Are We Becoming An Uncivil
January 14, 2011
We are not an
uncivilized society as evidenced by multiple acts of heroism during the
shooting. We have become a non-judgmental society as evidenced by multiple
signs of mental derangement that went unaddressed by the people and
institutions that encountered Jared Lee Loughner.
the aura of enlightenment in the 1960s, lawyers successfully brought suit
after suit to release the mentally ill from institutions and to raise the
barrier for future admissions. In the main, those released and those who
should have been admitted became the homeless. Some who should have been
institutionalized became dangerous. Worse, the national psyche became "live
and let live."
states, Arizona has a process whereby any person can petition for a
psychiatric evaluation based on a person's appearance of mental illness.
"Anyone concerned about his behavior could have called at any time," said
Neal Cash, president of the Community Partnership of Southern Arizona. But
no one did. Not Pima Community College, which was well aware of Loughner's
bizarre behavior because it resulted in his expulsion but not in a referral
to the legal system. Not his parents, who could not possibly have missed his
backyard altar to a skull or his drugs. Not any of his classmates, one so
concerned she sat by the door to escape in case he arrived packing a gun.
blaming society or political rhetoric for Loughner, state legislatures need
to formulate a fair process for evaluating and admitting the mentally ill
who are dangerous. And society needs to adopt the mantra of those fighting
terrorism: "If you see something, say something."
— Victoria Toensing is a partner in the
Washington law firm diGenova and Toensing, and a board member of the
Foundation for Defense of Democracies.