Normally, I refrain from posting national news as I am more familiar with the local scene. However, the Tucson shooting has led to plethora of accusations in hope answers can be found.
This tragedy, is not unlike the Columbine, Paducah or Virginia Tech shootings.
In 1959 the country was rocked at the news the Clutter family had been murdered by two men. The blame was placed on the guilty parties, Hickock and Smith. They alone were responsible. Today, the blame would be on presidential hopeful, Richard Nixon or Checkers (his dog, not the game).
To be sure, the killings were senseless and it gives way to a fear that no public or private place is truly safe. To place the blame on strong political debate is not only wrong, implying the possibility your words will somehow be connected to a mentally ill murderer is absurd. If you are conservative, Republican or in some way connected to the Tea Party you are to blame. Afterall, we read it in the first articles published and we are told this very thing in the opinion pages of every newspaper.
The simple truth is Jared Loughner is mentally ill. By all accounts Loughner acted alone. Today, the Associated Press printed a follow-up on the man who disrupted a Tea Party Meeting. He was taken to a psychiatric ward for evaluation. As much as we would like an easy answer, mental illness and the actions of those which are vexed with a mind that defies reason can’t be addressed by accusing those which had no part in the shooting.
There are plenty of Loughners walking our streets posing a danger to themselves and possibly even others. I know this holds no consolation. It is what it is.
Fortunately, cooler heads are beginning to prevail. Just this Sunday an article appeared in our local newspaper, written by of all people, an economist. The column was so well written and so down to earth, that at the end of the day I decided to read the column again. Much to my surprise there were 62 comments! While the regular weekly column may garner an average of 15 posts, at most, of the 62 posts 55+were posts by the same screen name pointing fingers at “guess who”.
Last week a syndicated national columnist, George Will, published an article about a State Representative from Michigan. Not one mention of the Arizona shootings in the article, But like the economist’s column, the on-line chat was dominated by a handful of people willing to place the blame on conservatives, Republicans and members of the Tea Party.
Specifically, what factors that contributed to attempts on the lives of elected leaders since the nation was founded? How many would-be assassinations were political, and of those how many were fueled by a right-wing agenda?
Here are some answers:
Of the nine presidents who have been either killed or wounded by an assassin’s bullet, only Abraham Lincoln died at the hands of a right-wing fanatic. William McKinley’s assassin, Leon Czolgosz, was a socialist and anarchist. Lee Harvey Oswald was a lifelong Marxist. Sara Jane Moore, who failed in her attempt on the life of Gerald Ford, was a member of the radical left.
The remaining assassinations and attempts were all motivated by personal animus or unexplained lunacy—which increasingly appears to have been the case with Jared Loughner.
Did Jared Loughner demand his speech be heard? Did he believe his constitutional rights were being removed? Possibly, on both counts.
But do the rantings of a sick individual constitute monitoring or limiting our First Amendment rights even in light of tragic events this month? Hardly. As those which penned these very words “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances” were rational men with the foresight to protect our very basic right…freedom of speech.
Rational men and women often times hotly debate the issues, yet I don’t see members shooting up the congress floor. On the fringes of society, those lost in their own minds, without rational thoughts are willing to destroy a person or their soul, if it were indeed possible.
The next time you are being shadowed at a public meeting, or receive an abusive email, report it to the authorities. It may be a Loughner. Or maybe it is a nosey woman hoping to catch a piece of gossip , in a covert, Agent 99, crazy kind of way.