No one is disputing that Jared Loughner is mentally ill. As more of his speech and writing emerge the picture comes into sharper focus. Some brain damage, possibly alcohol poisoning, drug abuse, symptoms of schizophrenia, behavior that frightened classmates and friends.
There’s little fear that he will get off on an insanity defense. Since John Hinkley’s attempted assassination of President Reagan, the bar has been raised. In any case, Loughner was not insane. He was not swallowing razor blades or slamming his head against a wall. He was able to carry out a plan.
What set him on this course? Why did his illness take this form? Why is the lone man who carries out a public mass murder a recurring pattern?
Loughner didn’t strike randomly. He had obsessed on Gabrielle Giffords.
[A friend of Jared Loughner, Bryce]Tierney tells Mother Jones in an exclusive interview that Loughner held a years-long grudge against Giffords and had repeatedly derided her as a “fake.” Loughner’s animus toward Giffords intensified after he attended one of her campaign events and she did not, in his view, sufficiently answer a question he had posed, Tierney says.
… “He told me that she opened up the floor for questions and he asked a question. The question was, ‘What is government if words have no meaning?’”
“He said, ‘Can you believe it, they wouldn’t answer my question.’ Ever since that, he thought she was fake, he had something against her.”
I can imagine a young man who is already becoming unmoored from reality– who is nursing grandiose visions and delusions of superiority. He approaches the Congresswoman to impress her with his insightful question, and is met by incomprehension. He feels this as a public humiliation. Who is she anyway? One word is telling…
Jared Lee Loughner, accused of shooting 20 people and trying to assassinate Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, left a note in his safe that read, “Die bitch.”
‘Bitch’ is one of those words that’s harmless until it’s not. If you’ve ever heard it said in malice you know what I mean. Women in power are a conspicuous minority. Gabrielle Giffords, like every public servant, knew that she could draw hatred for her political decisions. As a woman, she modeled the role of women in power, a change we are still adjusting to.
Loughner left other writings that suggest he nursed resentment against female teachers and fellow students…
Loughner seemed at times to be reaching out for help from the online gaming community in his postings, which emphasized his inability to attract women or land a minimum-wage job.
It’s his recent posts that are the most disturbing. On April 24, in a thread titled “Would you hit a Handy Cap Child/ Adult?”, he wrote: “This is a very interesting question….There are mental retarded children. They’re possessing teachers that are typing for money. This will never stop….The drug addicts need to be weeded out to be more intelligent. The Principle of this is that them c— educators need to stop being pigs.”
Later that day, in an even more horrifying post titled “Why Rape?”, he claimed that college women liked being raped. He wrote, “there are Rape victims that are under the influence of a substance. The drinking is leading them to rape. The loneliness will bring you to depression. Being alone for a very long time will inevitably lead you to rape.”
One woman’s voice in Congress is silenced for the near future, and may not be heard again. Women, a minority in positions of power, have lost ground in representation this year…
Despite the fact that many women ran in the primaries for the 2010 midterm elections, when the 112th Congress is sworn in this January, there will be a decline in the number of female members in Congress.
Women in the next US Congress are projected to make up just 16 percent of the members, down from 17 percent in the previous Congress. Although the actual number of seats lost is not a huge number, the change is still significant because it is the first decrease that women in Congress have seen in 30 years.
Full equality for women is not a part of our culture, not yet.
Jared Loughner is a man who was going to do something to put himself into custody, probably sooner than later. He was certainly ill. And he was haunted by voices, the most toxic in our society. ‘That bitch needs to be taught a lesson’, ‘I’ll go out in a blaze of glory’, ‘They’ll be sorry.’ This might have been what the voices said.
There were voices outside too, raising the level of hostility around him. There were weapons of mass destruction, easily available even to a young man whose behavior struck everyone around him as bizarre.
The New York Times has more on his behavior to women…
At a small local branch of a major bank, for example, the tellers would have their fingers on the alarm button whenever they saw him approaching.
It was not just his appearance — the pale shaved head and eyebrows — that unnerved them. It was also the aggressive, often sexist things that he said, including asserting that women should not be allowed to hold positions of power or authority.
One individual with knowledge of the situation said Mr. Loughner once got into a dispute with a female branch employee after she told him that a request of his would violate bank policy. He brusquely challenged the woman, telling her that she should not have any power.
Misogyny is just one element in the poisonous mix that led to this tragedy, but it’s there. One woman’s voice in Congress that may not be heard again. We feel the loss.