Sunday, January 9, 2011

Concerning the Reaction to an Attempted Murder

The attempted murder of Congresswoman Giffords is deeply disturbing on two levels. The first level is fairly obvious: a lunatic attempted to kill the congresswoman and succeeded in killing a number of others, including a 9 year old girl. Like any murder, we understand the grief but cannot truly fathom its depth for friends and family of the slain and injured.

The second level, while less devastating to individuals, is more disconcerting for the nation as a whole. After news had broken that the congresswoman had been shot, information was very sketchy (NPR reported fairly quickly that Giffords had passed away, which we now know is not true). Despite this lack of information, the country turned immediately to looking for motive, usually along their ideological preferences. As Giffords is a Democrat, most on the Right either looked at a Mexican drug war connection or prepared themselves to explain why the act of a lone person does not represent the Right as a whole. The Left who partook in this insanity (fortunately, there were those on both sides that were wise enough to refrain) immediately found their answer: Sarah Palin and the Tea Party.

As it turned out, the murderer seems to lack anything resembling an ideology or even a real connection to reality. Yesterday I posted Loughner's "manifesto." I'm pretty well versed in political theory, but I could find nothing resembling a coherent message in his videos. Loughner's favorite activity was "conscience dreaming." I'm fairly certain neither the Left nor the Right even knows what this means, much less promotes it. He rambles (in an non sequitur syllogism) that "the people" apparently approve of some "new currency" which will somehow distribute "new knowledge." Nobody on either side of the spectrum is pushing this lunacy as far as I know.

His next beef is with, of all things, English grammar. Again, not a hot button political topic, last I checked. Not to mention I'm fairly certain most people in AZ-8 can read. Loughner's next point is to say that if you do not know the "new currency", you are ignorant of mind control. Somehow having his civil rights would have stopped this, but which rights and how are never explained. Again, neither side in our current politics talks about how new currency can protect us from mind control.

His stated goal: "my ambition---is for informing literate dreamers about a new currency; in a few days, you will know I'm conscience dreaming!" Which side of the spectrum was pushing this theory, again? Oh, that's right: neither.

There are two other videos up, one of which is basically an expanded rambling on what I just described (there is apparently a "new alphabet") and the other is about "mind control." If you want to use them as a partisan attack, let me recommend you go through it line by line rather than cherry picking. This person lacked any coherent thought, much less a political ideology in line with any mainstream thought in this nation. He stumbles upon talking about the Constitution and federalism for a slide, but the next slide he accuses property owners for being in cahoots with the government against the revolutionaries.

I have referred to the attack on Congresswoman Giffords as an attempted murder rather than as an attempted assassination, only because the later implies a political motivation. As far as I can tell, this lunatic was not in touch with reality enough to actually have what we could understand as a political motivation.

The second level that I find so disturbing is that so many people want to use this attack as a political cudgel. Go to Twitter right now and search for Sarah Palin. Thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands, are holding her personally responsible for this attack. This is long after it has become known that Loughner's a nutcase with no connection to the Tea Party or to Palin, yet the attacks continue.

Many saw this shooting as an opportunity rather than as a tragedy. If the shooter could be tied to Sarah Palin or the Tea Party, it could be used to destroy a powerful political force without resorting to intellectual arguments and open debate (as of recent, the Tea Party has clearly been winning on this front in terms of influence over the people). These people had their Reichstag Fire and were merely in search of a patsy to blame it on.

As it turned out, the actual shooter was a lunatic with no connection to Palin. This means the entire shooting is politically useless. For many, this has proven too much to accept. One of their own politicians has been gunned down, but no political hay can be made of it? Since there is no clear connection, these despicable partisans are trying to create some sort of indirect connection not too far removed from Loughner's "mind control" theories. The tone of political debate has been too rough, they say! Surely this played a role!

Never mind the fact that there is no evidence Loughner ever was influenced by Palin or the Tea Party. He could just as easily have been influenced by this. Or this. Or this. Or perhaps even this. That last one is particularly important, since so much is being made of Giffords district being targeted. The only thing Palin can be accused of is plagiarizing a Democratic idea.

I'm not a particular fan of Palin (I hope she doesn't run for President, personally) but I am deeply disturbed by the number of people in this country willing to accuse her of crimes without even the smallest shred of evidence. Political assassinations have no business in American politics or culture and neither side condones them. Those seeking to pin innocent citizens for acts of terrorism should be ashamed of themselves.

Such attacks are rare for a reason: they quickly undermine the argument the assassin supports. We all know that. When such attacks do occur, we recognize them for what they are, the actions of lone lunatics that are roundly denounced by all sides. If an assassination does occur based on a clear political affiliation, that side will need to condemn all such actions unequivocally. But when the attacker lacks any real political ideology, both sides need to leave the issue alone and recognize the attack is nothing more than a personal tragedy for those who have lost loved ones. To make desperate political attacks out of such tragedies is to assassinate the human value we attach to politicians representing their people. A person that truly cares about Congresswoman Gifford, or any attacked politician, would not use their condition to politically attack people who had nothing to do with it.

In the future, I hope partisans on all sides remember this.

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