Shift focus to less depressing aspects

Alex Lindley

Alex Lindley Copy Editor

On Jan. 8, 2011, Jared Lee Loughner opened fire at a political event for democratic representative Gabrielle Giffords, killing six people and wounding 14. He was arrested shortly after the shooting and his infamous, hollow-eyed mug shot was taken.

         The news has been flooded with commentary and reporting on this incident, Loughner’s life and his mental illness since its occurrence–and, no doubt, everyone is sick of it. It’s depressing, scary and eye-opening all at the same time. It has even sparked debates on who is at fault for not noticing signs of his deteriorating mental health, which can be easily assessed based on his YouTube videos under the account “Classitup10.”

         I wouldn’t recommend the videos to anyone who is easily disturbed by insanity. This isn’t in the videos, but just to illustrate his mental condition: he took pictures of himself with his gun wearing nothing but a red g-string before the shooting.

         But everyone is probably saturated with this story. Bottom line is he is completely off his rocker. Though, one aspect of the story has blossomed into something a little less depressing, and is very revealing of the deep effect that culture and society have on the individual.

         Little was known about Loughner–his motivations, his thoughts, his mind–before or directly after the shooting. In fact, most people who knew him in high school said he was quite normal. He later descended rapidly into mental illness and suffered delusions of conspiracy theories, including government mind control, faked space missions and college being constitutionally illegal.

         In studying Loughner’s delusions, which are characteristic of schizophrenic delusions, it was found that he had little or no relevant political knowledge, but most of his misperceptions centered on politics. This has raised the debate of whether or not his delusions were sparked by the rhetoric of extreme right-wing figures, like Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck.

         Of course, everyone in America is exposed to the delusions of those particular right-wing figures, so the argument that they caused his mental illness is outrageous.

         Interestingly enough, it was found, in a study by the Tokyo Metropolitan College of Allied Medical Sciences, that the ideas of most American delusional patients involved politics. But this was not the same in other places, according to the study. European patients tended to suffer delusions of being poisoned or various religious ideas, while Japanese patients were convinced that their names were being slandered.

         It’s not clear why the European patients were so preoccupied with poisoning, but it is apparent that the shame-based Japanese society has an effect on these delusional patients. If your name is being slandered, you are being shamed. This runs very deeply in ancestor worship and various other aspects of Japanese society.

         As for Americans, we are absolutely inundated with politics from every angle. We are, for the most part, bipartisan and constantly in political debate. The fact that politics has been brought into a mental health debate only further illustrates the extent to which politics saturates American culture.

         This is not to say that politics are bad, it is only to show the profound effect that a culture has on its members. Of course, nothing can excuse Loughner’s actions. But, if anything even remotely positive can be taken from such a tragedy, it is a miracle. If people are, in large part, products of their cultures, we can understand them better by understanding different cultures.

        This is a positive thing because it provides a key to understanding the people of the world, and could hopefully lead to less conflict. Let’s let the legal system sort Loughner out and focus on broader, more uplifting issues for a change. We don’t have to be defined by our political culture, though we are doubtlessly influenced by it.