Wednesday, January 12, 2011


I'm not quick enough of mind to respond to an event like this in any formalized way in the minutes and hours following, as many other commentators are able to do. Most, thankfully, have been rational in both their reporting and their comments.

However, I must extend my heartfelt sympathy to both the families of the victims and equally heartfelt wishes for a speedy and complete recovery to the survivors.

As many others did, I observed the immediate reaction focused on political issues as the root cause of this tragedy, specifically the vitriolic exchanges, predominately but not exclusively from the "right." With more information about the shooter becoming available, it seems increasingly likely that to find the root cause of the shooting, his desire to kill, or perhaps to be noticed,  Mr. Loughner's mental state must be examined.

Those on the "right," having felt the weight of public censure over comments, maps, and opinions both before and in the aftermath, argue that the brouhaha is unwarranted, especially now that Loughner's mental state has been revealed.  There is certainly some small basis for that position.

However, it remains a fact that Loughner did not target a Catholic (as Fred Phelps was willing to do to spread his own message of intolerance and hate) or another denomination's religious service. Nor did Loughner target his family following a dispute Saturday morning.  He did not choose a sporting event. He did not elect to stop at a random gathering of citizens. Even the police were safe as Loughner received a ticket that morning. He chose, deliberately if the reports of discovered evidence are accurate and correctly interpreted, to attend the Congress on Your Corner event where Congresswoman Giffords was to meet her constituents.

I am left with the strong opinion that while Loughner's mental illness may have led him to make this horrible mark, the political environment in the United States and in Arizona in particular determined the direction the young man took in making his mark.

This is not to say that Ms Sarah Palin's famous (and quickly deleted) map was even one of the triggers (pun intended). Any person within the reach of Radio or Television has been inundated with the conceit that the United States is going to the dogs - or the furriners - and "We gotta take back what's ours!" It doesn't really matter that these sentiments may not be inspired by the hope of armed revolution or treasonous plots to depose the sitting President, they sound as if they could be interpreted that way. Given that they sound like that, in a large enough group, people who want them to have those meanings will interpret them to fit their fears, hopes and plans.

Concerning statements (and maps) like those discussed above, it beggars belief to hear denials like “We never ever, ever intended it to be gun sights.” That statement and the one just following: “We never imagined, it never occurred to us that anybody would consider it violent,” just seem to me to be the height of arrogance, of insolence. Expecting an intelligent reader to believe those statements either borders on incompetence, or bespeaks a fervent belief that 'If I say it enough, maybe someone will come to believe it.'  Even had Saturday's horror not occurred, to suggest that Palin and her troops (mantra: Don't retreat - Reload!) never thought about the imagery being used on their watch implies an ineptitude that her advisors and mentors have failed to demonstrate on other occasions.

To people of all persuasions and opinions: Words have consequences, sometimes even greater than facts. Opinions are sharable, but civil discourse calls for well-intentioned restraint. Please exercise your right of free speech in a rational, thoughtful way, not to incite those among us who are unwilling to or incapable of understanding hyperbole or rhetoric as what it is and what it is not.

I would hope that all of us recall President Reagan's words: "It is time to restore the American precept that each individual is accountable for his actions." No one but Jared Loughner is directly responsible for the shootings. Each of us who pretend a failure to understand that our words and actions have consequences (or worse, actually believe that) are complicit in the tragedy.


  1. It does seem likely that politics was a factor. It's possible that misogyny and anti-semitism were too, but let's face it, this guy is just plain nuts. The real problem here is that a man who should have been flagged as dangerous at any one of a dozen points was able to legally purchase a semi-automatic pistol and 30 round clips.

    Our political climate is not helping, of course. When it comes to that, we can't pretend there is some false equivolancy. It's not the left who is screaming bloody murder. Just as the extremists who have taken over the Republican party are becoming increasingly dishonest and divorced from reality, they are also becoming more and more violent, in word and in deed.

  2. Thanks, Ed. Of course, that's a valid point, and one worth making again and again. But I don't believe that even this tragedy will bring the American people around to demanding tighter controls on handguns and weapons in general. I hope we can wrangle an agreement to halt the sale of large clips even if we fail to halt the semi-automatics.
    Instead of focusing where I thought there was no opportunity to change minds, I ranted about the disappointment I feel when reading or listening to "our" media and political commentators.
    Maybe I should just resign myself to the understanding that they are all entertainment, nothing more.
    Thanks for commenting, I appreciate it.