"Our Country!
In her intercourse with foreign nations may she always be in the right;
but right or wrong, our country!"

    --Commodore Stephen Decatur

Monday, January 10, 2011

The Irrationality of Evil

Even as the fate of Congresswoman Giffords was still clouded in rumor and uncertainty, with erroneous reports of her death circulating on NPR and CNN, liberal pundits and lawmakers quickly grasped on remarks from the Pima County Sheriff, Clarence Dupnik, suggesting the assassin was somehow driven to kill by overheated political discourse. As the Washington Post reported yesterday:

"There's reason to believe that this individual may have a mental issue. And I think people who are unbalanced are especially susceptible to vitriol," he said during his televised remarks. "People tend to pooh-pooh this business about all the vitriol we hear inflaming the American public by people who make a living off of doing that. That may be free speech, but it's not without consequences."
Calmer voices have noted that the assassin, Jared Lee Loughner, was a deranged sociopath and that his ramblings on MySpace and YouTube have little, if anything, to do with politics. Loughner cited The Communist Manifesto and Mein Kampf as some of his favorite books, but unlike other historical assassins such as Lee Harvey Oswald and John Wilkes Booth, there is little to suggest that Loughner was acting out in support of any particular ideology.

The rush by liberals to pin the blame for Loughner’s actions on our political system is not new. Pundits always seem to feel qualified to take on the role of amateur psychologist whenever our nation is struck by a tragedy of this magnitude. For example, in his biography of John F. Kennedy, Arthur Schlesinger pinned the blame for the Kennedy Assassination squarely on the shoulders of the American public, and particularly conservatives:

The tension and anonymity of urban life had further sharpened the impulse to violence. Every day the television industry instructed the children of the nation how easily problems could be solved by revolver shots. Fortifying the “Gunsmoke” ethic was a mood of national self-righteousness—the happy conviction of American uniqueness, which smoothed out and washed away the cruelties and sins of the past…
For liberals like Dupnik and Schlesinger, it is impossible to accept that despite our best efforts, good and evil will always exist in the world. One of the tenets of the liberal agenda is that all problems of society and the human condition can be solved by government. Each person is nothing more than a machine, responding to the external stimuli of the world around us. Thus, a deranged killer like Oswald or Loughner is not merely evil, but must be the product of our "culture of violence."

However, the sad truth is that there will never be a rational explanation for what happened this past Saturday. Although many people who interacted with Loughner suspected he had serious mental problems, they could never have known where the unraveling of his troubled mind would lead. Rather than trying to pin the blame on larger forces, we must accept that this tragedy is so supremely evil precisely because of its irrationality.

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