There is no shortage of discussion to be found on the sad events of this past Saturday. I feel no obligation to contribute to the discourse, but I do want to provide a few thoughts.
Before I begin, I want to humbly express my own deep sadness and concern over the events of the weekend. What happened was nothing short of a tragedy and nothing I say changes that fact.
The thought that this event would quell the shrill voices which perpetuate the left versus right spectacle has sadly, but not surprisingly, proved to be a dream. Many of those who have attempted to use this opportunity to ask for reflective thought have quickly turned such a plea to a bully pulpit to advance their own, not-so-veiled, rhetoric. This is not shocking. This is the world we live in. And this tragedy does not appear to be the unifying event which will galvanize the masses for good.
Now, I did not watch President Obama’s speech tonight (I have the CSPAN replay running right now), but I heard via Twitter that it was very good and delivered the “right” tone. That is encouraging, but I expect it to last about 15 seconds. In fact, in channel surfing to MSNBC (note that I very rarely watch FOX News), the focus has not shifted very much from the “blame Sarah Palin” and “take away the guns” message.
There are a few other things that I think we need to put into perspective. While it is despicable that any human being is targeted for an assassination attempt, we must remember that murder and other heinous crimes happen everyday to “normal” human beings. I believe that all life is precious. I believe that all men are created equal. Six people were killed on Saturday and more than a dozen more were injured in the shooting. There is so much focus on this tragedy because of the involvement of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. There have been six homicides in Indianapolis so far this year, yet we hear very little about these individuals.
The very fact that we focus on the celebrity of our elected officials has an integrated effect on the heated partisan rivalry. It’s a viscous cycle which is continually reinforced. The stakes will get higher and higher until they collapse due to the false weight that is placed upon the perceived importance of our elected officials and the propaganda that drives our political conversation. If we want to depart from the nasty politics that so many complain about, we must reject the power that we’ve allowed the state to absorb and the status that we’ve anointed to our politicians.
There is a whole other conversation to be had on Jared Loughner. I don’t want to dwell on him for a variety of reasons. We should be careful, though, in using the broad strokes of “crazy”, “mentally ill”, “disturbed” and the like. Loughner, it appears to me, was quite calculated in this act. He no doubt had issues with society. His acts on Saturday are inexcusable and justice awaits him. However, those who question authority and do not fit in nicely with the stereotype of humanity should not be written off as ill.
We should not use the fact that this young man was concerned about the direction of our society and had an inability to express such concerns in a socially normal manner to, in any way, excuse, justify, or explain his actions.