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Tim Myers: Prayer offers best way to help leaders

Myers’ Musings

Posted: January 15, 2011 9:43 p.m.
Updated: January 16, 2011 4:55 a.m.

According to Dallas legend, in the 1980s, something convinced quirky billionaire and later two-time presidential candidate Ross Perot that Libyan dictator Mohammar Quadhafi hired Black Panther hit squads to assassinate him.  His security solution: building a helipad at his home in an exclusive Dallas neighborhood to ferry him to and from work and prevent an inevitable carjacking and murder.

The City Council rejected his variance — not on the basis of neighbor noise complaints — but their equally quirky conviction that Black Panthers would utilize surface-to-air missiles to bring down the helicopter; most probably into their homes.

Thirty years later, we know for certain that North African dictators did not trouble themselves with the activities of Texas billionaires, nor did they have direct lines of communication into the Black Panthers. We all can share a good guffaw at the paranoia of Perot and his neighbors.

The simple fact remained that Perot probably should fear much more the actions of a distraught and distressed former employee than the machinations of the Black Panthers.

But the events of Jan. 8 in Tucson, Ariz., give pause to think about the safety of our own elected officials.

In Tucson, Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords was conducting one of her frequent “Congress on the Corner” events, where she met with constituents in outdoor venues, this time a supermarket parking lot.

If one attends such meetings, one realizes that only a handful of people show up.  Unfortunately on this day, one of that handful was a man who had a handgun and who was mentally ill. We all know the carnage that resulted.

Many will speculate on the motives of the gunman, and I will not even write his name to grant him the attention he might so grievously desire, but I believe this  constitutes no more than the tragic confluence of untreated mental illness and the availability of a handgun, which actually makes the tragedy all the more worrisome.

 Many cannot believe that a single man, Lee Harvey Oswald, assassinated a president of the United States. A not insubstantial minority clings to the belief of U.S. government complicity in the events of 9-11.

These beliefs provide a certain kind of comfort: If catastrophes require such a Herculean and coordinated effort, we ordinary citizens should hold little fear for any potential lightning strikes of insanity.

Many find the truth more frightening. The simple interaction of untreated mental illness and the ability to purchase a handgun and ammunition can provide the cocktail necessary for tragedy. Forget about the shooter possessing some integrated and coherent political or personal philosophy.

If anything, the shooters constitute incredibly tragic figures. Their belief system requires adherence to vast and dark forces that continuously conspire to prevent their success and happiness.

With little irony, Daniel McNaughton, the first person under English criminal law to benefit from an insanity defense, was a nearly invisible man beset by failures spread over his entire life. He failed at relationships, employment and business. In McNaughton’s tortured mind, he concluded that only the full force and power of the mighty British empire in the mid-1800s could cause his torment, and thus undertook an attempted assassination of the British prime minister.

Somewhat luckily for the general safety of our elected officials, the crazies focus only on the most high-profile. With only one or two primary targets, the security services can bring overwhelming resources to bear.

But our government cannot provide that level of protection to every member of Congress or senator, and forget about robust protection for state elected officials below the level of governor.

Sadly, now an individual having the debate with themselves in a darkened room after posting random thoughts about how to obviate their pain realizes they can gather national, and even international, attention by taking a shot at any federal elected official.

The alternatives do not look particularly attractive, since they entail further isolating our elected officials from their constituents, broadening the feelings of mistrust and separation and further fueling the ill will of the defective.

 I fear the only thing that can protect our elected officials and may have saved Giffords’ life may be the only thing that protects all of us anyway.


Tim Myers is a Valencia resident. His column reflects his own views and not necessarily those of The Signal. “Myers’ Musings” appears Sundays in The Signal.


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