Friday, September 5, 2008


Monica Guzman is a reporter for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer who's a frequent contributor to their "The Big Blog" feature. One of her recent posts is a great little rant about recent shootings north of the Seattle area: "Skagit County shooting: 'Whatever happened to crazy?'" In it, she rips off a few paragraphs about what does happen to Crazy, at least here in Washington. It's actually really good. Judging from the relative lack of comments (and complete lack of partisan hate-mongering that P-I blogs tend to attract), it wasn't widely read. Which is a pity.

For my part, I would like to have seen "crazy" capitalized, is if it were a name. I think that would have made the idea that we're talking about people, as well as a state, more clear. But that's a minor quibble. What really caught may attention came near the end of the peice, when she said, of the shortcomings in Washington state's mental health system:

"But you probably won't read much about them again until the next tragedy, when crazy gets away from us again."
And that made me think.

Guzman is right, we won't hear much about them. Because the Post-Intelligencer, and the broader "media machine" in general, don't think that we're really all that interested in the problem. And so, in the name of keeping expenses low, and advertising revenue high, they're going to stick with stories that have a better chance of getting people to pick up a newspaper, or click over to the website. Or watch the program, or download the podcast. After all, their job is to generate audience. So nothing will be said, and we won't complain about it, because this is the way that we handle problems, isn't it? We adopt passivity as a strategy, hoping that the issue will somehow fix itself, or that some other idiot will take it upon themselves to fix things for us. And so we wait until the situation blows up in our faces, like it has recently. And then we go hunting for Someone to Blame.

There will be a frenzy around how a man who claims that he kills for God managed to avoid being treated, even while his mother was going out of her mind trying to get something done. The Blame Game will swing around to the managers of the state's mental health system, whose first priority will be to make sure that no matter what else happens, their exposure to liability is limited. Their second task will be to lie low long enough for next week's crisis, which has been steadily brewing while we studiously ignored it, too, suddenly detonates. Then we, the public, will take our torches and our pitchforks, and we'll start another witchhunt, chasing after a new Someone to Blame, and this problem will go back to being out of sight and out of mind.

Crazy will be back. It always is. And we'll ignore it - the public, the press, the politicians. Yeah, there will be activists of various stripes, that will try to rouse people to action. But their fight against public apathy will eventually mean that they'll sacrifice the truth in the name of action, and someone will call out their falsehood, and we'll prefer to think that everything they said was a lie, rather than try to understand why they were so desperate. And when Crazy gets away from us again, we'll clamor to be lead to safety, and then quietly forget again.

We always do.

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