This is the headline over a story in Al-Jazeera:
I don’t want to seem too reductive, since the answers to that question are complicated underneath any seemingly simple answers.
But the short answers as they relate to the Portland stabbing incident seem IMHO to be:
- Jeremy Christian, the confessed prime suspect in the Portland incident, is clearly not a well person mentally. That does not excuse what he did. But people like him used to be forced to wander the streets and scream their paranoid nonsense to nobody in particular. Now they have their dangerous views reinforced by InfoWars and Fox News.
- The election of Donald Trump has, despite how anyone might feel about why he might or might not have been the best candidate, has unleashed a torrent of uncivil behavior in America. Trump is, whatever his strengths or weaknesses, a man who shows people that being rude and, well, basically immature in public is a strength. If the President can do it, why not the rest of us?
Jerk-y behavior has always been with us. It’s just been given a public platform by the current resident of the White House. That is pretty much unprecedented in our presidents, from whom both sides once expected at least a minimum level of maturity and public restraint.
Not any longer.
If you’re mentally ill and you already have InfoWars telling you that “they” (whomever “they”might be in your worldview) are coming to get your guns. give your job to immigrants, and take away your free speech, you’re already primed for uncivil behavior in public.
Now, for the first time, throw in a president for whom saying and doing whatever he wants, regardless of the circumstances, is a virtue and not a flaw, why in the world would anyone think that the Jeremy Christians of the world would not be more likely to act on their crazy impulses?
I’m not the first person to point any of this out. But I do think all of this needs to be repeated and stressed every time one of these incidents happens.
Words and actions have consequences, especially for those who are already battling mental illness and/or alcoholism and drug abuse.
If those of us who are not mentally ill are screaming at one another in public, why should the mentally ill feel any need to restrain themselves at all?