Those looking for insight into why Jared Loughner did what he did could do worse than to look here. It’s an interview with a friend of the Arizona shooter, describing Loughner’s harrowing descent into unreachability and madness, but it also does away with the notion that the assassin was straight-up crazy, listening only to voices in his head or little men from Mars.
Loughner may for the most part have lacked the lucidity to express the thoughts that were troubling him, but his question, “What is government if words have no meaning?” must have crossed the minds of many Americans awash in the torrents of invective spilled by talk radio charlatans, Tea Party cranks posing as revolutionaries, and politicians who paint an attempt to provide citizens with some minimal form of health insurance as an existential threat to the Republic.
In their haste to cover their rhetorical tracks in the wake of the Arizona shootings, commentators and activists alike are desperate to assure us that their violent imagery and calls to something not much short of armed revolution didn’t really mean what they sounded like. If we are to take them at their word, a greater question remains: what did they mean? Nothing at all? Even I find that disturbing; how much more so a somewhat unbalanced young man, a somewhat unbalanced young man who is nonetheless, thanks to the vigilant efforts of those same activists, commentators and politicians, able to walk into any store in the land and walk out with a semi-automatic pistol capable of mowing down whole crowds of people engaged in the business of democracy?