Thoughts, prayers and condolences for the family and friends of the victims
The shooting on January 8th 2011, of congresswoman, Gabrielle Giffords, that left her with a gunshot wound that went through her head, six others dead, including a 9 year old girl and fourteen others wounded is a heartbreaking tragedy. I first learned of it minutes after it happened via Twitter. Shortly after hearing about it, it was tweeted that she was dead. This was likely based on an eyewitness saying she had been shot pointblank in the back of the head. People are not supposed to survive pointblank head shots, but this was just the beginning of the overreacting that took place throughout the day.
I am not going to pretend that I was exempt. My initial reactions were strongly influenced by a strong dislike for an individual that would put up a graphic map on their Facebook page http://yfrog.com/h43kgvj depicting targets placed on twenty congressional districts throughout the country. At around the same time this map went up (March 2010) Sarah Palin also tweeted her followers, urging them to not retreat but reload. Political views aside, I really dislike stupid people who seemingly only exist to incite violence and then plead ignorance when that violence occurs. The fact that this map disappeared shortly after the shooting happened displays at least a measure of guilt, also the tweet I mentioned earlier has vanished. The rhetoric and hate spewing from some on the more extreme right of the political spectrum is chilling in both its tone and ability to polarize. Then I asked myself, is this even about politics?
Tweets were coming in about the alleged shooter, Jared Lee Loughner with links to a YouTube account associated with him. I found this one Introduction to be the most telling of a person struggling to comprehend his reality. As the day went on I learned he had a wide range in his reading interest, from Mein Kampf to Alice in Wonderland. He also had a MySpace account (since the shooting it has been shut down.) Shortly before the shooting occurred he had posted what would seem to be a good bye message asking friends not to be mad at him. He had obviously already decided to go out in a blaze of ugliness and to take out as many innocent people as he could before ending his own life. Why though? What was his motivation? Was he a polarized radical or just a person with mental problems who randomly chose this particular time and place to act? As of my writing this we still don’t know and we may not for quite some time, if at all.
Yet the blaming and finger pointing continues, especially from the extreme liberals. Instead of blowing this up and overreacting we should slow down and examine Jared Lee Loughner, the individual, a bit more closely. The question might become more about the current state of our mental health system than about his political views. Another question that will need to be looked in to is: how was a person that appeared (based on his online presence) so obviously mentally ill able to legally purchase a gun? Political rhetoric may have put thoughts into his head, but they did not put the gun in his hand, the gun by all accounts he bought legally from a willing seller. The mental health system and the gun control law are the two issues we should be questioning, not who to blame for this catastrophe.
Unfortunately tragedies like this are impossible to predict and almost just as impossible to prevent. When a crazed individual has his warped mind set on something and has the necessary weapon to carry out his plan, no person in his path is safe. The blame and the rhetoric from both sides of the aisle need to stop. We should take a look at what enabled Jared Lee Loughner to become a coldhearted killer; a mental health system that relies too heavily on medication instead of on individual care and gun control laws that made it too easy for a madman on a mission to purchase a gun. As always, it is a combination of things that take place in tragedies like these and instead of overreacting and placing blame we should be asking what we can do to prevent the next one from happening.