I watched and listened with great interest the events of the past few weeks surrounding the shootings in Tuscon. By now, nearly everyone is aware that Jared Lee Loughner killed 6 and injured 13, including Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, in a senseless act of violence that can only be described as a tragedy. Most people are also aware that there was an immediate rush to judgement as to the motivation behind the rampage. Many in the media immediately attempted to connect the shootings to heated political rhetoric, specifically calling out Sarah Palin, the Tea Party movement and other conservatives. Even after it was revealed that Mr. Loughner was not conservative, or a member of the Tea Party and is apparently apolitical many in the media continued to blame the shootings on heated political rhetoric. I for one believe that this was the act of a seriously disturbed and mentally unstable person.
While much debate went on between the right and the left trying to figure out whose heated political rhetoric was to blame, I did not hear a more fundamental question asked; why are we trying to blame political parties or affiliations for what happened in Tuscon? Am I the only one who finds it odd that we want to blame what happened on political discourse? Jared Lee Loughner is responsible for his actions. He purchased the gun, bought the ammo, and pulled the trigger. He is to blame for what happened and no one else. Attempts to blame political rhetoric for tragedies like this is not only misguided, but creates an excuse for the perpetrator. It is not my fault, this climate of heated political discourse made me do it, I couldn’t help myself. This is a slippery slope to trod, and can have only negative outcomes; silencing of free speech and lack of accountability for ones actions.
Let’s assume for a moment that Mr. Loughner was a Conservative Tea Party member. Does anyone honestly believe that the examples that were commonly used to blame Sarah Palin would inspire someone to kill. She used a map to identify political candidates who were targets to be voted out of office in the next election. The map used gun site icons to identify the states/districts in question. This is a very common approach used not only in politics but in business as well (by both major political parties). I defy anyone to find a causal connection here. I challenge anyone to bring to light specific calls from any conservative to kill or physically harm anyone. Of course no one will respond, because there is none to be found. The argument being made is that the tone from the Conservative side is too harsh and heated and you just never know how someone might take what is said. Unfortunately, many of those who are screaming the loudest now were completely silent during the Bush years when rhetoric from the left wasn’t heated it was incendiary. Which leads me to questions the motivations for the current accusations and calls for civility.
We need to examine the motivations of those who make these accusations to understand why they are being made. First, the accusations were made before all the facts (or any of the facts for that matter) were known. This leads me to draw the conclusion that the narrative had already been written and the accusers were just waiting for an event to happen. Second, even after the facts revealed that their narrative was wrong, the narrative is still being pushed. This leads me to believe that the real goal is not more civil political discourse, but squelching political speech. Finally, because the narrative was being driven by one side of the political aisle and heated rhetoric from the left was being overlooked or glossed over, I believe that the goal is to squelch conservative political speech.
And I believe that this is the real motivation for the reaction by those on the left to these events. I agree that the debate has been heated over the past two years. The are significant events taking place within our government that many people are passionate about. These are issue of great importance and require much debate, discussion and consideration. When the issues are important and involve passionate people, then the debate does tend to get heated. There is nothing wrong with this, it is essential to a healthy democracy. It seems to me that those who try to assign blame for a tragedy such as this to either side of the debate are only trying to stop the debate. They seek to silence the opposition and control the narrative so that they can achieve their ends. Let be smarter than that and see things for what they are. Keep debating, stay passionate, learn the facts and stand up for what you believe.