Monday, January 17, 2011
Republican Party declares war on hippos
OK, they haven't. But they have heaped similar abuse on the crazy man who shot dozens of people in Tuscon recently. This makes exactly as much sense as decrying hippos. Hippos didn't decide to be evil. They are what they are. We must protect ourselves against their propensity for killing us, to be sure. Likewise we must protect ourselves from violent crazy people.
That does not mean trying them for crimes they commit, any more than we should try a pit bull for killing someone. We determine whether the pit bull did it, and if it did, we execute it humanely. With a dangerous crazy person we don't have to kill him, but we certainly shouldn't let him run around loose.
Yet the Republicans believe we should respect crazy people's free will even though it isn't free, then punish them for crimes they "decide" to commit. The crazy Tuscon shooter planned his crime ahead of time. So by Republican standards he isn't crazy. Yet it's obvious that he is crazy.
The Republicans' answer is that if we don't convict him of a crime and imprison him for life without parole or execute him, the liberals will let him loose to kill again.
And that's how we've wound up with nearly a third of our prison population comprising crazy people, dumped in with all the sane inmates, to be either cruelly exploited and/or to lash out unpredictably, endangering other prisoners and guards.
But despite the fact that he planned his assault, the Tuscon shooter isn't a criminal--any more than a hippo is. Both are dangerous creatures who lack a normal human's ability to engage with the world morally.
Republicans will then say that the Tuscon shooter's many run-ins with others provided a basis for involuntary commitment, and the local legal authorities fell down on the job in not doing so.
But at the same time Republicans (and Democrats) will insist that we can't lock up someone until they've committed a crime. This is ridiculous. We don't wait for a hippo to attack to do something to protect ourselves from it, because we know hippos are dangerous. And while most crazy people aren't dangerous, the dangerous ones reveal their nature long before they commit a major crime--just as the Tuscon shooter did.
And the parents of such dangerous crazy people almost all tell long stories of how they tried to get the local government/law enforcement agencies to do something, almost invariably to no avail.
And Republicans will say it's not the government's job to take care of crazy people--it's their families' responsibility. Especially most of them believe that bad parenting drove the crazy people crazy, when it's almost invariably a brain chemistry disorder.
But today's Republican Party is no longer the party of social responsibility. Each of us is an atom, entirely responsible for his or her life's journey, for better or for worse. I owe society nothing, and society is obliged to leave me alone until or unless I break the law.
I believe the abuse politicians heap on the head of the Tuscon shooter is an attempt to shirk government responsibility for institutionalizing crazy people. The abuse implies that the 'Tuscon shooter is a moral creature, when it's obvious that his disordered mind doesn't understand morality.
When a particular bear loses its fear of people and starts threatening them we euthanize the bear. By the same token I'm not opposed to euthanizing dangerous crazy people, though giving them a prefrontal lobotomy will render them harmless--as will the proper drugs (but many, many crazy people refuse all medication and won't swallow pills, so drugs are only feasible if injected regularly, which requires permanent institutionalization. Your choice.
We need to overcome Republicans' tightwadism and social irresponsibility--along with Democrats' ideological belief that all crazy people can be cured--and reinstitute nuthouses, including special ones for the criminally insane, and remove all crazy people from the criminal injustice system--not to wander the streets howling at the moon, but to be watched over responsibly by society in a setting that prevents from threatening public order and personal safety.
And the vilification of dangerous crazy people denies all of this. Every time someone vilifies the Tuscon shooter they're making the implicit claim that the criminal justice system is the place for anyone who commits a crime, regardless of sanity.
Just as anyone who criticizes calling him "crazy" or a "head case" is also denying reality."Crazy" is a perfectly good word, and it this case it is exactly correct. Just as calling him a "monster" is false--or calling him "differently mentally enabled"or any such euphemism.