It’s a cloudy, rainy day in the San Francisco Bay region. These cool winter days act as a natural sedative for your faithful reporter. They encourage a pensive, reflective mood. This attitude is always somewhat dangerous in a late Boomer as my mind tends to latch on to the obsessions of my generation.
Thus looking at the mug shot of Jared Loughner, the accused shooter in the incident at Tucson, Arizona, I am suffering a Boomer flash-back. I am recalling a different picture, of different man. He is wearing almost exactly the same smirk.
The man is slightly built; he is wearing a sport coat over a white T-shirt, and he is accused of assassinating the president, JFK. You look at the image over the years, and it still has power; it still evokes a visceral response. You want to wipe that smirk of that man’s face. You want to rub it off by pushing that face into the pavement and slowly grinding it off. This is the face of evil. This is a man who is proud of what he has done; the senseless brutal killing of a eminent man.
Flash forward to the present day. The image is now in color instead of sixties black and white, but the smirk remains. Look at the face of Jared Loughner. Look at it long and hard. Hold down the bile that is surging in your throat and what do you see? I see pride. I see overweening pride. This man is proud of himself. He has the look of a cat that has just eaten a canary.
There is also more in this image. There is also a very disturbing look of the unhinged. You can almost see the pinwheels spinning in Jared Loughner’s eyes. The hamster inside this man’s head is feverishly spinning his wheel, but the hamster’s efforts are only causing more smoke to pour out Jared Loughner’s ears. There is a very obvious problem with this mans’ mental wiring.
To really understand this image, to grasp what is going on in this single picture, you have to be abandon the Manichean idiocy that passes for political discussion in the second millennium of the Common Era. As David Greenberg points out, it more than possible for Jared Lougher to have been both politically motivated and crazier than a bed bug in the August heat. ( http://www.slate.com/id/2280697/ ) His motivations could be the results of a warped mind and the political landscape he occupied.
Unfortunately such nuanced thinking is beyond our present political discussion. Even our attempts at lowering the political heat, of calming down the discussion, seem to just increase the division and partisanship. The right of Fox News Nation is especially unwilling for this incident to place a wet blanket on their triumphalism. You can see the push-back from El Rushbo and the overheated swamps that is Leisure Suit Larry Johnson’s toxic political waste dump and blog, No Quarter. Partisans seem bound and determined to keep riding their favorite political hobby horses and damn the consequence.
This again brings me back to that mug shot and that nasty self-satisfied smirk that Jared Loughner is wearing on his face. He seems to know the damage he has done. He seems not only proud of the act but also of the chaos it will bring about. He seems proud that he is contributing to the fear, anger, and distrust that we operate under. He is a big man now, a winner, he matters, he is no longer a cypher. As Shakespeare once noted in Hamlet “ Though this be madness, yet there is method in't.”
I don’t want to be a depressive, but we are in a bad patch. Our nation is very sick. The corruption and decadence of our political-social-economic system is making us all bitter, angry and inflexible. Instead of moderating our obsessions, the Two Party System we operate under is only adding fuel to the fire. I wonder how the X and Y generations who put so much hope in the supposed transitional promise of Obama are now reacting to the revenge of the Boomers. Once again they find themselves collateral damage to the obsessions of my generation. What do they see when they look at the face of Jared Loughner? Nothing good is my guess.