Jared Loughner and Our Sick Society

Fresh from pitching softballs to Sarah Palin about the Gabrielle Giffords shooting, conservative MSNBC News host Joe Scarborough brought on another rabid Republican woman, Elisabeth Hasselbeck, the following night. In one of his questions to her, Scarborough stated that the alleged shooter Jared Loughner hadn’t ever attended a Tea Party meeting but that he “smoked dope.”

In the fingerpointing and handwringing following the terrible incident that left six dead and 14 injured, the Right has been quick to seize on the news that Loughner smoked marijuana and possibly salvia in the years leading up to his decline into madness.

Recovery “professionals” have expressed concern about “how easy it has been for this mentally ill young man to get marijuana.” That a troubled young man like Loughner could easily purchase a semi-automatic pistol with a 33-shot clip has met with “pushback” from conservatives even to the idea of reducing the clip size to 10 shots, while Sarah Palin has quietly taken the map down from her website that had “surveyors marks” over Congressman Giffords’ district.

Time magazine and others have tried to tie marijuana use to schizophrenia, citing statistical studies that link the two. But all that can be said is that marijuana might trigger schizophrenia is someone predisposed to it, just like binge drinking or a myriad of other events could do.

As friends and neighbors of the Arizona man come forward, pieces of the perplexing puzzle that is Jared Loughner have emerged. One neighbor said on ABC This Week that she used to enjoy the music coming from the Loughner home when Jared played saxophone in a jazz band, but that about four years ago, the music stopped. “Something changed,” she said. She asked the family about it, and was met with silence.

It was in May 2006, about four years ago, that Jared Loughner was taken to the emergency room by his high school nurse after he showed up “extremely intoxicated” for school that morning. Loughner told a sheriff’s deputy that he’d stolen a bottle of vodka from his parents because his father had yelled at him.

Not long after that, he dropped out of the band. One high school friend who’d tweeted that Loughner was a “pothead” when she knew him said he’d changed after the alcohol incident, become more withdrawn.

His music teacher Doug Tidaback said Loughner was a bright kid with talent, and that he didn’t remember ever seeing his father at his concerts. Others thought perhaps his parents were divorced, because his father was seldom seen. Whether Jared’s father was neglectful or even abusive remains to be known.

Loughner’s troubles escalated in September 2007 when he and a friend were caught with a pot pipe just before his 19th birthday. It’s unknown what effect this incident had on him, whether it alienated him more from mainstream society, or angered his parents. The effect of the other 500,000 yearly arrests in the US for marijuana on young people’s employment and education prospects, and the damage to their self esteem and family relationships, is incalculable. One friend said Loughner stopped using marijuana after the 2007 incident, and seemed worse off without it.

Jared Loughner’s unsupervised mind-expansion experiments took him to dangerous places. He became obsessed with the movie Zeigeist and its implications for government collusion in the events of September 11, 2001. He attended a meeting with his Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and was disappointed and angry that she was unable to respond to his strange question. It seemed he was looking hard for answers.

Loughner seemed to search everywhere for communion with a tribe, even trying to join the US Army, which rejected him when he told them about his marijuana smoking. He couldn’t keep a job, or a girlfriend, or assimilate his thoughts and experiences into everyday life. Yes, he is sick, but so is the culture that made him.

In The Power of Myth, Bill Moyers and Joseph Campbell had this exchange:

MOYERS: Do you ever think that it is this absence of the religious experience of ecstasy, of joy, this denial of transcendence in our society, that has turned so many young people to the use of drugs?

CAMPBELL: Absolutely, that is the way in.

MOYERS: The way in?

CAMPBELL: To an experience.

MOYERS: And religion can’t do that for you, or art can’t do it?

CAMPBELL: It could, but it is not doing it now. Religions are addressing social problems and ethics instead of the mystical experience.

Modern society demonizes what was once a religious experience: the partaking of psychedelic plants. The Greeks called them the Eleusinian Mysteries and their psychedelic sacrament kykeon brought communion to its initiates, who made a pilgrimage to the ceremony following months of preparation. Communion has now denigrated into a hollow ceremony performed by a cult that has condoned pedophilia. And laws against marijuana have sent teenagers trying untested substances like salvia for the experience they naturally seek. No wonder they’re confused.

It’s time we came to grips with the fact that adolescents will forever demand the kind of rite-of-passage experience that entheogens provide. Instead of offering information and guidance to our youth, we basically tell them what we used to when they asked about sex, “Learn about it on the street.”

We must learn to educate, not incarcerate. The cries for help are getting deadlier all the time.

Ellen Komp blogs at tokinwoman.blogspot.com and is a regular contributor to Cannabis Culture.

Comments

9 Comments

  1. Green Bud on

    Whats with “lone gunmen” and American Politics???

  2. Anonymous on

    THANK YOU for bringing attention to the religious and spiritual experiences that have been so integral to cannabis use throughout history. Although I certainly do believe society should educate themselves about these dynamics of cannabis, youths should also be taking a stance on the issue and educating each other. Using cannabis simply to “get stupid” is a very simplistic, one-dimensional perception of the drug and there are those who use cannabis for a myriad of more complex, more enlightening purposes. I do not believe in being overly critical of the stereotypical, inexperienced young potsmoker, but I do believe they should be introduced to these alternate uses of the drug through the resources available, including the experiences of their peers.

  3. Anonymous on

    THANK YOU for bringing attention to the religious and spiritual experiences that have been so integral to cannabis use throughout history. Although I certainly do believe society should educate themselves about these dynamics of cannabis, youths should also be taking a stance on the issue and educating each other. Using cannabis simply to “get stupid” is a very simplistic, one-dimensional perception of the drug and there are those who use cannabis for a myriad of more complex, more enlightening purposes. I do not believe in being overly critical of the stereotypical, inexperienced young potsmoker, but I do believe they should be introduced to these alternate uses of the drug through the resources available, including the experiences of their peers.

  4. The Ballyhoo on

    Drugs don’t make people stupid, people make people stupid.

    America needs to get an ”education”. Good fucking luck!

    The most MORONIC nation in existence. America will NEVER learn. Not until it is brought to it’s knees by a nuclear disaster, or an uprising by right wing militias and left wing revolutionists. Repeat the same old cycle over & over again.

    The only resistance, is armed resistance. We will be slaves until that day.

    Peace.

    The only group guilty of TREASON, is the politicians who have fucked with our civil-rights. Period.

    Any other take on it ios FANTASY.

    Peace.

  5. The BallyHoo on

    If anything, pot makes you mellow and easy……….

    Perhaps this lad was heaving on the meth-pipe!

    Oh yeah, if he was heaving, he must have started with the evil weed!!!!!!!!

    Yup.

    Sometimes, you just have to wonder.

    A lot, actually. A lot of wondering.

  6. Anonymous on

    One counter to the Swedish/Stockholm studies (from 1987/1989) is this one from 2007:

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17462864
    Schizophr Res. 2007 Jul;93(1-3):203-10. Epub 2007 Apr 25.
    RESULTS: There was no statistically significant effect of cannabis use on the presence of any of the above. There remained however a non-significant trend towards more insight (OR 0.65 p=0.055 for “loss of insight”) and a finding of fewer abusive or accusatory hallucinations (OR 0.65 p=0.049) of borderline significance amongst the cannabis users. These were in the hypothesised direction. There was no evidence of fewer negative symptoms or greater family history amongst cannabis users.

    CONCLUSION: We found few appreciable differences in symptomatology between schizophrenic patients who were or were not cannabis users. There were no differences in the proportion of people with a positive family history of schizophrenia between cannabis users and non-users. This argues against a distinct schizophrenia-like psychosis caused by cannabis

    ====

    I suspect that for contributions to Loughner’s issues that are not congenital, we should look at his POSSIBLY an emotionally abusive relationship with his father (at least perceived as such, based on statements about his May 15, 2006 trip to the ER for an alcohol overdose) and the fact that he was bullied in school. How many of these younger shooters have been severely bullied in school now?

    All the evidence points to Loughner having issues BEFORE he used cannabis.

  7. The BallyHoo on

    The marijuana angle is a Republican wet dream Spin Machine!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Every time a horrific crime is committed, if there was marijuana use or possession factoring in, it is zeroed in on, and beat to death, so as to purpetrate the lie, that marijuana smokers are crazy lunatics.!

    Love it, not so much.

  8. Anonymous on

    Scarborough is a former GOP congress member who works for MSNBC; as far as Republicans go his views are rather sensible… I mean, compared to the laissez faire anti-civil-rights Libertarianism & psychotic, racist, deluded, theocratic, socially Darwinistic, anti-science Tea Party ideas that are ruling the GOP at the moment.
    -indeed, the mass murderer in question though was a hard-drug user & was apparently made psychotic by the hard-drug use… also, he has some false views about things which inspired the murders (false Conservative beliefs about the US government being far worse than it is).
    -the guy had been abused by the government for cannabis use & that mixed with the nonsense that comes from Fox ‘News’ & Rush Limbaugh plus hard-drug induced psychosis were the likely big influences on his terrible choice to kill people like that.

  9. Bhonze on

    Hi Ellen, It is MSNBC NOT FOX!!!

    I wonder if this demon possessed dude snorted any bath salt or drank and alcohol??? These people are idiots. Cannabis does not make sane people do crazy things.