"You can't outsmart crazy"
With those words, Jon Stewart gave another eloquent speech at the beginning of Monday night's Daily Show, dispensing with humor to address Saturday's horrific events in Tucson.
With each passing hour and day since alleged gunman Jared Lee Loughner opened fire on Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, critically injuring her, killing six and wounding 14 others, it becomes clearer that this 22-year-old man was not a political partisan but someone who was severely mentally ill. With Arizona government offices finally open Monday, The Washington Post finally was able to answer one simple question that's not open to debate: his voter registration. The answer turns out to be that he was a registered independent but was considered inactive because he hadn't bothered to vote in such a long time, including in November. Hardly indicative of a Tea Party participant.
I am guilty of jumping to conclusions. With the precursors without body counts such as smashed windows, threats, cut gas lines, it was an easy assumption to make. However, in my horror of the moment I forgot the old line about what happens when you assume: it makes an ass out of u and me. Subconsciously, there probably was part of me as there consciously was in many others who wanted this tragedy to turn out to be that way for political advantage. I may disagree with the Tea Party, believe them to be terribly misinformed and inflamed by the likes of Glenn Beck, but they aren't all homicidal lunatics.
When so many on the left criticized Jon Stewart's rally, claiming he was trying to make both sides equivalent, in the wake of Saturday's events, now he seems more right than ever. Keith Olbermann's Saturday special comment didn't say so explicitly, but if you read between the lines, it was a bit of a mea culpa for his own role. As Sarah Palin rushed to delete her graphic with the gunsight over Giffords' district, Daily Kos also had to delete a post where one of Giffords' constituents said that Giffords was "dead to me" because she voted against Nancy Pelosi for House minority leader.
Already, both sides are starting to revert to old habits. Because we on the left rushed to link the act of a madman to the politics of those we oppose, now those on the right revert to defensive mode and attack us. Hopefully, someone can stop this quickly. This is an opportunity for everyone to step back, take a breath and restore civility to the political process. I'm not saying compromise your principles, but it's long past time where both sides stop treating political opponents as the enemy. As it's been said many times, you can disagree without being disagreeable. The political climate probably didn't set Loughner off, but both parties need to look at themselves critically and seriously.
I hope that people take Pima County, Ariz., Sheriff Clarence Gupnik to heart and start rejecting the Becks and Limbaughs, but the only way that happens is when they get hit where it really hurts: the wallet. Beck has shown those signs with the loss of lots of sponsors, being taken off a big New York radio station and even dropping numbers on Fox News. I wish their listeners realized they were in it for the money, but oh well.
What really needs to be addressed seriously is the fact that this country has a gun problem and it's had a gun problem for a long time. A man rejected by the military, kicked out of college and who worried others around him was still allowed to legally purchase his Glock and, more importantly, his high-volume ammunition clips. He had three clips which had 33 rounds each. These sorts of clips were illegal under the assault weapons ban which was allowed to expire during the Bush Administration. If that law were still in place, he could only have purchased clips that held 10 rounds, meaning he would have to reload more frequently and the bloodshed would have been less. I hope the NRA and their friends in Congress are proud. Right now, Arizona is considering allowing faculty and college students to carry concealed weapons without a permit.
We also have to improve our ability to treat the mentally ill. In a rare moment of a television newsperson saying something profound, Lester Holt did the other day when he said that in the end, the motive doesn't matter. Six people are still dead, including a 9-year-old student council president born on 9/11.
Labels: Arizona shooting, Congress, Daily Kos, Fox News, Gabrielle Giffords, Glenn Beck, guns, Jon Stewart, Keith Olbermann, mental health, Nancy Pelosi, NRA, Sarah Palin, talk radio, Tea Party movement