Monday, January 10, 2011

Not even bloodshed is cause for pause

Hope died this weekend, at least one of the faces of hope – that of Christina Green, whose life was taken by a gunman at a political event in Tucson Saturday morning.

The 9-year-old Christina, who studied ballet and had just been elected to student council, according to news reports, was one of the children featured in a book titled, Faces of Hope: Babies Born on 9/11.

The gunman, Jared Lee Loughner, took the lives of at least six people and injured 14 others in an attempted assassination of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.). Giffords, a known foe of the Tea Party, was shot point blank in the head. Miraculously, she is in critical condition but recovering from surgery.

If I am guilty of heartlessly "politicizing" a tragedy by commenting on the attempted assassination of a politician, then so be it. Loughner shot a politician. It doesn't get more political.

We do not yet know the motives of the shooter. We know only that he was obsessed with the gold standard, a regular Glenn Beck talking point; that despite his attempts he was denied from serving in the Army; and that he was regarded by neighbors and former classmates as rather odd.

We also know that the past several years have been some of the craziest, politically, in decades.

After the shooting, Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik said this: "When you look at unbalanced people, how they respond to the vitriol that comes out of certain mouths about tearing down the government... The anger, the hatred, the bigotry that goes on in this country is getting to be outrageous, and unfortunately Arizona has become sort of the capital. We have become the Mecca for prejudice and bigotry."

Dupnik is correct, but he's wrong to fault Arizona. This is not Gov. Jan Brewer's fault, just as it is not the fault of Beck or Sarah Palin. Putting Congresswoman Giffords in the political "crosshairs" during a heated election campaign was thoughtless and irresponsible. But it has not been cited as Loughner's motivation for murder. Neither is there any indication that Loughner killed simply because Palin advised "commonsense Americans" to "RELOAD."

He killed because, in his mind, killing was the logical next step to all of the radical talk of revolution that is now commonplace in the media. He was putting rhetoric into action. 

No, television didn't kill Christina Green, and it is not solely responsible for the moral decay of one man, just as guns are not solely responsible for violence in general. But no one can deny the conscious and subconscious influence of the images we absorb on a daily basis, the violence, the hatred, the scandals, the anger, the pointed political rhetoric and the accusations of treason, of domestic terrorism, of socialism, of Marxism against anyone who thinks differently, believes differently, and lives differently than the media celebrities we tune into throughout the day.

If we are still wondering how such hatred is allowed, we need not look any further than our own bathroom mirrors. The programs and media celebrities who spread this hatred are given airtime because we tune in, blindly, faithfully, daily.

We have devolved into a nation of TV-obsessed spectators, where the average American spends two months of every year tuned in to a box of lights and wires, as Edward Murrow once put it, that seeks no longer to educate and enlighten the people of a great nation, but to polarize it.

And it has succeeded, again.

Earlier this year, a New Yorker slashed the throat of a Muslim cab driver at the political peak of a weeks-long media blitz surrounding the "Ground Zero Mosque." Every day, the news talked about the "terror dollars" funding the "terror mosque," how Sharia law was taking over the American judicial system, how the president of the United States was a Muslim, a Kenya-born colonialist, a racist!

We tuned in and drank it down without pausing to reflect on the effects of this political passion and the influence such lunacy could have on the morally malleable among us. And then a man nearly died. Not five months later, a 9-year-old face of hope did die.

Have we learned nothing? Will we learn anything from this tragedy? Will we tone down our political discourse even a notch? Will the murder of a child make it clear just how sick we have become?

It does not appear so.

Here is a small sampling of comments made on several major news networks covering the Tucson shooting:

Unfortunately people lose their lives violently every day in our country. The root cause of most of this evil is liberalism.
There’s a reason behind all this. Maybe (Giffords) pissed Reid off.
Was this a “second amendment solution” to a political problem?

And this, from a blogger by the name of Andrea Rouda in a post titled "Speaking of Target Practice": 

Caligula. JFK. Anwar Sadat. Martin Luther King, Jr. Medgar Evers. Benazir Bhutto. John Lennon. Bobby Kennedy. Sam Cooke. Abraham Lincoln. Marvin Gaye. Indira Gandhi. George Tiller. Malcolm X. All killed by a crazy person.

What a waste, especially since there are so many good targets still out there. Take Keith Olbermann. In the wake of yesterday’s horrific shooting of a young congresswoman, the Devil himself who walks among us in the form of a TV "journalist" has decided that Sarah Palin and the Tea Party are responsible and is spreading his usual vitriol.

Please, won't somebody stop him? 

UPDATE: I have just discovered that the Rouda blog post has just been deleted. Fortunately, it is preserved here and at at least one other site (Mediaite), if for no other reason than to serve as a reminder of just how inhumane humanity sometimes is.

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