Hold on. We do not have nearly all the facts yet about the shoot-up in Tucson. We do not know whether the shooter, Jared Lee Loughner, was just a homegrown American lunatic like John Hinckley or the Oklahoma City bombers, or if he was a man with a political mission. Despite the slow flow of information, this is nevertheless an American tragedy that repeats itself over and over again.
The mere perception that incidents like this one are the result of political anger and social injustice is enough to fuel the fires of violence. Whether or not Loughner is an unstable individual pushed over the edge by public figures provoking rage in these already high-stressed times or he is a true political anarchist seeking ideological validation, our nation is suffering the catastrophic results of either (or a combination thereof) of these motives. America loves its cowboy mentality, its desire to win at all costs and its disregard for the safety of all by ensuring the outdated tenet of the right for everyone to bear arms. We love the wild West aura of vigilantism. We are always fighting our last war, loathe to give it up until, glory be, a new war surfaces on the horizon. Even more stupidly, we insist on the right to own weapons just in case we will have to defend ourselves against any “militias” (as stated in our 200-year-old Constitution) or even more troubling, against our own government. Certainly this event in Arizona might be interpreted as an American fighting back against a government that half of the population wants out of power. Can yesterday’s massacre be considered a defense against an evil regime? Absolutely.
The rhetoric of “Don’t retreat, reload” has become our gruesome reality. The mix of economic depression, social prejudice and the overriding goal to win at any and all costs has made American politics a blood sport. Unfortunately, we do not need another blood sport. Haven’t Americans realized that yet? Haven’t our leaders recognized the need to tone down the anger? The Tucson shoot-out was to be expected, given the heightened degree of political discourse over the last three years.
As usual, Americans come together only at times of great tragedy, of which this is one. How we all coalesced with unity of purpose after 9/11! Plus, we had a great, new enemy in the Muslims of the world. Yes, ALL of them. As if that coalition of purpose was not enough to rally America, we took it one step further by declaring a war based on false pretenses. We were lied to but let’s face it, we were more than eager to accept that lie to engage in another war. Our need to have enemies to foster national cohesion was greater than our need for the truth.
The inflammatory politicians know exactly what they are doing. Regardless of the effects of their incendiary rhetoric, driven by their goals for re-election and all the perks that go with holding public office, they continue on the path of destruction. Never mind Sarah Palin’s stupidity, as she uses aggressive, provocative tactics to fuel the anger of Americans. Her graphic map, targeting specific cities where non-GOP members of Congress are identified as “must lose”, are marked as crosshairs of a rifle. Has she no inkling of the depth and breadth of her political rhetoric? This is exactly why I fume over the extent of her stupidity. Above all, she is recklessly irresponsible.
So we can go on and on about the specific intentions of the Arizona shooter. Our leaders can publicly condemn these actions in their high and mighty responses. Headlines can read “An American Tragedy.” Pundits can effectively dissect the partisan rhetoric all they want. After all of our sympathy is spent and we have given quiet contemplation to this horrible incident, we will then move on, in typical American fashion, to more anger, revenge and retaliation. However, will we progress to fixing the system, repairing the causes and adjusting our mindsets to never let this happen again? For Heaven’s sake, six people were murdered: one person was a federal judge and another an innocent nine-year-old. Even though one of Congress’s own, Gabrielle Giffords, was shot through the head, her colleagues most likely will not temper their future words to bring sanity to American politics. What will it take for good judgement to prevail? Must these self-serving elected officials experience the loss of a child themselves to acknowledge the destructive path they are following? It brings to mind shades of Nancy Reagan, after experiencing the devastating effect of Alzheimer’s disease on her beloved Ronnie, finally embracing the cause for stem cell research. Must each and every one of us experience heartache, misery and loss before we realize the problem is us?
When public dialogue degenerates into personality assassination, which in turn disintegrates into actual assassination, we have a problem. When my 30-year-old child asks, “What is going on?”, expressing sadness and disbelief at American violence, all the while I find myself nonplussed by this turn of events, we have a problem.
So weep big time, America. Rhetoric and ideology be damned. That nine-year-old who died yesterday could have been your’s or mine. Something’s got to give.