How often do people survive an attack on the brain, you are the editor, how depth begins with 140 characters, embracing winter or at least faking it, the death of Maj. Winters.
After tragedies such as that which took place in Arizona on Saturday, what if people were as quick to ask about mental health services as they are to place events in a political equation?
Over the weekend, I asked such a question on Twitter and one reply was that Arizona Republicans pushed a health care package that cut mental health services. We have a hard time not framing things in the context of political philosophy.
Lots of radio talk shows -- including ours -- are asking about political rhetoric today. That's a valid topic, to be sure. But ignoring the aspect of the mentally ill seems invalid.
Have we abdicated our responsibility, as a society, to protect ourselves from potentially harmful people like Loughner? We no longer lock up the mentally ill, which reflects two benign tendencies in society: we have become more humane and we have developed drugs that mitigate most forms of mental illness. My old mentor, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, used to lament the explosion of homeless people in New York--the vast majority of them either mentally ill or drug addicts--and he wondered whether, in the name of humanity, we had become inhumane in the treatment of those who couldn't take care of themselves, even when medicated. A corollary worry was this: Had we exposed ourselves to more violent crimes by assuming the innocence of those, like Jared Loughner, who seemed capable of violence?
Merely "locking up the mentally ill" seems illogical, but how we get to them and provide help to them seem like a reasonable question, especially after Mr. Loughner's now well-documented community college behavior. Consider this e-mail from a student, obtained by the Washington Post:
"We have a mentally unstable person in the class that scares the living crap out of me. He is one of those whose picture you see on the news, after he has come into class with an automatic weapon. Everyone interviewed would say, Yeah, he was in my math class and he was really weird. I sit by the door with my purse handy. If you see it on the news one night, know that I got out fast..."
Seung-Hui Cho also showed signs of an untreated -- or not adequately treated -- mental illness just before he shot up Virginia Tech in
2005. A review panel assessed the availability and quality of treatment:
"Virginia's mental health laws are flawed and services for mental health users are inadequate. Lack of sufficient resources results in gaps in the mental health system including short term crisis stabilization and comprehensive outpatient services. The involuntary commitment process is challenged by unrealistic time constraints, lack of critical psychiatric data and collateral information, and barriers (perceived or real) to open communications among key professionals."
Dr. Keith Ablow, a FoxNews blogger, says the fact the suspected shooter in Arizona was mentally ill may have more to do with Saturday's events, than political rhetoric:
As a forensic psychiatrist who also has run community mental health centers, hospitals and clinics, I can tell you for sure, without any question, that the mental health care delivery system in this country is shoddy and shattered and without any hope at present of dealing effectively with sick individuals like Jared Loughner. There are slim resources and no strategy, whatsoever
Last year, Minnesota moved to cut the already patchwork services to the mentally ill. It was a budgetary issue, it was an issue over whether the role of government includes health care. It was never considered a public safety issue.
Update 12:45 p.m. - MPR's Public Insight Network has been soliciting information about availability of mental health care in Minnesota. If you have information you'd like to share, please use this form.
The first bills of the Minnesota legislative session have been unveiled. Bill #1 is usually the signature bill for lawmakers and in the Senate this year, it's a jobs bill. It would reduce business taxes and cut environmental regulations. In the House, House File 1 focuses on the environmental review process.
That bill will likely get most of the attention today, but some of the other ones filed also deserve mention:
Term limits: A Republican-sponsored bill would put the question of term limits on the ballot. If approved by voters, it would limit state representatives to 12 years in office and state senators to 16 years in office. This bill does not require the governor's signature for the question to appear on the ballot.
A smaller Legislature: Senator Chuck Wiger, a DFLer, is proposing a reduction in the number of state senators and representatives.
Cutting dropouts: A bill from Sen. Wiger would raise the age at which kids can drop out of school from 16 to 18.
Health care for all: Sen. John Marty and several other DFL lawmakers are proposing a bill that requires health care be available for all Minnesotans who need it.
Two house bills (#4 and #5) call for a reduction in state workers and a freeze on their pay. On MPR's Midday today, newly appointed Management and Budget Commissioner Jim Schowalter suggested that while the state has to manage its worker resources, their pay is not a significant way to reduce the state's budget deficit:(1 Comments)
Roy Chelsen has died of cancer at age 51.
Chelsen, a New York City firefighter, rushed into the north tower of the World Trade Center after the south tower collapsed. He told firefighters inside to get out. Many of them did.
"We ran out of the north tower because of him," his friend and fellow firefighter Kevin Murray told the New York Daily News. "He ran back through all the jumpers to grab us and rush us out." (A Time photo essay of another firefighter credited Chelsen for saving his life)
He needed a bone marrow transplant and his friends organized a drive on Facebook to find a match.
A few weeks before Christmas, he got his marrow transplant:
Last fall, Chelsen helped make a video to help promote a bone marrow registry drive in Minnesota:
After the towers collapsed, Chelsen spent weeks sifting through the wreckage. His friends say that's what caused the cancer that killed him last night.
The National Transportation Safety Board has issued its final report in the August 2009 crash at Flying Cloud Airport that claimed two lives.
The report blames an engine problem. But it strongly hints that the pilot's unfamiliarity with the plane let him to stall it (stall = loss of wing lift) while trying to return to the airport:
The pilot purchased the airplane approximately one year prior to the accident with the intention of restoring it for flight. The airplane had not been flown for approximately five years and had been used for spare parts. The pilot was flying the airplane to another airport to pick up passengers prior to returning. The pilot was cleared for takeoff and to circle the airport at 2,500 feet prior to departing the area.
Witnesses reported that after taking off the airplane seemed to "wobble" at a slow airspeed in a nose-high attitude and that it never got higher than 500 feet. Some witnesses reported the engine(s) sputtering, and another stated that the airplane was loud and "didn't sound good," although other witnesses reported that the engines sounded normal. One witness reported seeing white smoke coming from the left engine and hearing the engine "popping" as the airplane took off. The airplane made three left turns and it appeared as if the pilot was attempting to return to land. Witnesses described the left wing rising prior to the airplane banking hard to the left and the nose dropping straight down. The airplane impacted the ground just northeast of the airport property and a post-impact fire ensued. Flight control continuity was established.
The right side of the elevator/tailcone structure exhibited black rub marks and scrapes. Grass and nesting material was found inside the left wing. The left fuel valve was found in the OFF position and the right fuel valve was positioned to the rear auxiliary tank. Neither the fuel crossfeed valve nor the fuel boost pump switch was located. The left engine sustained substantial fire and impact damage. The right engine sustained heavy impact damage. The airplane was last fueled one month prior to the accident with 120 gallons of fuel. About 20 engine test runs in addition to high-speed taxi tests had been conducted since then. A Special Flight Permit had been obtained but had not been signed by the mechanic, who did not know that the pilot was going to fly the airplane on the day of the accident. The pilot reportedly did not have any Beech 18 flight experience.
The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident as follows:
The pilot's lack of experience flying the accident make and model of airplane, which led to a loss of control while maneuvering to return to the airport. Contributing to the accident was a partial loss of engine power for undetermined reasons.
Wayne Roland Monson, 53, of Hibbing, and Rivka Chayka-Lev, 29, of Apple Valley, died in the crash.
(Photo: Chris Cooper)
In the aftermath of the shootings in Arizona on Saturday, several of MPR's social networking efforts and our Public Insight Network staff have been collecting your reaction. Here are some of the more compelling comments we've received:
I think this brings up major concerns regarding the political divide in our country. Politicians and the pundit-style shows have established a mindset that we have a two-sided system where one side is pure good and the other side is pure evil. As a country we need to acknowledge that there are shades of gray and that everyone wants to do what they think is best for the country, even if I disagree with it. What impact will this event have on the public's access to politicians? Currently politicians spend most of their time with lobbyists who have paid for the privilege. Commoners have lost their access and now will lose even more.
I am a linguistic anthropologist with a specialization in discourse analysis and public rhetoric. Extremist political rhetoric has always been with us. However, it has accelerated in recent years due to the rapidity and ubiquity of public and social media. The chance that individuals will get caught in this web of extremism is greater today than in the past. The power of symbolism in public rhetoric as a motivating force is crucial. People an only imagine what they can imagine. Public commentators have the power to change the mindset of the public by giving people the opportunity to reframe their thinking--often in negative directions.
Until someone is a credible threat to themselves or others, I think we can't help someone until they are ready to be helped. What worries me is how much credibility we give people's writings online. There are thousands of people who will say the most outrageous things online but would never take steps to hurt anyone. I don't want this to become a witch hunt about extreme views.
I was a postal supervisor at the time that people were shooting up postal facilities. Believe me, we did a lot of thinking about people like Loughner. The postal service promulgated and enforced a no firearms policy. It is simply known that if you are stupid enough to take a firearm into a postal facility, you are already in trouble. This means that if you are going hunting after work, and you take your rifle to work in the trunk of your car, you can be fired. People have been fired. Note that the postal service does not have shootings any more. The firearms ban is only a small part of a comprehensive anti-violence program. Society needs an anti-violence program; you might want to look at the elements of the postal program to see what that program might be.
The ultimate responsibility rests upon the shoulders of the shooter. That being said, the move to deinstitutionalize the mentally ill has led to less access to treatment. Additionally this has also led to the refusal of treatment by the severely mentally ill, who, nearly by definition lack the capacity to render competent judgment upon their respective mental state and to their need for treatment.
As an immigrant from Europe, the American fascination with guns both puzzles and dismays me. I do not understand why it is considered OK for someone to buy a dangerous weapon and not have to take any kind of training, and can just walk out of the store with it. The fantasy is that you will be able to protect yourself. Well. How come then, than when people saw what was going on around Gifford, that someone with a gun did not take action!
In every case of a gun crime, the specific gun used and its characteristics need to be prominently described by the media, as happened here. Slowly, I think, the public will come to know there is a difference between guns for killing people and guns for hunting, and maybe that's an important difference.
Despite my anti-handgun and anti-violence views, we need to step back from the analysis of this particular situation. Yes, the rhetoric and the cross hairs may have influenced the shooter, but there is a good chance they didn't. The man who shot Reagan thought he was protecting make believe actress girl friend, not making a political statement The initial speculation of Arab terrorists in the OK City bombing were completely wrong. A very popular minister was stabbed to death in Sweden a few years ago by a mentally ill man without political motives. Trying to place blame based on pure speculation helps no one. People will hold onto speculation they agree with long after it has been proven completely and undeniably false, and it only serves to harden the already overly contentious divisions in this country.
I own over 10 firearms and I bad mouth all who think it is cool to own a pistol let alone an AK or the like. I hunt and am shocked by the guys I see at the range with banana clips and their military weapons. I feel that we do have a right to have guns and I see no hope in regulating this practice. All it will do is pull any and probably all gun owners to the wrong side of question. It is a little like abortion. It is a no-win argument.
We've had attempted assassinations by people with unstable personalities for as long as the country has existed. Trying to use this tragedy as a political weapon to go after (or blame) those with opposing viewpoints is intellectually dishonest and the most base and cynical kind of partisanship--ironically, the very thing those doing so are trying to blame.
How about it's not political so much as it is symbol of our national mental health crisis? If this young man was "mentally unstable" as the media continues to speculate, how did he get to the point of hurting other people? When you contact a mental health practitioner, the first answering machine statement is "if you believe you might hurt yourself or other people, please call 911." This young man needed mental health crisis control and I would submit that there is not enough staff in the mental heath world to care for all patients who need help.
Marti Priest Nelson
The recent and tragic shooting, while it does remind politicians, the media, and the general public of the hazards of the noxious political rhetoric between the polar opposites of our country and a need for a call to political and social civility, it really needs to be looked at from a mental health perspective. Millions of us, daily, take in the political discourse without taking up a gun. Loughner needed greater mental health screening. When we see mental illness as a form of terrorism on homeland soil, we may be on the right track. Education, screening, outreach, prevention, and intervention are just some of the measures we need.
Maybe the silent majority, who I believe still have common sense and understand the golden rule, can't be silent anymore. Shine a light on the inappropriate, talk to friends, family, and strangers use your voice and speak the truth in love before crazy fear totally rules all our lives!
Rae Ann Mathias
This question presupposes that something needs to be done. It's been a long, long time since there has been a successful assault on a public official, meaning that the security we have in place is working. If we as a nation continue to put into place unnecessary security functions because of singular acts, we are going to burden and tax ourselves for no purpose. There is no perfect defense against the fringe, the best we can hope for is secure enough to avoid these tragedies most of the time, and we are there already.