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Friday, August 03, 2012


Jared Loughner was declared competent to stand trial this week, after a year of psychiatric care, and he immediately plead guilty to all 17 counts of murder and attempted murder. He was sentenced to 17 life sentences, to be served concurrently.  It's a terrible, sad story.

I got really upset at a FB discussion about insanity, though I gave myself time to calm down before I actually responded. I was thinking about my mother, who certainly didn't choose her illness, nor did she "choose" her response to her illness, in any real sense of that word.

I'm really uncomfortable with the assertion that "crazy" people "choose" to be "crazy." I'm not even comfortable with the assertion that "crazy" people who don't take their medication are somehow "choosing" their mental illness. Not taking your medication is a symptom of mental illness. It's terribly tragic, and certainly not an excuse to write them off and blame the victim. Saying that "crazy" people have a "right" to be "crazy" is like saying that poor people have a right to be poor. That's probably true in the literal sense of "rights," but it feels like we just want an out, so we can turn our eyes away from their misery.

Schizophrenia is no joke. It destroys people's lives, even the lives of people who do not shoot up shopping centers and movie theaters. And the medications used to treat it are not perfectly successful and they have terrible side effects. Psychosis is not well understood, but I think we can all agree that it's a terrible, tragic thing.

The original poster, my sort-of stepbrother, Michael, summed it up best, I think:

My point was that Jared Loughner obviously needed help long before his rampage. Just look at his Pima College youtubes. The laws regarding mental illness changed in the early eighties. Some parts for the better, but some obviously for the worse.

This guy deteriorated into a murdering freak. Then he went to prison, got meds, treatment, and a way out of his own fucked up head. He became sane enough to plead guilty, demonstrate remorse, and be a model prisoner. If he would have been flagged and treated before he became evil, maybe he could have been something other than a murdering scumbag who can't possibly make up for the evil he unleashed.

I just hate the way people portray someone like him as evil, because he's not - his actions are. He's basically brain damaged. Which does not mean we forgive him, or excuse him. But if you think of it this way, it leads us, as a society, to ask different questions, and respond differently, then if we just write him off as a bad guy.



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