She was shot through the head (a through-and-through brain injury) at close range by one Jared Loughner (or Laughner--it's been reported with both spellings) a young man who now, after the fact, is being described as the usual "loner" "different" etc. What he was really, we don't know yet. "Random," however, seems the wrong adjective for someone who deliberately targets a politician and comes in close for the kill--and then also shoots anyone standing near her.
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It's amazing she's alive. She's had brain surgery, and she's in intensive care, and the surgeons are talking about recovery. They do not, however, mean complete return to what she was before. Because that is not possible with a through-and-through brain injury with hot lead. Her brain has had a hole ripped in it. It's had heat (bullets coming out of a barrel placed close to the target are not cool items--it's called hot lead for a reason) applied to it. It's had bits of bone stabbed into it. The surgeons will have removed the bone bits they could, and they will have sewn up the ripped arteries, and they will have done what they can for the exit wound damage, which is larger than the entrance wound...but suffice to say that Congresswoman Giffords is not going to take her seat in Congress any time soon, except perhaps to show a brave face. If complications don't set in; if nothing more goes wrong. It's still likely that she could die--
Traumatic brain injury is no different in a civilian brain than a military brain. Anyone with an intact brain should have had some exposure (personally or through TV programs) to the effects of the myriad TBIs coming out of the war zones in the past 7 years. The few people who survive a through-and-through (which is, however, better than when the bullet bounces around inside the skull tearing more holes) are permanently damaged...permanently. They go into long-term rehab programs where they try to learn work-arounds for whatever part of the brain was destroyed. Until the swelling in her brain goes down (and I'm reasonably sure her surgeons are familiar with the latest techniques for handling that, something developed for military personnel in this latest war) it's impossible to know exactly what she'll lose. The surgeons--who have seen the actual damage--will have some guesses, based on many previous examples of brain damage and the results and what they saw in her head. They say she's responding to commands--which means that she's not in a coma--but doesn't mean she's OK. She's not OK.
I emphasize this, because there are already people saying "Oh, she's still alive and the surgeons say they expect her to recover, so she'll be OK." No. I don't know what calibre weapon the shooter used, but all calibre does is change the amount of damage, not the nature of it. I saw gunshot wounds to the head when I was a paramedic. Some were alive when we got them to the hospital. None survived. I've seen (in person and on television shows about wounded vets) people with the long-term results of traumatic brain injury. They're not what they were--they're not WHO they were, because who we are--our self-image of ourselves--is generated in the brain.
I suggest that you all sit back and take your index finger and place it at any point on your head...and imagine punching a hole all the way through. Imagine the impact...the hair and torn skin and shattered bone being driven into the soft tissue of the brain itself, carrying all the bacteria that were on the hair and skin into that previously sterile environment...the bits of bone slicing what the bullet doesn't, arteries and veins bursting, blood pouring out into the space behind the bullet, the shock waves of the impact propagating through the brain. Imagine the bullet's swift and destructive passage, plowing through structures that give us sight, hearing, the senses of smell and taste and touch, emotional stability, cognition in all its complexity--the ability to recognize faces, tunes, words we hear, letters on a page--sensory integration, motor control for movement, the sense of balance, control of sphincters, all integrated, in the adult brain, and working together...but now ripped asunder. Would you be you, if you lost the memory of ten years of your life? If your lover's touch felt like barbed wire and not gentle fingers? If you could not write your name?
She may be paralyzed, partly or completely. She may be unable to speak--or she may speak, but incoherently. She may not recognize the faces of her loved ones or her colleagues. She may be unable to taste what she eats, or know a hot surface from a cold one. The muscles of her face--or one side of it--may droop, pulling her mouth awry. She may be unable to smell the roses, or anything else. She may be blind, or she may have partial sight, or be unable to tell a hawk from a handsaw. She may lose her hard-won knowledge; she may lose her equally hard-won emotional control.
My reaction, already criticized as hasty, is that Sarah Palin and her infamous map of Democratic Congresspersons to be targeted in the 2010 election--a map that shows their states and homes with little cross-hairs, the view through a rifle scope--makes "random nutter" pretty damned unlikely. Nutter, maybe. "Opinionated" (one person's comment) nutter, maybe. But opinionated nutters are aimed at their targets by such things. It was irresponsible at best to suggest that political opponents were targets for firearms. It was especially irresponsible to do so in the continuing climate of controversy over firearms--of which Palin is a staunch advocate. The link between crosshairs and Palin's stance on firearms is solid enough that other than nutters could see it--and have, by their comments through the months on right-wing talk shows and TV channels. This is why, whatever is learned about the shooter, I consider this a political assassination, and consider it tied to Palin's--and the Tea Party's--"joking" references to shooting, targeting, etc. their "enemy."
"Joking" about shooting people gets you in trouble with law enforcement, if you're not in the right party at the right level. If Palin's map were not a political ad--if it were a hand-drawn map, and one of the people listed were found dead--and most especially if Palin were poor, brown, black, or an immigrant--she'd be in police custody right now and her house would be torn up looking for evidence, as Loughner's is. She'd be considered an accessory to the crime. But she's the darling of her party, she's perky and cute and says "gosh"...she's got money and power behind her, so she'll be able to slide away from this. She won't be investigated, or arrested, unless (and I don't think even Palin is stupid enough for this) she hired the man. It will be explained that he is the nutter, he's responsible for his own acts, she certainly didn't intend to have cross-hairs mistaken for, like, you know, real weapons. Wink-wink, nudge-nudge...because she knows perfectly well she's the darling of the nutter gun enthusiasts as well as the sane ones.
But remember it, the next time she's on TV as an important person, when her cute little nose wrinkles up in that cute little way and she looks perky and energetic and just so gosh darn wholesome, like a puppy...this is a woman who thought putting crosshairs on duly elected Congresspersons was a great idea. Her political action committee. Her signature. This is a woman who's made shooting gestures in the context of a campaign. She has that little respect for law and order and the rights of others to disagree with her.
She should never be elected to any office of responsibility, ever. She has no judgment. (And a lack of other qualifications, but the lack of judgment is the one at issue here.)
(Oh, you want to see the map--you managed to miss it last year? cdozo has it up on her LJ.)
And you're wondering if I'm a wimpy hunter-hating gun-hating knee-jerk liberal....no, though I do know where to put that knee in some circumstances. I own firearms. I use firearms. Get over it. This is not about your precious Second-Amendment rights, but about a political assassination and a likely trigger for it.