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Palin and Tea Party Rhetoric Was Not the Reason Gabrielle Giffords Was Attacked -- America's Treatment of Mental Illness Is to Blame

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The attempted assassination of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, the incidental execution of Arizona's Chief federal judge, the collateral killing of five bystanders, including a child, and the deranged wounding of 13 politically curious civilians is not the result of the First Amendment's perversion by talk radio, Sarah Palin or the recent emergence of vitriolic speech.

 

Hateful speech, in point of fact, has not emerged with Republicans; it preceded tar and feathers in America.

The suggestion that yesterday's carnage in Tucson, Arizona, is the result of words gone wrong trivializes the bloodshed and ignores a grotesque reality.

The civil society advocates cloud the fundamental issue of Giffords' shooting: mental health.

The crazy who roam our streets without notice or treatment, not loudmouths, are the menace.

Jared Loughner attempted to get into the army of the United States. He was rejected, according to an early television report following a mental health evaluation. He was too crazy to go kill the Taliban, but he was simply fine to wander around amongst the rest of us.

Now the army has muzzled up. It won't speak any longer about why Jared Loughner was rejected. An organization that we arm and send across the world to shoot its way through Iraq and Afghanistan is too worried about civility and privacy to use its words.
Instead, the military turned Loughner loose upon the rest of us.

Jared Loughner was thrown out of Pima Community College because he was so menacingly disturbed. Loughner was told he could not come back to the junior college unless he saw a mental health counselor.

He was too crazy for the community college, so administrators simply turned him back into the community.

Civility is not the issue.

The shallow, self-serving calls for the moderation of rhetoric, for the elimination of passionate politics, for the muzzling of the Tea Party's adoption of an American symbol of the revolution -- a gun -- is a hypocritical repudiation of this nation's particular embrace of principle.

It forgets the aggressive ideals of the civil rights movement and the anti-war movement. Such calls for Norman Rockwell's vocabulary is the sugar coating of the struggle for equality that remembers only Martin Luther King Jr. and forgets H. Rap Brown, Stokely Carmichael, and the Malcolm X.

It remembers Hubert Humphrey but forgets Abbie Hoffman. It memorializes Mothers for Peace but forgets Students for a Democratic Society.

But the sanitizing of our contentious history is small beer.

In 1971, a University of Arizona graduate, Geraldo Rivera, exposed the scandalous conditions in Willowbrook, a mental institution in New York.

Rather than triggering reform, Rivera's report began the abandonment of the mentally ill, who were dumped upon the streets of America, where they remain.

In Arizona, as in much of this nation, the single largest source of mental health treatment, such as it is, occurs in jail.

America's refusal to address mental illness institutionalized homelessness and yields a deadly cocktail of rampant drug abuse and violence that we are too civil to discuss frankly (In San Francisco a census of the homeless population was crippled when auditors were not allowed to ask street people if they were homeless because these words were not considered civil.)

The problem isn't outspoken and outrageous Tea Party remarks; the problem is the silent majority. (When people step over the line, arrest them. But for crying out loud, The New York Times editorialized today against someone hanging a politician in effigy).

The problem isn't that Sarah Palin asked the faithful to reload.

The problem is mental illness.

The problem isn't the Second Amendment.

The problem is that we have let crazy people exercise the Second Amendment.

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