To the editor:
In the Jan. 13 Journal-World, Charles Krauthammer (“Tucson shooting not driven by politics”) argues that mental illness alone caused the Tucson tragedy, and that it is “reckless” for Paul Krugman, among other writers, to link the tragedy to anything beyond one man’s isolated psychosis.
Krauthammer is correct that the killer is mentally ill. Psychiatric symptoms, however, are shaped by the social and political context of the day. In Freud’s time women were treated for fainting spells, false pregnancies, “hysterical paralysis” and other symptoms that are rarely, if ever, seen today. What we do see are life-threatening eating disorders (mainly in girls and women) and out of control aggression (mainly in boys and men).
Individual pathology cannot be understood in isolation from the broader system in which it is embedded. What is “reckless” is to pretend that there is no link between right-wing extremism and growing violence. Even more reckless is pretending that we can reduce the number of tragic shootings without standing up to the NRA and its allies.