What do history's most notorious despots have in common with many of the flag-waving, patriotic politicians of our day? Both groups rise to power through the exploitation of fear, which has become a societal plague. There have been widespread casualties. We need an antidote. Feardom offers its readers a much-needed immunization.
photo credit: Simone Lovati
Tragedy struck over the weekend, with a madman going on a shooting spree in Tucson, Arizona. Americans reacted with horror, sympathy for the victims, and curiosity and speculation about what would drive somebody to do such a thing.
Others saw an opportunity.
Within mere minutes of the atrocity, articles began to proliferate placing blame and suggesting indirect complicity. Broad brush strokes aimed to target the entire “Tea Party” movement, for example.
Anti-gun groups quickly pushed out emails decrying the existence and use of the murderer’s tool of choice, and anti-gun legislators followed suit, promising legislation. The local sheriff, quick to politically posture himself as an authoritative commentator on the shooter’s motive and influence, indirectly pointed his finger towards a recent Supreme Court decision that allowed for more liberal and unrestricted political free speech. And carrying that argument to its legislative conclusion, congressmen are hoping to further restrict free speech.
Closer to home, Senator Mike Lee suggested on CNN that some have pointed to “the breakdown in the family structure” as an influence in what would lead somebody to the point of embarking on a murderous rampage—a reasonable comment that might be interpreted in a variety of ways. Within hours, a local advocacy group for homosexuality pounced, publishing an article that claimed the Senator was blaming the shooting “on gay marriage”. Eh?
This disgusting political opportunism is not new. President Clinton, for example, exploited the Oklahoma City bombings 15 years ago as a means to demonize his ideological opponents. But while the theme is a recurring one, evident in the wake of each new tragedy, its popularity does not in any way justify its ever-present existence.
Nobody is to blame for this shooting but the shooter himself. Any legitimate influences that substantially and directly led him to commit this heinous act will be determined by experienced psychologists—not political pundits and talk show hosts. And those influences do not suggest that others who have any history with them may some day act likewise; that the shooter enjoyed reading through the Communist Manifesto and Mein Kampf does not mean that all who read them, let alone enjoy them, will follow in Loughner’s footsteps.
This situation is what it is: a 22-year-old who made a decision based on a variety of influences and factors. Our collective decision should be to not politicize this unique event to demonize our ideological opponents and promote our interests.