18 months ago, when Rep. Weiner (D-NY) denied and then admitted sending inappropriate photographs of himself to underage girls, I wrote a blog post that read in its entirety:
This is the only blog in America that won’t be talking about Anthony Weiner.
After the horrifying massacre in Newtown CT last week, I considered writing something along the same line. I decided that in this much-grimmer situation, it would sound too jocular. Now, though, I wish I had, because I’m giving into the temptation.
The media has spilled a lot of electrons lately asking two self-evidently unanswerable questions: “why did this happen?” and “what is to be done?”
The first question isn’t literally unanswerable; there is an obvious and irrefutable answer. It happened because one crazy evil guy made it happen. But that answer is unacceptable to people because it makes the second question so much more problematic.
About what is to be done, the blood was still wet when seemingly everyone in America decided this new evidence was fresh proof, as if any were needed, that he was right all along. Whatever you believed on Wednesday, you believed more strongly on Friday. We need more gun control, we need less gun control, more God, less God.
We have, as a species, largely given up on the problem of evil. I don’t know why. We actually seem to be making some headway. The worst dictators in the world now make public statements supporting the environment and opposing racism. They still practice torture and murder as matters of policy of course, but they always did and now at least act ashamed of it. A baby step, but the first steps are always baby steps. Hypocrisy, once the homage vice paid to virtue, has been upgraded to the tribute evil pays to good. At this rate, a few thousand years and all the crimes we take for granted today, from shoplifting to mass murder, will become something like cannibalism and witch-burning: aberrations we’ve heard of but never expect to witness in the modern day.
The problem of crazy, we are still working on. The word “crazy” has slid down the euphemism treadmill, after “lunacy” and before “insanity”, but still most people think that we will someday fix crazy.
I wish them luck. It isn’t impossible. We have fixed many complex and stubborn diseases. We fixed polio and smallpox. We fixed malaria (though we broke it again by banning DDT). We have taken big chunks out of cancer and HIV. Maybe someday I’ll get spam emails selling drugs — that work! — to cure schizophrenia the way I get ads for Propecia and Viagra today.
I’m not optimistic, though. Let’s accept, for the sake of argument, the mechanistic interpretation of the brain, that it’s an organ that produces thought and intention, the way that the thyroid is an organ that produces thyroxine and triiodothyronine. Even so, the function of the brain is still so intimately tied up with our basic identity, I doubt we’ll ever be able to disentangle “mental illness” from important things like nonconformity, creativity, and happiness.
It’s easy enough distinguish John Lennon from Mark Chapman — after the fact. Until they’ve achieved whatever it is they’re going to do, one dreamer looks very much like another. A friend of mine was put on anti-depressants after the death of her mother, leaving her numb and unable to even grieve. “Just think,” she said. “If we’d had all these drugs 100 years ago, we could have cured Vincent Van Gogh, before he’d painted a thing.”
Of course, I believed this a week ago. The tragedy at Sandy Hook just showed me what it showed everyone else: I was right all along.