Monday, January 17, 2011

Republican Party declares war on hippos

Every year, hippopotamuses kill more people in Africa than any other animal. This has come to the attention of the Republican Party, which has declared that as a consequence hippopotamuses are filthy, evil monsters that must be arrested and given long prison sentences.

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.


n1ck said...

Blame Reagan and the Democrats and Republicans who allowed the richest 1% to triple their wealth over the past 30 years.

We're slowly losing a middle class in this country; I wouldn't hold out much hope for having working social institutions. Rich people do not care about infrastructure or safety nets, because they do not need them.

The US, if the Republicans continue gutting it, will become a banana republic. At this point, I'm not even sure there is a way you could stop the cycle, short of a benevolent dictatorship.

Ehkzu said...

We've already departed from the demographics of other industrialized countries. Now our income distribution most closely matches that of Russian and Mexico.

My biggest fear is that the corporate elite have learned how to exploit the human race's build-in tribalism so well that people gladly give up their own benefit for the sake of what they imagine to be their tribe--only it isn't. The rich laugh at them if they think about them at all.

n1ck said...

I honestly believe there are two, completely opposite ways to get this country back on track.

1. Benevolent dictator who does what needs to be done, and then gives power back. Unfortunately, this almost never works out well, and sets up a precedent for repeating it.

2. Forced Democracy, in which citizens who are eligible are required to vote or pay a significant fine.

This might work as it forces people to figure out who it is they are voting for. That only 60% of the electorate votes is a travesty of democracy.

Otherwise, 30% of the population will continue making decisions for the other 70%. When such a small percentage is given a voice over everyone else, there is never a real reason to compromise. Either you get your way this election cycle, or you wait your turn and force it the next election cycle. This method is NOT working.

Ehkzu said...

I believe the Athenians gave Solon a 7 year dictatorship providing he follow it with 7 years of exile, which he did.

In the science fiction novel I'm writing the aliens' own government has a fourth branch with almost no power, called the Office of Transparency. All it can do is publish information--a bit like Wikileaks, I suppose, only institutionalized and comprising citizens, not foreigners. Members of this branch are prohibited from ever serving in another branch o in any private industry individual members investigate. It has the power to investigate anything and reveal anything, secret or not, at its own discretion. Its leaders are picked and retained pretty much like our Supreme Court.

My aliens figure sunlight is the strongest disinfectant, since the average dirty deed is done in the dark.

n1ck said...

Well, that would work too, although it would take a little longer.

One of the biggest problems is that politics is just a revolving door. Eventually, politicians become lobbyists, and lobbyists become politicians.

Since Government is effectively under control of the richest and most powerful people, Government is being co-opted away from actual democracy, and is just a tool of business and the elite.

Having a separate branch of government that cannot be corrupted, that can basically tattle on the other branches of government is a good idea. Kinda like how the Press is considered the Fourth Estate (except that the Press has shirked its duties in the name of profits).