Edit: Thanks for the rec list. I also added some info that I meant to share so that I am completely honest.
Here we go again. A tragic shooting, and an apparent mentally ill person as the perpetrator. Earlier the Sheriff of Yima County was harumphing today about the good old days when you could incarcerate a mentally ill person without cause.
When the Virginia Tech shooting happened we changed the law on student privacy. The new law wound up stripping some privacy rights from young adults attending college, even those who were independent students. What worries me now is that it will be the new bipartisan consensus to politely write-off this assassination attempt as the workings of a mentally ill mind rather than a politically motivated act, and we will act to further limit the rights the mentally ill and those suspected of being mentally ill.
Slate has a good article refuting the idea that this act can simply be written off as the working of a mentally ill mind. It points to research that shows that mental illness alone is rarely an explanation for violence. But to see beyond statistical data follow me beneath the jump to understand the workings of a mentally ill mind.
I am mentally ill. I have experienced two major psychotic episodes. I have been severely delusional. I have heard command voices telling me what to do. I have had deeply violent thoughts. Yet, I have never harmed anyone. I am mentally ill. I am not violent.
In the autumn of 2001, I succeeded in making most people think I was mentally healthy. I knew something was wrong with me, but I wouldn't let myself believe I was sick so I became susceptible to delusion. It culminated in two major psychotic episodes where I demonstrated a severely disturbed mind, bizarre thoughts, and destructive behavior by the Mardi Gras of 2002.
By time it had ended I had engaged in a "soul cleansing" ritual my warped mind led me through that included burning myself with cigarettes, and dancing on broken glass, both actions one may reasonably call self-violence, but I did not commit violence against anyone else, and that's despite the fact that I suffered with violent command voices. So, why didn't I commit some atrocity that some commentator might look back on now as an example of a long line of mass murders committed by the mentally ill?
What kept me from committing serious acts of violence like the horrid crimes Jared Lee Loughner is accused of committing? It's one of ideology. By ideology, I don't mean left or right ideology. I mean an ideology of violence. I have always subscribed to an ideology of non-violence. That ideology that I had firmly ground myself in allowed me, in my darkest moments, to separate command voices calling for me to do violence as "dark voices" that were challenging my goodness, and "good voices" that were merely trying to aid me in producing positive outcomes. This meant that I did more deeply buy into delusions of grandeur, but it also meant that I didn't commit some vicious atrocity.
That ideology of non-violence, ultimately is why I didn't commit violent acts. And even in the throws of deep psychosis with deeply violent thoughts, deeply violent command voices ordering me to kill, even as I followed all the other maddening commands, I did not lay a hand on anyone.
Mental illness may have made Jared Lee Loughner susceptible to committing violent acts, and he may be, by legal definition, insane, but I submit to you that Mr Loughner would have committed no such act if he didn't also subscribe to a violent ideology.
I am terrified the direction this discussion is headed. The Sheriff of Yima county was reminiscing on the good old days when all you needed to lock someone up like me indefinitely was a diagnoses of mental illness.
Over at Salon.com Steve Kornacki was breathing a sigh of relief that the "American people get it" because, according to a CBS Poll they don't blame eliminationist rhetoric, and calls for insurrection on the right for Loughner's crimes.
He says Americans properly see it all as a coincident and realize that the real problem is mental illness. So, let's all write it off to head cases and abuse them and limit ourr rights if need be, but Kornacki thinks it is outrageous to expect anyone on the right to tone down their rhetoric, because it is mere coincidence that right wingers preach an ideology of violence, and that someone acted on that violence.
Again, there is no statistical evidence that the mentally ill are any more likely to commit violent crime than mentally healthy people. Drugs and alcohol are the biggest predictors of violence perpetrated by the mentally ill (or anyone for that matter). Most of the other mentally ill people I know are sensitive people. Their biggest and most obvious faults is their oversized superego that leads them to go to great lengths to assure that they haven't upset anyone, and that they are doing right by others to a point where it can be annoying.
A young man in his early to mid 20s lives next door. He is a paranoid schizophrenic. He is also one of the sweetest and least violent people you will ever meet. He too, very evidently, subscribes to an ideology of non-violence. He deeply apologizes for even accidentally bumping into you on the way back to his apartment. He is always looking for ways to do some act of kindness. He is almost childish in his desire to do something good to please others. When he started to have a breakdown several months ago he went the neighborhood bank and begged them to call the cops on him saying, "I don't want to hurt anyone."
Jared Lee Loughner didn't commit this crime solely because of mental illness. It is an act of reckless scapegoating for Steve Kornacki and others to suggest he did. Instead of agreeing to a call of civility, which people like him think is irresponsible and dangerous or "awesomely stupid," and an affront to civil liberties, he wishes to denigrate the tenuous freedom and human rights those of us who are mentally ill enjoy in order to protect the right wing in this country from having to suffer the unbearable oppression of checking their rage and anger when they speak to their millions of followers.
I am mentally ill. I have suffered grave disability because of it. I have never committed an act of violence in my life while either psychotic or sane.