Sunday, January 9, 2011

Reflections on Tucson

I don't really know where to start today. I'm still trying to comprehend exactly what went down in Tucson yesterday and why a federal judge, a staffer and a nine year-old are dead.

I would say that once upon a time we had civil discourse in politics in this country -- but that's not entirely accurate. Candidates of all stripes have made outrageous accusations against their opponents from the early days of the Republic.

But the metaphor has changed. Maybe those in power, and those seeking power, have been brainwashed by a state of seemingly permanent war on something or other. Maybe we've been sucked into the marketing of football as war. With our short attention spans news outlets, commentators and blogs marginalize the vast majority of Americans who are in the middle in favor of those on the extreme.

Sarah Palin created a target map for the 2010 elections where she placed gun crosshairs over Congressional districts the right targeted. One of those crosshairs was on Ms. Giffords' district. According to this article from the San Francisco Sentinel, Ms. Giffords' opponent, Jesse Kelly, this past November invited supporters who wanted to remove Ms. Giffords from office to "get on target for victory in November" and go shoot M-16's with him.

Did political vitriol have anything to do with the massacre in Tucson? I don't know. There are reports that the alleged shooter, Jared Lee Loughner, had posted messages and videos about the nation's currency. Was he obsessed with the gold standard or the idea of hard currency or was it just the manifestation of something gone awry in his brain?

It's certainly possible that the shootings had nothing at all to do with politics and everything to do with a young man suffering severe delusions.

Whatever the case, our worship of the culture of war has to stop. There is nothing glorious about war. Young men (and women) are sent to another part of the world to serve as fodder for the politicians back in Washington sipping Chardonnay and hobnobbing with the wealthy. Young people get shot. Young people die. Families are destroyed and lives are left in ruin.

There is, after all, little difference between the Democratic and Republican parties (which may explain the role of extremists in modern American politics). Neither party will challenge the underlying assumptions that guide our economic and foreign policies. The parties' positions on issues change depending on whose in power.

On September 17, 1787 the US Constitution was ratified and we traded the bullet for the ballot box. It would appear that some want to rescind that trade.

In the meantime, six people are dead and at least one other lies in critical condition in an Arizona hospital.

No comments: