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Our Sick Society

In my hometown last weekend there was a sad, tragic story of a homeless, paranoid schizophrenic man falling to his death from a construction crane, to which he had escaped after being pursued by police for an alleged car jacking.  The story played out over local TV for most of Saturday, with the standoff lasting 14 hours.  In the end he essentially committed suicide.  His mother summed it up best — “I think he gave up”.

I bring up this story because it shines a light on one of the bigger problems we have in our society, one that gets very little mention at all.  And that is that there’s a huge segment of our society that is heartless and mean-spirited and morally bankrupt.  From the very beginning of this story, it was quite clear that this man was mentally unstable and a threat to no one but himself.  And yet how did local Dallasites react?  For many, it was all high humor.  Someone set up a Facebook page to mock the poor man, and someone else set up a Twitter feed to make fun of him.  Lots of hilarity about it in all the social media.  And the comments sections on the news stories were filled not only with jokes, but calls for his immediate execution and lectures on how we should just exterminate all people like him who are drug addicts or mentally unstable.  And it wasn’t just the local right-wing rag (Dallas Morning News), you even saw comments like this in what passes for liberal news media here (Dallas Observer).

Now I certainly understand that these douche bags that were having so much fun over this tragedy are only a segment of society, and certainly don’t represent the majority.  But at the same time, they do represent a sizable minority.  These are the same folks who make up much of the Tea Party, the same folks who support such sociopaths as Rick Santorum and Michelle Bachmann, and are loyal Rush Limbaugh listeners.  This is more than just the ugly underbelly of our American society, it’s a major defining characteristic these days.

And what’s really disturbing is that there’s no solution to this that I’m aware of.  At least with Idiot Nation, there’s the hope that an improved educational system might someday produce citizens that could see through the lies and misinformation that the right-wing pushes.  Or perhaps something might happen to the national media and they realize it’s their responsibility to debunk the crap that the right-wing spouts, and inform the public of what the truth and reality is.  At least in theory there’s a solution to the mass stupidity of Americans.  But this total moral bankruptcy that we see these days — where’s the solution to that?