At Truthout, Steve Striffler writes that while accused Arizona shooter Jared Lee Loughner may have acted out of a jumble of motivations drawn from odd (or even seemingly contradictory) resources, that doesn't mean he's alone - and therefore his amalgam philosophy should be taken at least as seriously as the action it might have spurred.
Striffler maintains that this kind of thinking is more widespread than we might think at first.
Contrary to the prevailing wisdom, however, holding muddled political views does not in and of itself necessarily make Loughner mentally ill, unstable, crazy, or even particularly unusual. It makes him American and peculiarly so. In the college classroom, at political events and in grassroots organizing meetings, it does not take long to find many young (and not so young) people who hold what many of us consider to be an oddly contradictory collection of political views. After more than a decade of teaching, I can say that very few of today's college students have any sense of what "the left" or "the right" are or have traditionally stood for, what "liberal" and "conservative" have historically meant or where on the political spectrum we might place fascism and communism. When asked, most students - most Americans - "know" that Hitler and Marx are "bad," but very few can articulate what they stood for politically and many often assume that Nazi and Communist are synonymous.
It is a bit ironic that at the same time as many commentators are urging us to listen more closely to our opponents' ideas and resist the urge to demonize them, that we are dismissing Loughner's political views without even so much as a real discussion. What he did is horrible, but the commentary has gone too quickly from "Loughner's actions were politically motivated" to "it had nothing to do with politics." We are now told that because his political views do not fall seamlessly into a neat box labeled "left" or "right" that they were irrelevant for understanding events in Arizona and, by connection, for understanding the current political situation in the United States. We should take Loughner's political views seriously. His mental state may have led him down a particularly destructive path, but his political confusion is by no means unique.
h/t Lelanda Lee