An art student recommended I take a three-dimensional design course when I was in my last semester as an undergraduate four decades ago. He said it would serve me the most.
I learned from it that sculptures, models and art pieces, not unlike ideas, can be seen from many angles. It's all about perception and understanding. Good three-dimensional design can be seen in many ways and still keep its integrity.
This experience from the 1960s came to mind after I read an e-mail from a reader reacting to the second of my columns about the murders, woundings, attempted assassination of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, and the attack in Tucson on democratic assembly. My claim is that this was not a mere mishap or unforeseen calamity but something that builds up through fiery rhetoric and incendiary provocations.
Modern neuroscience research teaches us that marginal people are most susceptible to literally having their brains altered by a cacophony of hate speech and demonic images, creating a sense of imminent danger. When repeated often enough, a unique moment can be made to seem as if it is calling the believers to act.
Think about how the followers of Charlie Manson, the mastermind behind the Southern California Tate-Labianca mass murders, carried out his instruction. The cult brainwashed itself into believing mass murder would ignite the apocalyptic event they wanted to unleash.
Following the Tucson murders, after only a short pause for reflection, the corrosive sound machine started up all over again. Now a new target is Frances Fox Piven, a City University of New York professor, who wrote a magazine article in 1966 that advocated how to use a welfare enrollment drive to create a political crisis, mostly for the Democratic Party, to increase welfare benefits. Today, 45 years later, this is portrayed, by Fox News' Glenn Beck as "a progressive take-down of America," as reported by New York Times writer Brian Stelter.
The Times says, Glenn Beck claims it is an effort "to overwhelm the system and bring about the fall of capitalism by overloading the government bureaucracy with impossible demands and bring on economic collapse." Helter-skelter again.
But wait a minute. Around the country back in 1966, were not a huge number of average students also filing lots of appeals at Selective Service offices in order to jam up the works and force a reckoning about the Vietnam War and the military draft? Wasn't what Piven advocated kind of a popular strategy back then to get government recognition of problems that had otherwise been ignored.
As a consequence of what she wrote 45 years ago, Piven recently had to seek legal protection from the threats she has come under and that has no meaning today, except as it is wrongly construed.
So you tell me. Isn't the threat to Piven Charlie Manson-like?
Well, one reader of my article about the Tucson incident drew the curious conclusion that "the young man (the shooter Jared L.) Loughner is a mental basket case who targeted this lady (U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords) and unfortunately the collateral damage was just as tragic."
But since when are mass murder, shootings and attempted assassination of an elected official "collateral damage?" Collateral damage to what?
Then the writer's main point came: "What has not stopped is the rant from the left..."
Oh, my God! What other proof is needed that murder is now taken by some as a not-so-bad outcome if it shuts up those they don't agree with?
Now tell me what kind of perspective is that?
It's helter skelter. And it's not about understanding but a bad design for our times, no matter from what angle you look at it.
Jose de la Isla writes a weekly commentary for Hispanic Link News Service. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.