When I was in college, I used to go to parties, carouse around, and stay out late. Looked at objectively, I did these things in moderation, for I still managed to get plenty of sleep, eat reasonably well, and do my homework. But looked at from the vantage point of my parents, I did these things to excess. They grumbled from time to time, but since my grades were good, there was not much they could say.
And then, because I had always been susceptible to getting colds, which would knock me out for days on end, I would occasionally get sick. That was when I would find out just how much my parents had been suppressing their dislike of what they took to be a life of dissolution and debauchery. They would immediately start laying down the law: “All right, that’s it! No more staying out late for you,” my mother would say, at a level just below shouting. “I’ve been telling you and telling you,” my father would chime in, at full volume, “you can’t keep wrecking your health like this.”
It wasn’t fair. There I was in bed with a sore throat, stopped up sinuses, and a tight chest, and they were piling it on. “It’s just a cold,” I would manage weakly. But they were undeterred. They had been seething with anger all along, and now that they had their chance, they were not about to let the opportunity pass them by.
Colds are part of life, and so too is insanity. But just as my parents tried to use a cold that I would probably have caught regardless to vent their anxiety over my wanton ways, so too have people been seizing the opportunity of a mass killing in Santa Barbara to draw some grand conclusion about misogyny, the men’s rights movement, racial profiling, and, in all likelihood, the Republican Party.
There will always be people who go berserk. The precipitating cause may be something trivial, something the rest of us deal with as a matter of course, but the ultimate cause is madness, and nothing of significance should be inferred beyond that. A social problem, if such there be, is not elevated in importance or urgency simply because it can be associated with motives of a lunatic who went on a rampage.
It has been a long time since I went to parties, caroused around, and stayed out late. But I still get colds.