Evil goes way back

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A nicer America is not part of history

By Harold Morgan

Lunatics will always be with us. Lunatics with guns will always be with us. So will evil.
My reaction to the shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (and 18 others) in Tucson Jan. 8 starts with lunatics.
I’m leaving aside the claims that Sarah Palin had something to do with creating the environment for the shooting. That’s idiotic. Also idiotic is the notion that we’ve somehow left a “nice America” that existed somewhere in the past.
Nice America? Let’s see … Joe McCarthy and Little Rock in the 1950s. My generation executed “the 60s,” sex, drugs, rock ‘n’ roll and riots, even in Albuquerque.
And, of course, Oklahoma City.
While exercising a few days after the shootings, I watched the Chris Matthews Hardball show on MSNBC. The sound was off. The words trailed along the bottom of the screen. Matthews and guests obsessed on the “political” connections of the Giffords shooting. It was offensive.
Time’s Joe Klein called it “the absurd screech of the debate surrounding this terrible event.” Nice phrase, Joe. “Absurd screech.” The screech is the baseless insistence, starting just after the incident, that something “political” was the motivation.
What we have with the shooter in Tucson, by all reports I’ve seen, is a young man well down the road to schizophrenia, if not there. He exemplifies a big problem that is not a political problem.
Oklahoma City gets to something never really considered by media — just how weird and sad and awful the tragedies are for individuals they touch even indirectly.
I was born in Oklahoma City. My parents brought us to New Mexico in 1959. A few days after the bombing a broadcast said people going into downtown Oklahoma City were using a certain entirely obscure street. I know that street and I know those people, I thought. It was unsettling.
Eight years ago a young teacher was slaughtered at my neighborhood elementary school. Evil appeared that night. These days, when we drive by the school, sometimes the vortex opens and unfathomable strangeness flits into the consciousness.
In Tucson, too, evil appeared. Tucson is as much of an Albuquerque clone as is possible. They have about the same population, one million, if you allow adding Santa Fe to Albuquerque, and about the same income. A mountain is just outside of town. They have a large state university, a nice Old Town next to downtown, good golf, distinctive architecture, much national defense activity.
The day after the shootings, I called my only Tucson friends, both former Las Cruces residents, to check in and express sympathy. Already there was a term of art. My friend said, “The event.” They live five minutes from the shopping center that was the site of the shootings. They drive by nearly every day, my friend explained in a tone of appalled and sad astonishment.
Their dream home, when constructed, was on the edge of Tucson. Over time, the neighborhood retail appeared with the usual businesses - a grocery, a drug store, a dry cleaner.
She had planned to attend Rep. Giffords’ meeting that Jan. 8 morning, but other weekend logistics ate the time. Later, not yet having seen any news reports, she had to detour around the shopping center because of the police. Her husband left his car in the parking lot early that day and took a long bike ride.
My friends met Rep. Giffords when she was a legislator. They hold her in the highest regard, both personally and as a public official. For my friends the vortex of the reminder of evil will open, too.
Jared Loughner, the Tucson killer, exemplifies a nasty problem for a free society. Wouldn’t it be nice if the brain, as it unraveled into schizophrenia, could trigger a neon sign?

Harold Morgan
NM News Services