January 10, 2011

Save us Captain Hindsight!

I have been consciously trying to avoid impersonating Captain Hindsight (for non- South Park Fans, see here) in general.  But when something happens that evokes a reaction as emotional as what we all feel in the wake of what happened last weekend, 20/20 hindsight is a natural coping mechanism.  It's easy to blame Sarah or Kos or the DNC/RNC/WhateverPAC.  It's easy to say the shooter was mentally ill.  It's easy to blame the system or the guns or the ammo or the people who didn't grab him out of his seemingly mostly normal life and bang him in a treatment center years ago.

The truth is harder.  The truth is that one man, filled with hate, for whatever reason, fixated on his Congresswoman and wanted to get famous.  And he made a lot of collateral damage.  The truth is that there is no reason except in his head.  And if far more appropriately trained minds than mine are correct, the reason may never make sense to us, being a product of one of a number of illnesses that could cause the obsessions and delusions evidenced by his acquaintances and his personal effects. The truth is there is no reason.

Hindsight in some ways is more dangerous.  We see the act, we look for the reason and we impose our ideas on what happened.  Should we ban political rhetoric? guns? ammunition?  Is our constitution wrong?  Hindsight tells us that the man slipped through the cracks, so we need to plaster them up.  That somehow he wasn't treated, got a gun, and got angry.  Captain Hindsight says we should learn from what didn't happen to the shooter, and make sure we take care of all the other potential wackos out there preemptively.

Last time I checked in this country, all of those things were not only LEGAL, but practiced on a daily basis by thousands of people who don't kill anyone.  We're talking about the bill of rights here, people.  The very foundation of our liberty.

I am reminded of a fabulous scene from one of my favorite movies. A movie that was made by a pair of "cuckoo liberals" in a time when the rhetoric didn't overshoot the message. Could they make this movie today?  Would they?

ANDREW SHEPHERD: America isn't easy. America is advanced citizenship. You've got to want it bad, because it's gonna put up a fight. It's gonna say, "You want free speech? Let's see you acknowledge a man whose words make your blood boil who is standing center stage and advocating at the top of his lungs that which you would spend a lifetime opposing at the top of yours. You want to claim this land as the 'land of the free'? Then the symbol of your country cannot just be a flag. The symbol also has to be one of its citizens exercising his right to burn that flag in protest. Now show me that, defend that, celebrate that in your classrooms. Then you can stand up and sing about the 'land of the free.'" 

The movie is, of course, The American President, starring Michael Douglas and Annette Bening,  and made by Rob Reiner.

It's kind of funny how the shoe is now all of a sudden on the other foot, huh?  But this is the meat of the problem. Freedom is not easy.  It may be simple, but there's a big difference between simple and easy.  Ask any 5 year old learning to read, or an 8 year old contemplating multiplication.  

Freedom means responsibility.  Yet another quality that seems poised to disappear entirely from our society.  Because we are free to do nearly as we wish, we are also responsible to reach out, to question, to respect.  And when someone acts out in a dangerous or violent way, it is our responsibility to seek out the best solution.  Will banning guns stop future shooters?  Of course not.  Plenty of criminals find ways to get guns and bullets.  What about mental health service reform? You simply can not incarcerate some one unless they are clearly a danger to themselves or others.  Stalin did that, you know.  And Hitler. You remember him.  No, not Bushitler, the real asshole, the one on the military channel in the grainy black and white.  Like most heart disease, the first outwardly visible symptom of dangerous mental illness is often death.  Usually suicide or SBC (suicide by cop, what I believe the shooter intended).  Sure, better screening and insurance coverage will help.  Decreasing the stigma, too.  However, it has always been, and always will be, difficult to predict which patients will become violent and which won't.

So what can we do?  Well, we can talk to each other more.  Try to understand our differences.  We can get help for people who need it.  We can encourage responsibility and reason.  But most of all, maybe we should just leave Captain Hindsight where he is, in South Park.

Posted by caltechgirl at January 10, 2011 03:54 PM | TrackBack

Very well said!

Posted by: pam at January 10, 2011 04:38 PM

Nicely put.

I've always loved that quote from The American President, and felt it spoke equally to both sides of the aisle.

Posted by: beth at January 10, 2011 05:13 PM

me, too, Beth.

Posted by: caltechgirl at January 10, 2011 05:16 PM

Thank you so very much for being able to put to paper, what I have been only able to think... You also know just how much I love that quote from "The American President".

Posted by: GMT at January 10, 2011 06:20 PM
Post a comment

Remember personal info?