Sunday, January 09, 2011

Return To Your Respective Corners

A lot has been said, and will probably continue to be said, about yesterday's shootings in Arizona. And though the immediate question of "who" was answered pretty quickly, the question of "why" is being loudly debated. It's not as if the answer really matters. It's human nature to look for answers in the face of senseless violence. But when Jared Laughner, the latest in a line of madmen to shock the imagination of Americans, finally lets us in on his motives, will we be satisfied?

Probably not. It only took a few hours for the various media outlets to pontificate on the reasons. The general consensus is inflammatory political rhetoric. Fingers are being pointed. Websites are being scanned for clues and within minutes of the news of the shooting, pages were being taken down. The most popular one is the infamous Sarah Palin crosshairs map. To be honest, I had never heard of this thing until yesterday. I can see why people have focused on this image but as a cause for the shooting? Seems a little far fetched. I'm no fan of Palin but I can't believe anyone could look at the crosshairs on the map and think she was calling for a violent attack. While this recent election season was certainly the nastiest in history, it's hard to imagine that anyone could take Sharron Angle's talk of "domestic enemies" in Congress as a call for revolution. When Michael Steele stated that he wanted to send Nancy Pelosi to the firing line, I doubt he was calling for her assassination. It's all election talk.

Unfortunately, this kind of language is very effective. We're in an era of sound bites and quick information and talking in extremes works very well. If you've ever seen interviews of Tea Party supporters, you know what I mean. We're inundated with baseless accusations. Exposing this at this critical time isn't such a bad idea. While each side is knocked back on its heels, it's a good opportunity to hold a mirror up and show us all what we sound like when we're trying to get our way. It's easy to blame Palin or Beck or Limbaugh for inciting hysteria but probably not very accurate. But exposing it isn't irresponsible, as Lamar Alexander claims. I think we all just need to be reminded.

We may never be able to find the answers. And as time passes, we'll spend more time pointing fingers than looking for accuracy. But let's say it's not the fault of all the poisonous, hyperbolic rhetoric. Let's just take this opportunity to tone it down a bit. When we hear ludicrous claims from our elected representatives or from the talking heads, let's be smarter than them. One of the great things about being American is our right to question our leaders instead of following them blindly. Let's be Americans again. How far back do we need to go? When was the last time politics was, at the very least, civil?

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