Singing the same sad old song
Sounding presidential for the first time since his election, Barack Obama recently delivered a moving plea for moderation and civility in public discourse. Unfortunately, his choir didn’t heed the sermon.
Obama had barely finished his outstanding oration when we heard the same tired melodies being rehearsed on both sides of the choir loft. Despite a universal acknowledgement of the president’s eloquence in the wake of the Tucson massacre, we heard this from the left: Palin bad, Limbaugh bad, Tea Party bad, their fault, their fault, their fault! And the cry from the right seemed to be: They started it, teacher. They threw spitballs at our guy for eight years and said threatening stuff to us, so why shouldn’t we throw some rocks at them now?
This irresponsible argument is over which side’s invective was responsible for the actions of a homicidal lunatic. As if anyone’s invective could have caused a bloody nightmare in a twisted mind that needed no such inspiration.
There is one thing that both sides may have rightly pointed a collective finger at in this debate — not because it caused the Safeway slayings but because it is detrimental to our country in any case — and that is the poisoned political atmosphere in the country at large and in the state of Arizona in particular. What few politicians and pundits appear to have focused on, however, is one of the most likely reasons for that hostility.
Consider Arizona. The state is suffering from a jobless rate of well over 9 percent while illegal aliens continue to come over the border in an unabated flood. The federal government has been unable to make a dent in the first problem and seems uninterested in seriously attacking the second.
Think about the Arizona citizens who lack employment, or about those who are worried about losing the jobs to which they are still able to cling (jobs, that is, not guns) in a persistently bad economy. Think about Arizonans who worry about feeding their children and keeping their homes. And there they are, these American citizens, watching foreigners — illegal aliens — who are so worried about feeding their own children in their own country that they risk their lives to cross the border and compete for scarce wages in the United States.
One can sympathize with people who will take great risks to feed their kids. But maybe, in more than a few cases, those American citizens are also seeing armed criminals smuggling narcotics across the border to sell to American kids.
Yes, think about Arizonans who see turmoil, gang warfare, beheadings and mass murder across that nearby ill-guarded border and fear what new terrors may be exported by some illegals to the USA.
What response do they get from Washington? They see an attack on their state for trying to end the problem that Washington itself does not solve. They see their president and their Congress invite the Mexican president to Washington to attack their state for treating undocumented aliens the way Mexico treats undocumented aliens on its own soil.
Is it not understandable that some people are angry in Arizona, that tempers are frayed and political outrage results in overheating?
And is it not also understandable — likely — that a madman might commit multiple murders in Tucson without reference to any such factors outside his own twisted mind?
If that is so, then it leaves us with two issues still to be addressed. Unfortunately, they are the same two issues that arise after every such bloody episode in the history of our society. Which is to say: much too often.
The first issue: Why are obvious lunatics allowed to walk around loose in the streets until they commit all-too-predictable murders? Why are known nuts free to wreak gory havoc in schools, post offices, public transportation? Think about all the similar episodes of the past. Google them if you can’t remember the names. You will see that after almost every such horrible event, we find ourselves reading the comments of family, friends, associates in the news media — and their comments are always similar: Oh, yes, he was acting strangely. Oh, yes, we were afraid of her. Oh, yes, they were all saying strange and threatening things.
The Army rejected the latest shooter for narcotics use and apparently never told law enforcement. His college kicked him out because it feared him, and the educators did nothing to take him out of society for his welfare and our safety. And so a madman shot a congresswoman, killed a federal judge, murdered an innocent child. Could it have been prevented?
True, we cannot have a society in which any amateur plays psychiatrist and has the power to curtail an individual’s freedom on the basis of inexpert opinion.
And yet… And yet…
And then the second question: Why is a madman allowed to purchase and use a weapon that has only one logical use: rapid-fire mass murder? The legendary gun lobby argues that if guns are banned, good people will not be able to buy weapons for their own protection, and only bad people will have the guns. It may be so.
And yet… And yet…
If you believe that it is so, then answer this: When Jared Loughner aimed at Gabrielle Giffords and all the others, when he pulled the trigger at a Tucson supermarket spraying hot lead all around, where the hell were all those good people with guns? Who drew a weapon and fired back at him to stop the bloodbath? Check the news reports. We see no signs of those good people, no signs of those good guns at all. There wasn’t even a cop in the crowd.
The killing stopped only when the shooter stopped to reload and was tackled by a few brave people. All of them unarmed.