It’s now closing in on 72 hours since the monstrous shooting attack on Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and many others in Tucson last Saturday. Jared Loughner, the 22 year old shooter, is not my favorite topic as my wife and I continue to monitor news reports constantly. Still, studying the beast comes automatically. We can’t help ourselves.
Perhaps it’s part of the survival instinct. After all, knowing the differences in this reptile-populated desert country between an innocent bullsnake, a venomous western diamondback, and the hyper-deadly Mojave green rattlesnake…that can literally save your life or the life of a loved one. So, in addition to praying for all of the casualties and all of their familes, Looking at Loughner does give us something to do that might even be worthwhile.
I can rationalize anything.
One peculiar aspect of this eminently peculiar young man is how fast and dramatically he has aged in appearance during a span of no more than four or five years. Why? Your guess is as good as mine. Drugs, weird mental aberrations, or, as he himself apparently believes, literal mind control? Not a clue.
The visual evidence, however, is compelling whether one knows the cause(s) or not. So compelling that a comparison to The Picture of Dorian Gray is hardly out of order.
Let’s take a look at the available pictures of Jared Loughner….
In the earliest photo thus far publicly available, Jared Loughner appears…unremarkable. Long of hair, deep into marijuana, but not necessarily any “weirder” than half of my own cousins in the sixties.
In the second photo, we see a young man who has gotten himself a haircut. He’s grown up, matured, and is thoroughly enjoying being of help in promoting what was (according the the photo from which this detail was extracted) quite likely the very Congress on Your Corner where he would first feel personal anger toward Gabrielle Giffords. From what we now know, it seems probable that the good humor is entirely faked and the smile came at an inappropriate time…but the snapshot can’t provide that information.
Still, if this was taken in 2007, he looks far more mature than in the longhair shot.
In the final three photos, the turbocharged aging process really gets in gear. Between 2007 and January of 2011 is not that long. Most of us at 21 or 22 are still clearly recognizable as slightly older versions of our teenaged selves. Jared Loughner? Not so much. At this rate, had he reached even the ripe old age of 30 (which at the moment seems highly unlikely), he could well have looked as old as creepy Uncle Fester from the Addams Family.
And finally, the courtroom sketch, which is trickier for two reasons: It’s impossible to say how closely the artist’s work resembles what an actual photograph would show, and it’s done in profile (whereas all of the photos are full face). However, one conclusion remains inescapable: The man in the sketch is no kid.
One of my favorite song lyrics during my sometimes wild and occasionally misspent youth was from a Faron Young hit:
I wanna live fast, love hard, die young–and leave a beautiful memory.
Jared Loughner may at least die young, though clearly not quite young enough for those who lost loved ones on January 8, 2011, or are simply holding vigil outside of the Tucson hospital in which Gabriel Giffords fights for her life (with, thankfully, what appears thus far to be considerable success). Certainly the memories generated by his journey on Earth will be anything but beautiful…and as for loving at all, it’s doubtful he even understands the word.
It is truly as if Dorian Gray were no longer fiction but had, instead, reincarnated to walk the streets of Tucson until the day he could come to his terrible end.