While Jared Loughner’s murderous violence was not caused—not even a little bit—by partisan politics in Arizona or in Washington, D.C., the fact that some politicians boldly and fraudulently stated that it was is evidence that our national psyche needs healing.
Today, any news event, including a shooting by a psychiatrically disturbed man who takes some of his inspiration from an imaginary large, gray bird with scales, but no feathers, is fodder for public relations machines engineered to generate political capital. It seems not to matter to those who would connect Mr. Loughner with Tea Party ideas or tactics whether the connection between the two is logical or not. Scoring political points is all that matters.
The psychological antidote to rancor based on anger and falsehoods has always been and will always be one thing: Truth. The cause of our suffering as a nation is no different than the cause of suffering in so many individuals: We have stopped being guided by facts, reality and the instinctive, spiritual guidance toward good that many millions of Americans call God.
We have cleaved the housing market from truth by manipulating it with government incentives to coerce folks who are not financially in a position to own homes to buy them anyhow.
We have cleaved whole industries from truth by allowing them not to live or die based on whether their products and strategies make them profitable, but on whether they are bailed out when they collapse.
We have begun the process of devaluing our currency.
We have luxuriated in indulging our prurient interests in whether politicians are having sex outside their marriages, instead of focusing on whether they are doing their jobs well.
We have winked at one another when politicians take turns as actors in feature films or turn up on late night TV to play comedian.
We have allowed a massive health care policy to pass Congress that forces Americans to use their discretionary income to buy a service from the insurance industry, very possibly in direct contradiction to the Constitution.
We have doled out unemployment checks for years to people who prefer those checks to jobs they consider unattractive.
We are considering waving a magic wand to make millions of illegal immigrants into legal immigrants.
We have minors—children and adolescents—standing trial in court as adults.
We have terrorists standing trial as civilians.
We have rogue nations developing the capacity to destroy the world with nuclear arms and won’t pay the price to stop them.
We have Congressmen cheating on their taxes and showing up for work, still claiming to be public servants (and getting reelected.) And we have leaders among us who really want a fundamental departure from the values and institutions that have previously constituted and defined the nation—but won’t admit it plainly and debate it honestly.
Americans love honest debate. Our Achilles’ heel seems to be the same one that does in alcoholics and drug addicts—a flight into fantasy, fiction and worship of fame (i.e. the epidemic of narcissism that now grips us).
As my friend Glenn Beck has said, “America needs a detox.”
Ultimately, only a return to the truth can save us. There really are basic principles of finance and government and civil discourse and respect for elected offices that can bring us back to equilibrium. We need to stop drugging ourselves with fantasies about how using economic intoxicants or political tricks or quick one-liners will suffice.
If we really want to take a step today, we would turn away from those who make the preposterous claim that Jared Loughner was expressing anything political through his violence. We would, instead, start striving to diagnose and heal the utterly unreliable, embarrassingly ill-prepared mental health care system in our country.
We would get back to work.
Of course, there will be pain involved in recommitting to reality. There always is. But there is no other way to find center, again, and move boldly forward.
Dr. Keith Ablow is a psychiatrist and member of the Fox News Medical A-Team. He is a New York Times best-selling author, and co-author, with Glenn Beck, of the book "The 7: Seven Wonders That Will Change Your Life". Dr. Ablow can be reached at email@example.com.