the most part, people appear to have reacted to Loughner’s illness in the worst possible ways: indifference, contempt, and punitive action. His peers, teachers, parents, indeed everyone in his life, appear to have regarded him as, at best, a somewhat frightening nuisance. Even those who recognized his mental illness seem to have used it as nothing more than an excuse for getting rid of him.