You know the answer. It's a bit like asking if violent video games really do desensitize children's minds, or if smoking too much pot every day will eventually make you a useless, slow-blinking dolt. It might not be the sole cause, but it's certainly a factor. How big a factor depends, in part, on the level of one's instability to begin with.
[...] But the fact is, Loughner's festering insanity also found easy, fertile ground indeed to flourish into violence. Almost right up until the moment Loughner pulled the trigger, the ever-paranoid, Tea Party-enraged portions of this country essentially cheered him on, sent him a brochure, welcomed him as one of their own.
Look, this is America: While you are halfheartedly allowed to be as optimistic, spiritually awake, book-learned, calm and reasonable as you wish, you are aggressively encouraged to be as suspicious, xenophobic, poorly informed, well-armed, God-fearing and insular as you possibly can. Let's be absolutely clear: When it comes to toxic rhetoric and the general spew of hate and fear, the GOP and its frothing media army outgun liberals by a factor of, oh, about a thousand to one.
On one level, Loughner is but another fractured mirror, held up to reveal our darkest cultural themes, obsessions, illnesses. We ask, "How can we minimize those factors that allow monsters like him to exist in the first place?" Most answers fail spectacularly.
Will the hate radio provocateurs do any soul-searching? They will not. Will we get stricter gun laws? Barely. Will treatment programs for mental illness improve? Hardly. Will the media, pop culture, our politicians, our society ever get past the vile veneration of the firearm, which results in 30,000 gun-related deaths a year, by far the worst rate in the civilized world? What are you, a communist?
No, and I'm not ready to try to try to sensibly discuss Guns In America either.
Nobody is, and it's a big part of the problem. It's very complicated and the NRA will not permit it.
The final questions emerge. Are you an agent of the calm and the open-hearted, or a pseudo-victim of the fear and the reactionary? Have you already made your choice?
Yes. I'm getting calmer and more hard-hearted against the fringe right all the time. When they both turn to ice, and it's close, Katy bar the door.