Allow me to first say, before I go any further, that the attack on Arizona Representative Gabriella Giffords was a horrible tragedy. Here was a member of Congress doing what we complain that members of Congress don’t do enough of, meeting with her constituents out in public. A mentally deranged individual takes advantage of such a moment and attacks not only the Congresswoman, but an entire crowd of people with a gun. Innocent lives are lost, most notably in my opinion being that of a nine year old little girl. All life ended before its time is tragic, but the loss of a child is even more more unjust. I feel sorry for all those involved, including the shooter, who was obviously suffering from some mental incapacity of his own. One day he will probably realize what he has done to so many innocent lives and will have to live with that. The burden of taking a life is not an easy one to carry. That burden is made significantly heavier when there was no justification.
However, despite what the horror that this tragedy is, I see an opportunity to discuss in an honest way the madness that always follows any sort of event such as this. A large percentage of the rhetoric that follows such a tragedy is politically focused, which is a shame.
I listened in disgust as the sheriff of Pima County, an idiot by the name of Clarence Dupnik, used a press conference to launch a politically motivated rant, stating that “vitriolic political rhetoric heard on the radio and TV caused Jared Loughman to go on a bloody killing spree that left six dead and 14 wounded.” He went on to say, “When the rhetoric about hatred, about mistrust of government, about paranoia of how government operates, and to try to inflame the public on a daily basis, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, it has impact on people especially who are unbalanced personalities.” There was absolutely zero evidence to back up this assertion. There is no place for political wrangling in a tragedy such as this, however it has become so commonplace that we know what nonsense will be said in the media before the last shot is fired. And the people who do this are the lowest form of public figure. As sheriff, he has certainly shown his hand. Is there anyone who believes that he would objectively look at the facts and draw a non-partisan biased opinion while investigating this case?
True to form, before any facts were known, we already had Paul Krugman blogging about the link between “the rhetoric of Beck, Limbaugh, etc.” and “the violence I fear we’re going to see in the months and years ahead.” He added, “Violent acts are what happen when you create a climate of hate.” Representative Bill Pascrell said the afternoon of the shooting that, “There’s an aura of hate, and elected politicians feed it; certain people on Fox News feed it,” (despite having appeared himself on Fox News over 150 times). To make such unfounded comments before the bodies are even cold is not only irresponsible, it is an act itself which fuels hatred and divides the country further. In this way, these assholes are no different than the very people they are falsely blaming for this tragedy.
The reality is that this is not an act that can be blamed on one party or another, one announcer or another, or the fact that owning a gun is a legal right in this country. This is an act carried out by a mentally unstable individual. No more and no less. I don’t care what side of the aisle the victim belongs to or what side of the aisle the assailant would most closely identify with. People kill other people due to a mental imbalance on a daily basis. That every now and then one of them happens to cite political motives for their act does not mean that politics are the root cause any more than a man who shoots his wife for leaving the cap off the toothpaste is a dental hygiene motive. A cursory look at his writings finds no mention of any of the GOP talking heads (Beck, Limbaugh, Palin), the Tea Party, or anything else that makes him a “conservative shooter.” The act is one carried out by someone who is effing crazy. End of story.
Politics certainly play a part in a case like this. But they are merely the unstable catalyst for a mind that doesn’t operate appropriately any longer. A sane person doesn’t fly a plane into a building, shoot up a crowd of people, load fertilizer in a rental truck, or send poison powder to a government official. He isn’t “talked into” anything by a media figure. He is unstable from the beginning and simply looked, albeit subconsciously, for something to tie his anger to, a target for his instability and anger.
Which brings me to the next point, which is the ridiculous calls by politicians to have the FCC censor public figures who, in their opinion, are the reason people snap like this. There are calls coming from members of Congress for the FCC to take action to stop the rhetoric that comes from right leaning media personalities such as Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh (oddly those who make those calls never seem to mention Olbermann or Maddow). Let me be clear that I don’t blame them for what has happened here. The same standard is applied to Olbermann in my eyes. Until these figures actually start telling people to commit violent acts, they are not culpable for someone who does the unthinkable. To call for their voices to be silenced is nothing more than an attempt to censor, which goes against everything that this country stands for. Beck and Limbaugh are certainly polarizing figures, but their anger and spin is so well received because those who tune in are already angry. Limbaugh may say out of this world stuff, as does Olbermann, however censoring them is not an option that should even be on the table.
Likewise we see the tragedy being used, as we should always expect that it will, to somehow make a renewed push to further the cause of controlling American’s right to own guns. I won’t get into the gun rights debate here tonight. Suffice to say that this sort of political wrangling is nothing more than a play on fear. As you may recall, I pointed out that the GOP are the masters of the fear campaign, but gun control is an area where the Democrats have played the fear game as well as the GOP ever could.
One of the things that I think is driving me even more over the edge at this point are the inevitable calls that more should have been done to identify this man as mentally unstable before this could happen. It is truly maddening to listen to. When someone has committed no violent act in the past, and has not come out and stated to anyone that he intends to commit a violent act in the future, there is little that can be done in order to stop him before he acts. We cannot fall into the trap of saying it is acceptable to take away the freedom of someone based on the fact that he or she MIGHT be crazy. If there were obvious signs of mental illness, they should be addressed. But the idea that we can look at this tragedy as a failure of the system to identify and neutralize potential acts by mentally unstable people is ludicrous. If we follow that logic we will end up with a whole host of people incarcerated in one form or another, simply because we think they MIGHT do harm to someone. That is a very dangerous path to go down.
We all ned to step back and look at this situation realistically. This is not the result of political rhetoric being too harsh. It is not the result of too little gun control. It is an act committed by a mentally unstable individual who was hell bent on committing this act and didn’t care if he died while doing so. As I have long said, when you have someone who doesn’t care about dying, they are very difficult to stop.
A failure to stop ourselves from going down these crazy paths that the politicians and media are attempting to take us down will result in the one thing that we are supposed to be cherishing more than anything being taken away: our freedom. This tragedy, while horrible, is unfortunately a realistic price that we pay for living in a free society. And I am not willing to give up my freedom in order to make a vain attempt to somehow control the hands of fate. We cannot stop a crazy person from doing something crazy. And we shouldn’t allow the actions of a few crazy individuals become the tool that Washington DC uses to take away the freedoms that make this country great.