As it turns out, Downtown Duluth is full of secrets. Tuesday, June 15th, the overwhelming drug and homeless problem in the area took a back seat to what happened at the Medical Arts Building at 4th Ave W. & Superior Street.
In the early afternoon, a local man who appeared to be in his early 30s precariously straddled the 14th Floor fire escape waving a hatchet and screaming over and over “F*** the Police”.
An eyewitness leaving the building first noticed an older woman in tears, she had just left her appointment and was waiting for her ride home, but her Stride bus driver couldn’t reach her because the area was completely blocked by the Duluth Police Department, State Patrol, Sheriffs, and Fire. The witness asked the woman what was happening and she pointed up to the man on the fire escape. The witness believes he was pounding on something with this weapon because pieces of material were falling to the ground.
The incident – that spanned hours on Tuesday afternoon, was not covered by any of the local news organizations. The only official report of the incident came from a post on the Duluth Police Union’s Facebook Page, which was later shared on the Duluth Police Department Page.
Their post stated that they responded to “an unwanted person the 14th-floor fire escape”. That the man had a knife and hatchet, and the officers “determined he was suicidal and didn’t want to speak to the police.” The post explained that perimeters were set, the officers negotiated with the man, and several hours later they were able to safely take him into custody.
It’s concerning that a scene this dramatic, impacting the busy business district for several hours, mid-day, somehow missed the evening, nightly, and morning news cycles.
But it brings up a bigger issue worth asking about: What is happening to our liberal family, friends, and neighbors? Following the riots in Minneapolis that spread worldwide, the CHAZ settlement that has taken over 9 blocks in Seattle, even something as frivolous as removing the word “Chief” from job titles in Duluth as Mayor Emily Larson proposed today, has illuminated the neurosis of the left.
A 2018 study presented by E. Kirkgaard in Mental Illness & the Left discovered in a sample of over 11,000 people 36% of men that self-scored as extreme liberals also self-reported receiving treatment for a mental illness, compared to 8% of extreme right males. Extreme left females self-reported 44% have had a mental problem, compared to 6% of extreme right females. Another smaller study from Slate Star Codex said the results for their small, web-based survey that had participants self-report on political preference and mental illness showed that extreme left people are more than 150% likely to have a mental illness.
Kirkgaard’s report speculated on the role of colleges and universities as a connection to mental illness. Liberal voters seek more higher education, and US colleges and universities have a 5:1 ratio of liberal to conservative faculty. A conclusion couldn’t be drawn but the author wondered if universities are breeding liberal perspectives and mental illness or if people with innate mental illness are just drawn to continuing higher education, professions in higher education, and liberal ideology.
The Association of Psychological Science studied “Psychological Features of Extreme Political Ideologies” and highlighted four: psychological distress, cognitive simplicity, overconfidence, and intolerance.
The report, published in 2019, eerily explains what’s happening now in 2020, with a dreary prediction for the future.
Psychological distress is summed up as a “sense of meaninglessness that stems from anxious uncertainty”. Anxious uncertainty has topped the list of things to do in the US since COVID reared its ugly head in March. This anxiety pushes people to a “quest for significance” or the need to feel important and respected by supporting a meaningful cause (BLM, anyone? CHAZ?) The report goes on to say that all this can be triggered by distressing personal or societal events (like a big ol’ economic downturn, or injustice like George Floyd’s death). For people who are psychologically distressed, this stirs up a pandemic portion of meaninglessness triggering them to regain a sense of purpose through clear, simple ideological perspectives and connections.
Distressed people want an answer to “Why?” But there are no simple answers, at least not in the real world where political moderates reside. On the other hand, extremist views offer the second psychological feature, cognitive simplicity, with a very simple “we’re right, you’re wrong” answer to any complex social problem. The simplicity is comfortable and leads to the third psychological feature, overconfidence.
Overconfidence – an unmoving belief that your views are 100% correct, leads to the final psychological feature, intolerance, which cements the Us vs Them mentality that is a trademark of extremists on the left and right. Intolerance blocks the ability to have meaningful interaction and cooperation, it decreases compromise and builds an echo-chamber that reverberates the extremist views and perpetuates the division between the extreme left/right with each other and moderates.
The scary part of all this: in the APS report M.L. Midlarsky (Origins of Political Extremism, 2011) is referenced as saying the “main societal conditions preceding the rise of extremist regimes in the 20th Century were characterized by a short period of prosperity followed by critical losses (hmm.. sounds a bit familiar), these conditions facilitated the momentum of both communist and fascist regimes.
So you see, it’s not just removing a word from city government titles, or a suicidal guy yelling “F*** the Police”, it’s not accepting the riots as an appropriate reaction after an injustice, or allowing a bunch of jobless, moneyless, child-adults to take over a neighborhood in Seattle to play “community”. All of these things, big and small, are more than that – They are a cry for help. A cry to fix a generation that has been failed by political correctness and harm done by childhood’s shielded from failure, risk, and antagonists, which inevitably deprived them of learning resilience, reward, and character building.
These things are also a stark and urgent warning that American values and the American Dream are at risk of being lost.
It’s time we set our perimeters and join the extremists on the 14th floor of that fire escape and talk them down, no matter how long it takes. Just don’t expect it to make the news.