Robert A. Hawkins was a loser. Like a broken clock that can never do good, he brought trouble to everyone that cared for him, paid him any attention or tried to help him. Ultimately, these broken clocks will harm folks that are connected to them only by temporary proximity.
If they live for very long, the pain and damage these losers cause is dragged out; I have seen mothers suffer for decades over sons gone bad and a whole family forfeit the joy of life in trying to care for a deranged uncle. When they 'go out in style' like Robert A. Hawkins did yesterday at the Westroads Mall here in Omaha, the damage and suffering are inflicted at once.
What to do? My first reaction was to rail about the ignorant policies that discouraged anyone from stopping Mr. Hawkins murder-suicide with a gun. I know I'd feel awful if I'd had a shot at the kid right as his mainspring broke and had left my pistol in the car or at home. But that is just me.
Looking at the incident a day later, it is become clear that I missed the point. The only thing I can think of that would help prevent these infrequent but very intense incidents, as well as to alleviate the long, drawn-out damage and pain caused by broken clocks like Mr. Hawkins is to bring back involuntary commitment. I've had to say this before, when Cho Seung-Hui's murder spree at Virginia Tech caused my knee to jerk.
Re-opening the state and county asylum system, using sensible due process for involuntary commitments, is the humane way to protect the rest of us without destroying a life. It would call for modern asylums, where the broken clocks who are our sons and daughters, aunts and uncles could live life with whatever modicum of joy and decency as God allows them. Too costly? Not when the mental anguish these broken clocks can cause is factored into the calculus. Think of the effects of yesterday's shooting rippling out from the Westroads through Omaha and beyond.
As usual, the lady bloggers I read got it right. Its time to think of our neighbors.