Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Many questions, few answers left in Tucson’s wake

What is government if words have no meaning?

That was the question Jared Lee Loughner posed to Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in their first meeting. In their second meeting, he shot her in the head.

The round-the-clock media circus has taken a swipe at every minute detail of Loughner's life in an attempt to understand his motivations for killing six and wounding 14 others in the attempted assassination of a congresswoman.

Unfortunately, the 24-hour-a-day speculation-based coverage of every non-development and irrelevant insight into the life of the accused has taken center-stage in a nation-wide theater production that continues to say a lot but reveal almost nothing.

Loughner has remained silent. The 250 federal officials tasked with investigating the horrific shooting have failed to deliver a motive. And so the media is left chasing its tail in an attempt to assemble a puzzle that has no pieces.

We know he's male. We know he's white. We know he was kicked out of community college for saying weird shit. Based on the videos he posted on YouTube, we know he has a severe distrust of the government, a fascination with the gold standard, and an obsession with currencies, new languages, and grammar.

Are we to believe, as some have claimed, that Loughner was so disgruntled about Giffords' failure to adequately answer the "what is government" question that he decided to try and assassinate her? Was his passion for the gold standard so strong that it drove him to murder, that he thought Giffords was an inadequate leader because she hadn't created her own language, or that his plot to kill the Arizona Democrat was retribution for her not electing him as her campaign treasurer, where he would be in charge of creating a new currency?


Or maybe Loughner had a girlfriend in the Farmtown game on Facebook who dumped him because his land wasn't well kept, and in a fit of rage he took a semi-automatic pistol to a political event. Maybe he read a violent comic book or played violent video games. Maybe he wasn't breastfed as a baby. Maybe he didn't eat his Wheaties. These aren't the actual hypotheses the media have concocted to fill news pages and clog up the airwaves, but they're just as useful in understanding Loughner's motive.

The truth is, we still know almost nothing about his real motivations, and the media's continuous attempts to make sense of his gibberish have become vexing.

I'm not one to delve too deeply into conspiracies theories (mainly because any good conspiracy is unprovable and therefore a gargantuan waste of time), but as the media begin their second week of continuous coverage of this tragedy, my hopes for an explanation – other than insanity – are dwindling.

It's entirely possible that nothing will ever be revealed that adequately explains this tragedy, that there will never be closure for the families who lost loved ones and the victims who are left wondering, "Why me?"

Such an unsatisfying and unresolved ending to the Tucson tragedy wouldn't be unprecedented. The many unanswered questions surrounding the assassination of JFK, the Oklahoma City bombing, and 9/11 – even Roswell, the alleged plot to kill Princess Diana, and the moon landing "hoax" – continue to plague many Americans who struggle with the frustration of the unknown with every anniversary.

It's unlikely that even Loughner himself could provide us with a satisfying answer to the nonsensical question he posed to Giffords, or to the shooting itself. In tragedy, there is no satisfaction.

But it would be better than nothing, which is what we have now.
(Cross-posted from Muddy Politics.)

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