I’m finding it really alarming how fast the discourse on the recent tragedy in Arizona is retreating to safe ground. Only the FBI seems to be taking the young troubled man who sent a bullet through Congresswoman Gabrielle Gifford’s brain, before turning it on the crowd, seriously. At least they have charged him with attempted assassination. Right now pundits of the left and the right are quickly dismissing the act as that of a senseless madman.
You know why? Because it’s far safer that way, it’s far less troubling. We can all remain in our comfort zone, and once the furor has gone down and we have all issued sufficient sincere platitudes towards the families of the victims we can go back to business as usual. In this country we seem to be digging a huge divide between red and blue, left and right, conservative and liberal—only it’s a divide that has always been here. Even the briefest glance at history will reveal to us that we once had a little war between states. There were over a million causalities in that war, 620,000 deaths, which was significantly more than the number of American soldiers that died in WWI, WWII, and Vietnam combined.
In other words we have died more fighting amongst each other than we have in all the other major conflicts we have been involved in. In some ways that battle still rages on. The lines have shifted but at core it seems that there are two extremely different views of America, and we seem no nearer to drawing those two visions closer together than we ever did.
So Loughner was troubled, a loner with issues? Does that absolve him or us of complicity in his actions? He was certainly of sound enough mind to carefully fill out forms to aid him when he attempted to buy the weapon. Did he have a history of mental illness? Perhaps, but surely the toxic environment we are all living in these days is just the right kind of Petri dish to grow hate, violence, and home-grown terrorism. Just because he was less competent to reason between right and wrong does that mean we can all just go on spouting hate speech, intolerance, and drawing crosshairs over the names of people we disagree with? It’s ok – keep hating, America— because it’s all just the work of a lone madman. The rest of us know the difference right?
Or is it? Perhaps it’s just a harbinger of things to come? After all rhetoric, historically, has proven to be powerful stuff.
I have to stop here. I was going to post some examples of rhetoric influencing nations and creating wars when I was stopped in my tracks to the point of physical nausea by the amount of ignorance and hatred that exists on the internet masquerading as free speech. Is it all from crazy loners?
It’s the human cancer, and it’s growing deep.