Reacting to a Shooting

Pistol with bloodThis past Saturday a lone gunman allowed the demons in his mind to escape in the form of a deluge of bullets, starting with one into the brain of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. By the time bystanders were able to wrestle him to the ground six people had been killed (including a nine year-old girl) and fourteen more had been injured. As of writing this article, Congresswoman Giffords is holding on in intensive care, but she is not out of the woods yet. This morning President Obama and his wife held a national moment of silence for our country to corporately remember the dead, the injured, and their family and friends (who are also victims of the demented assailant).

When a tragedy happens (especially of this magnitude), people naturally want to understand how it could occur—and to have swift judgment and punishment of the perpetrator(s). Every initial indication is that Jared Lee Loughner acted alone (and that he was a psychopath with a strange brew of political beliefs), but anyone watching, reading, or hearing the news know that our predilection for blaming was instantaneously in full force. We were informed that the rhetoric of the Tea Party, Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, and conservatism in general drove the shooter to target the congresswoman and spray her supporters with deathly lead. Myriad liberal talking heads, and the majority of the media, were quick to incriminate the aforementioned list—although the media often did it by (for example) "innocently" juxtaposing mentions of Sarah Palin’s map that had a gunsight over Congresswoman Giffords’ district during last November’s election with discussions of the gunman’s motivation. (When they wanted to really establish the connection they quoted Giffords herself stating that Palin’s "targeted list" could lead to violence—"When people do that, they have to realize that there are consequences to that action"1).

And depending on your political bend, you were likely either joining the condemnatory chorus or decrying how hypocritical it was that those who said not to jump to conclusions about motives when Major Nidal Malik Hasan gunned-down thirteen at Fort Hood last year now couldn’t wait for the smoke from the bullets to clear before damning various people and groups.

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