America, I love you … And you’re breaking my heart. When I first saw the link on one of my fellow liberal’s facebook pages to the Tucson Arizona tragedy, my first, knee-jerk reaction was: Sarah Palin’s rhetoric had led some susceptible youth to murder. After all, it was Sarah Palin who told her followers to “reload.” Such an obvious call to violence must become morally unacceptable in the political arena if we are to have a future as a country. But can we really blame Palin for some one else’s actions?
When I began searching for clues about the reported shooter, I was surprised. Who is Jared Lee Laughner? Early available information suggests that he was at least perceived as a liberal. According to a woman named Caitie Parker, “he was a pot head & into rock like Hendrix, The Doors, Anti-Flag…as I knew him he was left wing, quite liberal & oddly obsessed with the 2012 prophecy.”
I immediately went to Laughner’s YouTube page and watched every single one of his videos, which have since been removed. The “arty” vibe of the videos, which expressed circular logic and concerns about who controls society, how currency is backed, and the author’s lack of sleep, while convoluted, didn’t really seem too different than something I would have seen in a first year student college art class. There is a kind of “vogue” paranoia amongst a certain neo-Bohemian class that generally leads to nothing more than self-harm manifest as hedonism toward drugs, sex, and alcohol. Laughner’s favorite books included classics by George Orwell, Ray Bradbury, and Aristotle (as well as the incongruous autobiography of Adolf Hitler).
When my circle on facebook continued to call Laughner a “right wing nut” or a “libertarian nut” I felt that they were being unfair. Just as unfair as Sarah Palin for her utterly tasteless extreme vitriol, including saying that Congresswoman Giffords was in her “crosshairs.” I strongly suspect Laughner is schizophrenic and lacks the coherent political belief system of a “normal” person. Unfortunately, he is also pathologically homicidal. His victims include Blue dog Democrat (and former Republican) Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, as well as a Bush appointee, Federal Judge McCarthy John Roll, and a nine year old girl.
Then one of my most conservative friends responded to my comment on Laughner’s literary choices by saying Laughner really was a liberal, since the Nazis were Socialists. I briefly regretted trying to convince my liberal friends to avoid jumping to conclusions. Likening leftists to Nazis was bizarre and mean-spirited. But this is what we’ve come to as a nation. My small group of facebook friends is just a microcosm of the rest of America: Sharply divided, and willing to use tragedy as political ammunition to promote their own personal agendas.
America, we have got to grow up and work together. We have to stop the insanity, the finger-pointing, and the vilification that passes as discourse. Respect and courtesy need to become the standard by which we communicate with those we do not agree with. As Gabrielle Giffords fights for her life, the least we can do, regardless of our own beliefs, is to honor her spirit. By all accounts Ms. Giffords strove to bring people together and bridge the divisions that threaten us. Sanity, ladies and gentlemen, must prevail.
2010 will be primary season