Sunday, January 9, 2011

Deranged People In Our Midst: What Should We Do?

The Washington Post has a good story on the apparently deranged Jared Loughner, the alleged Arizona gunman.
The Post explains that last June, Lynda Sorenson, 52, had gone back to community college in Tucson and one of her classmates was Loughner.
Here's part of what she wrote about him:
"We have a mentally unstable person in the class that scares the living crap out of me. He is one of those whose picture you see on the news, after he has come into class with an automatic weapon. Everyone interviewed would say, Yeah, he was in my math class and he was really weird. I sit by the door with my purse handy. If you see it on the news one night, know that I got out fast..."
When I was growing up, mentally disturbed people were routinely institutionalized. In other words, they were taken off the streets and removed from orderly society. That's because they were considered a possible danger to themselves and others.
But somewhere along the way all that changed.
Over the years, it became increasingly hard to institutionalize such people -- to get them (and/or us) out of harm's way. Much of this turnaround came about because of court rulings -- rulings that some lawyers and judges and social engineers (those who feel they know better) considered "enlightened."
An so now, mentally unbalanced people -- mentally troubled people -- seem to be everywhere: in public places and spaces, on street corners, at shopping centers, wherever . . .
Having worked in a big city for nearly 30 years, I'm sorry to say I became almost immune to the situation. I became hardened to it. In fact, I was surprised if I went through a day without seeing or passing by three such people on the street. It was almost impossible to avoid them. After more than 7,000 days of this, it's probably a small miracle that I was never accosted or mugged or harmed in some way. Goodness knows, I had enough profanity hurled at me. And I saw some very scary sights.
It seems to me that this is a sad and dangerous situation (way worse than a mere nuisance) that is repeated all over America.
And we all need to start thinking about how and why this happened. And what might be done about it. We've got to stop pretending that this isn't a problem. We've got to begin taking responsibility for the safety of ourselves and others once again.
Forget "civility." We're talking about public health, welfare and safety. This is a subject that needs to be discussed -- that needs to be brought back into the public arena.
This is a debate that we need to have. And we need to have it now.

Click here to read more from the Washington Post and see what Lynda Sorenson went through with Jared Loughner in her class.

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