Charles P. Piece with The Atlantic has probably written the best piece I’ve seen today on what the excesses are when extremists infect the body politic. His article derives from yet another senseless public shooting, which fortunately damages only property not human life, but none-the-less exposes a behavior that is rampant in our society today. A behavior that Pierce feels is the result of how successfully the Tea Party mentality has carried the notion that all government is evil and to be viewed prejudicially.
A Shooting in West Virginia
By Charles P. Pierce
There is a wildness abroad in the land. There is a wildness abroad in our politics. It is infectious, this wildness. It spreads quickly. It spreads through the air, through the unmoored political Id of a thousand talk shows. It spreads through indirect human contact, through the unmoored political Id of hundreds of chain e-mails and direct-mail fundraising pitches. It spreads through direct human contact, one conversation at a time drawn from the unmoored political Id that has been unleashed like an unknown virus into what used to laughingly be called The Body Politic. There is a wildness abroad in our politics. There is a wildness abroad in our very heavily armed land.
State Police spokesman Sgt. Michael Baylous said officers arrived and shot the suspect, killing him. Witnesses reported hearing dozens of gunshots, he said. U.S. Marshal Patrick Sedoti said the man was armed with an AK-47 and also was carrying a Glock pistol. Wheeling Mayor Andy McKenzie said police who briefed him earlier Wednesday told him Piccard was a 20-year-plus veteran of the force who retired 13 years ago. Investigators were seeking a search warrant for Piccard’s home in hopes of determining a motive and if he acted alone, said Chief Deputy Mike Claxton of the Marshals Service in northern West Virginia. Asked if the gunman had any beef with the U.S. government, Claxton said, “We’re really digging hard at this point to find out.”
What’s your guess?
The wildness has its basic etiology in the encouragement at all levels of our politics of the notion of government as the ultimate Other, which coddles and feeds and nurture all the other Others who live off the rest of us. It can be found in the idea that government is an alien entity, a Thing Outside, a rustling in the bushes, a strange shadow on the wall, something to be feared simply for its existence, and not for anything that it may or may not have done. The wildness has its fundamental source in the rejection of the idea of a political commonwealth, and of the idea that self-government is an ongoing creative project of that political commonwealth. Once you reject that idea, and once you accept as axiomatic that government is the ultimate Other, then no rules need really apply. Crash the government when you don’t get your way in the legislature, or the courts, or at the ballot box. Finance those who will do it for you. Cut up the rules regarding fair representation in the national legislature. Rig the national government the way you’ve rigged the national economy. Cover yourself by ginning up the unmoored Id out in the country until, one day, somebody starts shooting. Starve the beast, Kill the beast. Drown the beast in the bathtub. See tyranny behind every rock and tree. Second Amendment remedies, sold over the counter.To fight the ultimate Other, there can be no rules. We were lucky this time that it was only a building that was shot. We were lucky this time that the gunman’s only victim was a symbol.
I have no idea yet why Thomas Piccard — a former cop, for god’s sake — took his guns to town yesterday. I do know that we, as a nation, have made it easier for him to get guns to take to town. I do know that we, as a nation, have allowed the wildness to spread unchecked through our politics until we have accepted debilitated self-government as a kind of permanent condition. We have weakened the national immune system. And all we ever do is drink down as much patent medicine as we can. Our politics are sick and we insist on poisoning them further. The contagion is raging. The entire country is a hot zone.