Tucson and Too Much
It’s all too much! It is enough to make me want to scream. But I won’t. I will count to ten. (1…,2…,3…,4…,5…,6…,7…,8…9,…10. There, that’s better.)
I am talking about all the spin coming out of the tragedy in Tuscon. The networks are offering too much coverage of this dramatic event, clearly appealing to our ghoulish predilection to participate vicariously in violent tragedy. I have seen way too much of Jared Lee Loughner’s smiling face anytime I go to a news source, only multiplying the crazed motives of psychopaths around the country seeking fame and significance, albeit of a notorious nature.
But mostly I am talking about how there is too much political hay being made out of the shooting. Even before Representative Giffords has had a chance to survive the critical three-day peak of brain swelling, the pundits were out in force explaining how this awful event proves that the other side is evil.
First, many people rushed to judgment that the seemingly disturbed Mr. Loughner was motivated by the cross-hair targets on Sarah Palin’s website or by Giffords’ Republican opponent last fall, Jesse Kelly. His campaign placed an advertisement saying, "Get on target for victory in November/ Help remove Gabrielle Giffords from office/ Shoot a fully automatic M16 with Jesse Kelly.” We don’t know Mr. Loughner’s state of mind, but I am sure we will find out much too much more over the coming weeks. But, that obscures the larger point: both Palin and Kelly’s use of violent images is deplorable, that is certain.
And yet, liberal linkage of Mr. Loughner and these awful methods has been turned around by right wing commentators who are being blamed for this tragedy. Of course the Sheriff Dupnik is right to say that all the violent political vocabulary can’t help make the situation better, but his comments seemed to have given the right an opening to play the victim even as the real victims are suffering, grieving, or dead. And now the Sheriff is being vilified due to reports that there was no police protection at Cong. Giffords’ Saturday morning event.
And now we have Glenn Beck proclaiming himself the leader of a “stand against violence campaign.” He dismisses any potential connection between his own heated rhetoric, or the political manipulations of Sarah Palin or Fox news, and this shooting. Such a connection, Beck claims, would even embarrass “the worst basement blogger in his underpants.” Tucson Republican State Senator Al Melvin spelled it out most clearly when he drew a firm line between the viciousness of political rhetoric and pathology. He said that the left should slow down the psycho-political analysis because this is simply, he claims, “a mental disorder problem.”
Well maybe there is some truth to the Senator’s words. But is the line between our nation’s love of violence and mental disorder really so clear? Senator Melvin does not seem to be a mental health professional. But he is a graduate of the Naval War College, a retired Navy captain, and a 30-year veteran of the military reserve. And his website lists him as a sponsor of Arizona Bill HR2001 which allows Community College professors to carry concealed weapons on campus. Ugh! It’s just all too much.
To be clear, I am not blaming Sen. Melvin for the tragedy in Tucson. But it seems clear that one side of the political debate uses much more violent imagery than the other. At the very least this cannot help nurture a calm, caring and effective political environment. It only feeds the polemics.
Even before the shooting, Congress Woman Giffords saw the polemics turn violent when last March vandals broke the glass door of her Tucson office. She said on MSNBC, "The rhetoric is incredibly heated, not just the calls but the emails, the slurs,… Things have really gotten spun up… We do have these polarized parts of our parties that really get excited, and that's where ... all of us have to come together and say, 'OK, there's a fine line here.”
So, did the then-liberal hero candidate Obama cross the line when campaigning he described metaphorically how he would respond to Republican attacks? He said, “If they bring a knife to the fight, we bring a gun.” Perhaps, but it took a lot more time to find a liberal democrat use violent imagery than it did to gather such comments from the other side. But then again I am a liberal democrat, and I am sure that the right would dismiss this as leftist rantings.
So, I am left seeking ways to cope with what is all too much, like seeking out some humor on late night TV. But even John Stewart couldn’t laugh too much Monday night after the shooting. He turned serious and his comments reflected a sentiment deep inside me. He said, "As I watched the political pundit world, many are reflecting and grieving and trying to figure things out. But it's definitely true that others are working feverishly to find the tidbit or two that will exonerate their side from blame or implicate the other. Watching that is as predictable, I think, as it is dispiriting."
Yes it is. It’s all too much.