In the immediate hours after the tragic shooting in Arizona, many in the media and on the left started implicating the political vitriol, especially on the right, in the shooting. Many quickly jumped on that with additional finger-pointing.
I was one of those people (with some Facebook links, tweets, etc) — and for that I apologize.
First, it seems increasingly obvious that the shooter in this case is mentally ill and has no real political association or coherent worldview. He is no Tea-Partier-Gone-Bad, but rather a very sad and tragic case of how mental illness destroys.
So, again, I apologize for jumping on the bandwagon that angry political rhetoric was to blame in this case. I am sorry. Please forgive me.
There is a fallacy to beware of here. Just because this particular case is not an example of extreme political rhetoric influencing the shooter, does not mean that extreme political rhetoric does not contribute to a culture of violence and increase the likelihood of violence.
One of the reasons, I believe, it was so easy to jump on the “angry political rhetoric” bandwagon is because many of us have been holding our breath and just wondering when it would happen — in our culture it seems inevitable. After all, how surprised can we be when after months of being called “Tiller the Baby Killer” on national TV, someone chooses to shoot Dr. George Tiller while at his home church?
Simply because this tragedy cannot be attributed to angry and extreme language does not mean that angry and extreme language does not have consequences.
Some have said that this dynamic has always been true. Perhaps true, but of course in our history politicians used to rely on gun duels to solve our differences — not something we want to return to, I would think.
So let us not lose this opportunity to point out the obvious: an increase in civility would benefit everyone!
Everything about this situation is tragic. It raises many issues that I hope we address as a nation: security for elected officials, common-sense gun control, how we treat and deal with mental illness… and the prevailing rhetorical tone in politics today.
I also expect that, if as we suspect, it turns out that mental illness is the main contributor here, that (a) we won’t hear terrible protests from people if Loughner is found “not guilty by reason of mental defect or sanity”; and (b) that the death penalty should be off the table as we don’t execute the mentally ill (or at least, shouldn’t!).
Continued prayers for all the victims and their families… and for our nation.