Violence and psychosis

This post comes two weeks after yet another, large-scale national tragedy related to killing.  This subject is not my typical fare, but I so appreciated a newspaper column I read recently that I decided to weigh in.  I think the topic of violence in our society deserves continued, deeply thoughtful treatment.

Below is a comment from syndicated columnist  Charles Krauthammer of the Washington Post.

“I have no problem in principle with gun control.  Congress enacted (and I supported) an assault weapons ban in 1994.  It didn’t work.  (So concluded a University of Pennsylvania study commissioned by the Justice Department.)  Unless you are prepared to confiscate all existing firearms, disarm the citizenry, and repeal the second amendment, it’s almost impossible to craft a law that will be effective.”

The above gets at one aspect of the problem — namely, the incapacity of law.  Being much more interested in God-things than in gun control or lack of it, as I read the above the second time, I began to fancy a parodic version that substitutes “Law of Moses” for “gun control.”  [If you only tuned in because of Newtown, pardon (or skip) this theological aside.]

I have no issue with the Law of Moses.  God enacted it, and I support it, as understood properly temporarily.  It didn’t work.  (So concluded God-breathed documents authored by Paul and by whomever wrote the letter to the Hebrews.)  Unless you are prepared to rid humanity of all existing, potential means of rebellion, and repudiate the “free will principle” inherent in the creation of humankind, it’s impossible to craft a law — any law — that will ultimately be effective.

Many Jesus-believers seem not always to understand (i.e., in the same way I do, at present) the change He ushered in for Jews and for the world, but what do you think about my parody there?  Generically, I would tend to agree that law, in itself, is impotent to curb violence; I would definitely affirm that the Old-Covenant Hebrew Law is impotent, in this day and age, to preserve anyone eternally.  Whether or not you’re on board with a relatively well-delineated, Christian view of Old and New, let’s move on.  Try out this next, hyper-on-target accusation from columnist Krauthammer.


“We live in an entertainment culture soaked in graphic, often sadistic, violence.  It’s not just movies.  Young men sit for hours pulling video-game triggers, mowing down human beings en masse without pain or consequence.  And we profess shock when a small cadre of unstable, deeply deranged, dangerously isolated young men enact the overlearned narrative.

“If we’re serious about curtailing future Columbines and Newtowns, everything — guns, entertainment, and culture — must be on the table.  It’s not hard for President Obama to call out the National Rifle Association.  But will he call out the American Civil Liberties Union?  And will he call out his Hollywood friends?”

Earlier in the column, Krauthammer had asserted that psychiatrists in the 1970s (he was one) could more easily commit psychotic people against their will.   Then he asks, by implication, what if mentally unstable people had fewer “rights” today?  My quoting and commenting here are not intended as a statement of political stance.  No, I have little concern with the perceived conservatism or liberalism of, e.g., gun control or civil rights.  I only want to call attention to what might make a great deal of societal sense.

Going further, the columnist also cites the Jared Loughner (Tucson) situation:  “Just about everyone around [him] sensed he was mentally ill and dangerous.  But in effect, he had to kill before he could be put away -– and (forcibly) treated.”

Having no sociology or criminology or psychiatry training renders me mostly ignorant here, I admit.  But I do have some sense and some insight at times, and I wish to affirm that these are two gargantuan, extensive roots of the problem of violence in society:  1) instantiated, “entertainment”-based violence, and 2) constraints — ostensibly related to “liberties” — that keep society from protecting itself.

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