I considered myself an agent of necessity in a political revolution. I’m not sure if Loughner, who seems to suffer from mental illness, can be considered an agent of anything. But I’m sure that if, as alleged, he pulled the trigger, he had convinced himself that he was doing what needed to be done.
At his age, I had thought myself into a similar corner. My willingness to endorse and engage in violence had something to do with an exaggerated sense of my own importance. I wanted to prove myself as a man – a motive exploited by all armies and terrorist groups. I wanted to be a true revolutionary like my guerrilla hero, Ernesto “Che” Guevara. I wanted the chant we used at demonstrations defending the Black Panthers to be more than just words: “The revolution has come/Time to pick up the gun!”…
After I turned myself in, I spent the next 25 years trying to figure out why I had made so many disastrous decisions as a young man. One of my conclusions was to pursue only nonviolent action – righteous action still, but without anger or brutality.
Like me, Loughner – though he’s the product of a different era and may have been motivated only by his madness – could have a long time to consider the logic behind his alleged actions. I only hope that he and those families that were destroyed can find peace.