White Rage, Mental Illness, & Teenage Angst: Time to Redefine ‘Crazy’

January 13, 2011  |  

Two men walk into a bar. One man is dressed in soiled and tattered clothes and upon entering the bar, begins frantically mumbling to himself.  You can’t make it out exactly, but the gist of his hyper drivel is centered on the dastardly Lords of Carrington and their push to instigate a coup to upend his rightful appointment as both Duke and Supreme Ruler of Omega Centauri Galaxy No. 9.

The man moves deeper into the bar and then turns to the empty stool next to him and accuses it of being a co-conspirator, of enlisting in the Lord’s army and planting listening devices in his toaster, microwave, and fish tank. Bar stools are not to be trusted – ever. The man in the frayed clothes continues on uninterrupted, rambling, asking and answering himself.

The second man who enters the bar is dressed in a blue uniform. The shirt is sky blue with his name, “Wade”, embossed on the pocket in red letters. His trousers are navy blue. He skirts past our mumbling friend after he spots two men sitting at the bar, with similar uniforms, beckon him over. Once seated with his buddies, Wade begins gesticulating wildly and a conversation ensues. Today’s topic Du jour is the U.S. government and Wade fiddles away an unending list of traps set by the government to subjugate “real” Americans.

Unlike the first man, probably a diagnosed paranoid schizophrenic with delusions of grandeur and persecution, Wade is – or was – perfectly stable.  But an accumulation of failures has created a barbarous aspect to his once congenial and airy personality.  He believes that he’s overtaxed and, more importantly, that his tax dollars go to enrich those who do not work nearly as hard as he does. Wade also believes that affirmative action stymied his ascent up the corporate ladder, that the Civil War was about states’ rights, and that all things considered, the white male is the most victimized demographic in America.

Did the attempted assassin Jared Loughner, who shot Congresswoman Giffords and murdered six others, share the same illness as the schizophrenic rambler, or was he the product of the same festering hostilities personified by Wade and his bar buddies? If Loughner was insane, so be it. We’ll know soon enough. His mug shot does conjure up images from the movie “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” but I’ve seen equally deranged expressions at metro bus stops and city train stations.

And if we’re to paint a whole picture of Loughner, we must admit that he engaged in many typical young adult activities such as volunteering at an animal shelter, working menial jobs, and attending community college. All prior to his rampage.  We also know that he walked off at least one job and was kicked out of college after a series of class disruptions.

What we still don’t know, and what we must learn if we ever hope to make any sense of Saturday’s events, is whether Loughner’s behavior can be in any way attributed to a disjointed cluster of ideological beliefs which encouraged him to adhere to a worldview which painted him as the victim, causing him to misinterpret a series of self-imposed failures as provocations instead of shortcomings, thereby thwarting any self-reflection which may have led to a course correction instead of a murderous eruption.

Did the mental health system fail Loughner or did Loughner fail himself?

For news commentators to come out and straightaway write off Loughner’s actions as those of a crazed loon diminishes the contextual impact of the one size fits all excuses used by Right wing pundits to rationalize the failings of their listeners and viewers. Although many on the Right are advocates of personal responsibility where the issue of welfare and criminal punishment are concerned, most immediately pivot when the glare of the mirror shines directly in their own faces.

Many right wingers who find themselves in the bottom of the economic barrel are more than happy to shirk personal responsibility in favor of heaping their failures atop the backs of liberals and minorities.

Was Lougner’s father who, according to the Washington Post, hadn’t worked outside of the home for years and who a neighbor described as “very aggressive” in that group? We don’t know. But we do know that the river of resentment flows into the ocean of anger.

Two men walk into a bar. One man is suffering from a treatable brain disorder. The other is sinking deeper and deeper into a despair born mostly of the anger which permeates the space his dreams once occupied. His angst is exacerbated by a mangled belief system which pits him against his fellow-Americans.  These two men are both dangerous, but they are not the same.  Anyone who insists to you that they are is lying. Anyone.

Yvette Carnell is a former Capitol Hill Staffer turned political blogger. She currently publishes two blogs, Spatterblog.com and GoGirlGuide.com.

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