Sunday, January 09, 2011

Hard to know where to begin:

Since first watching CNN's "Breaking News" report yesterday while nestling with the puppy and returning emails, i.e. engaging in unremarkable Saturday morning behavior, I've been incredibly saddened and upset by the horror that unfolded in Tuscon.

I feel awful for the victims and for their loved ones. I send Congresswoman Giffords and each survivor prayers and healing thoughts and wish them recovery with minimum trauma and maximum resiliency. The families of the deceased will always bear the scars and I hope they are able to find as much peace as they can. Found out today Judge John Roll was a longtime friend of a family friend and if we gauge others by the company they keep, Roll was a very good man indeed. And while it's hardly without precedent, I still can't wrap my mind around someone shooting a nine year-old girl. Or the level of hate required to shoot Giffords point-blank in the head.

Much discussion has resulted about the increased political vitriol of recent years and whether the gun cross-hairs Sarah Palin placed on 20 "targeted" opponents, among them Giffords, was a contributing factor to the actions of the deranged Jared Loughner. I'm 43 and those my age who are politically active have frequently commented in recent times we have never seen this kind of hate in U.S. politics. We feared someone would get killed or severely wounded. (For the record, and this should be obvious, but I would be equally horrified had a Republican congressperson been shot. Our elected officials shouldn't have to risk their lives.) Loughner bears the ultimate responsibility but I do think Palin and those who engage in sustained and pernicious "targeting" of their political opponents shoulder some of the blame. A sane person could view Palin's cross-hairs all day everyday and be unmoved to shoot one of the listed. But it's kind of fucking obvious not everyone is sane. And when you have roughly two and a half million Facebook supporters, as does Palin, keeping such a graphic on your page is spectacularly unwise. Whether Loughner was influenced by it remains to be seen; even if he wasn't, well, so what? Said graphic accomplished nothing except the notion it's valiant to dehumanize your opponents. And if history teaches us anything, it's that it's easy to harm those you dehumanize.

Speaking of Facebook, one of its most disheartening elements is the way in which some almost reflexively lunge for the jugular in political discussions. I'm openly, unabashedly lefty on most issues but quite vocal when I think Republicans have a good point (for instance, I'm not a fan of Boehner's and have made several jokes at his expense, but he has handled this tragedy with leadership and compassion). I have Republican loved ones, each of whom is well-informed and carefully considers the issues. On the left, we frequently accuse the right of lockstep thinking and it's often an accurate portrayal, but there's a whole lotta group think on the left, too, and in some ways it's even sadder because we insist we're the intellectuals. I enjoy healthy debate and most of the discussions on my page are just that. But it's assinine how many times in the two plus years I've been on Facebook I've had to chide someone for writing on my page they want to kill Sarah Palin. As I noted three months ago during the '10 camgaign when a colleague said his hypothetical slogan would be, "Kill Dino Rossi", this is the kind of thing that (rightfully) outrages us when some dipshit posts it about President Obama in comment sections everywhere; we can't do the inverse but somehow think it's okay because we have a million reasons we loathe Rossi because the comment section dipshits feel the same about Obama. None of us should advocate killing our opponents. Period. Why isn't this self-evident?

The fact Loughner was turned away from the military but still able to legally purchase a gun will forever baffle me and all sentient beings. This wasn't a question of the Second Amendment but of common sense: if your mental health problems preclude you from carrying a weapon overseas, they preclude you from carrying one to a Safeway parking lot.

We can do better than this. We'll have to.

All thoughts and prayers to those whose lives were ruptured yesterday.


Anonymous said...

Exremely well thought out & level-headed response to the events unfolding in Arizona. Excellent essay.

MMeeker said...

Succinct and well-balanced as always. Regardless of which side of gun control your politics fall on, let's make sure the right to protect self does not preclude public safety.

Tony said...

Well said. As a political junkie myself, I have aggressively opposed ideas of people whom I personally found to be charming, intelligent people. {elected officials...not just you) Likewise supported the programs of people I did not care r for personally. It is critical to separate the person from the policy. Good people can and should disagree. Vitriol is not new to the political process, reference the Lincoln Douglas debates. But we can and should encourage our leaders to debate ideas not attack each other personally. One side note, the shooter was kept out of the army for a failed UA, not a failed psyche eval, according to NBC.