Monday, January 10, 2011

The Banality of Loughner

   I've been reading a lot of the tuff about what a nutter young Loughner is.  See link, link,link, link, etc.  I'll vote otherwise: I'm struck by how near normal.

Look, I didn't say "normal;" only "near normal."  And when I say "near normal," I suspect I mean "for an 18-to-20-year-old boy" (sic).  Let's face it: most late adolescent males are pretty weird; it's just that most of them get their bearings again before they take he lives of half a dozen people.   I mean, here's Christopher Beam in Slate:
[Loghner] claims to be a "conscience dreamer" concerned with "English grammar structure" and "mind control" who wants to see the United States return to the gold standard.
Chris baby! Is that the best you can do?  But isn't that awfully close to what you expect--dare I say want--young people to do?   I'm actually a newbie to the idea of "conscience dreamer" (did he mean
"conscious dreamer?"), but I certainly remember the shock of disorientation when I first realized how much of the world seemed to be in my head (thanks to Bishop Berkeley for getting me into that pickle, and Samuel Johnson for getting me out of it).   I admit I am still trying to work out the meaning of grammar structure, and in particular its relation to freedom, state sovereignty, etc. (one reason why I read Boing Boing).   As to "the gold standard," it has sunk into me lately that the case against it is not quite so ironclad as I thought: as James Ridgeway at Mother Jones says, "Concerns about currency stretch from extreme conspiracy theorists to traditional libertarians" (gold still loses, though).

Kent Slinker, the math teacher quoted in Beam's piece, saysLoughner sounded  "someone whose brains were scrambled."  Beam paraphrases: "[Loughgren] e was a mess. He didn't perform well on tests. He would ask questions that didn't make any sense. "...He was mentally checked-out.  But Slinker also says "I never sensed violence from him," and that is just the point--from the sound of things he was just a bit more weird than what (I suspect) they saw in a community college philosophy class every day.

Do not misunderstand: I don't for a moment want to excuse a mass killer.  And I don't suppose it would be feasible (even if prudent?) to look away all disturbed late adolescent males--but who was it who said we should just send 'em all away to a desert island somewhere, to wear torn underwear and drink milk out of a carton (oh--that was "all males of any age?"--sorry).  Werther; Rameau's nephew; the Underground Man, Steven Daedalus:  their name is legion.  Until we breed 'em out, we're going to have to do something to keep them defanged and at least unthreatening.  But the melancholy truth will be the task of distinguishing the murderous instinct from ordinary alienation may not be as easy as we'd like.

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