Friday, January 14, 2011

About That Shooting in Arizona

I've been mulling over how I feel and what to say for a while - and there are many components to this issue that have to be addressed.

First - the willingness of the media and political figures to jump on a bandwagon condemning the Tea Party and the rhetoric from "deranged right wingers" has made me ill over the past few days. Plus, the response from the so called deranged right when it was discovered that the shooter's political affiliation would be categorized as leftist didn't help, either. Tit for tat to the end. The endless arguments over targeting crosshairs being used as graphics on a map strikes me as childish - and again - both sides (Palin and The Daily Kos, lest that be forgotten or ignored) used similar graphics for similar purposes. The meaning of the symbols was to reiterate that focusing (is that a bad word - what if we have a quick "peek through a microscope" graphic? Would that be considered violent?) political organizational efforts more tightly on a particular district represented by someone strategically weak in the coming elections. How that triggers gun owners into climbing up on the nearest high spot to take out all the evil commies at the next gay pride parade is beyond me. The obvious conclusion is projection - the people who really fear the rest of us having guns don't trust themselves with one, thus all of us have to share in that fear. I don't like heights, so all skyscrapers must be torn down and no more new ones be built. Plus, I'd bet the Target store logo has provoked more violence with their old Blue Light Specials than any crosshair graphic on any popular political site ever aspired to achieve.

So, the next issue morphs into gun control. One of the hoary old intrusions into our rights being reconsidered (because it worked so well when it was a law the last time) is the high capacity magazine ban. Tam (of View From the Porch) tweeted this:
"I wanna ban all magazines that hold more than 10 rounds!" because, you know, it's only the 11th victim that bothers me...
If you cannot see the absurdity of a large capacity magazine ban exposed by that simple statement, there is no hope for you - the rhetoric of gun banners has eclipsed any logical thought processes that may have existed in your brain in the past. And, because he says it far more succinctly and better than I could hope - Ric Locke (via Dustbury)
It is you, not I as a responsible gun owner, who demands perpetuation of the “culture of violence” in order to gain your ends. I can get what I want without raising a finger, let alone a firearm, if you and your fellows will just leave me alone. You can’t get what you want without messing with me, with violence, including gun violence actual or threatened, to back it up — and more and more of us are coming to the conclusion that the point of your effort is to make it safer and easier for you and your goons to mess with us. You don’t want to get rid of guns, and you’re a liar for saying you do. What you want is to have all the guns in your own hands and those of the enforcer-goons you hire to do your dirty work.
Just remember, we as conservatives have come from the shadows to defend our rights and keep what is constitutionally ours. We have endured the bigotry of small minds (clinging to religion and guns like we do).  We have mirrored the organizational efforts of the statists in order to be left alone. Conservatives finally got the memo - if we're gonna be left alone, we're gonna have to fight for it. So be it.

One more facet to the gun control issue - Representative Giffords just about owns this debate - if she is able to recover enough to state her opinions on the subject. She will either fan the flames or silence the meddlers. She has supported gun rights in the past. I hope and pray that she recovers the capability to do either one. While her endorsement of gun control of some kind would no doubt be a blow, I think the second amendment community could weather it. However, her continued support of gun rights would certainly pour cold water on the flames being fanned by the political opportunists.

So, how do we stop this from happening in the future? What is the cause, if not guns? Yeah, we can say the assassin could easily obtain other weapons that probably would be far more devastating, unpredictable and unstoppable, but that is a kind of defeatism that won't sit well with most. Clayton Cramer says in his latest Pajama Media column:
When I was young, random acts of mass murder were shocking.  In 1966, Charles Whitman went to the top of a building at the University of Texas and methodically murdered 13 people with a rifle. Such crimes were largely unthinkable until 1984, when James Huberty went into a McDonald’s in San Ysidro, California, and murdered 19 people with a shotgun and an Uzi.  We are not shocked anymore. We are saddened — but the days when gun control advocates could dance in the blood of victims to get another useless gun control law passed are over. Americans are now used to this — and that is the biggest tragedy of all. We just accept this, and don’t ask, “What’s causing this?  Can we fix it?”
What changed? Our mental health system is what changed — a movement towards emptying out mental hospitals and making it difficult to commit someone against his will. This is called deinstitutionalization. This is an idea so theoretically elegant that it has been taking place everywhere.
As they say, read the whole thing. Clayton has been bringing this problem up now for several years, and he maintains a lot of the deinstitutional process was accelerated by One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest - both the movie and the book by Ken Kesey.
Ken Kesey wrote the novel One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest after taking LSD and going to work at a mental hospital, and the film by that name is not a documentary.
We don't know what the "trigger" was for the gunman, or if there was a Manchurian Candidate style trigger or a series of warped perceptions that led him to his actions. But we do know he was spewing clues like a teapot left on boil too long. Which our hero, Sheriff Dupnik, somehow missed even in the continuous complaints against the gunman. Didn't mean he couldn't pass judgment with absolutely no facts in his initial press conference. He can apparently avoid Freedom of Information requests about his department's avoidance of it's duties with regard to the shooter's mental state, so frequently displayed at school and any place that was unlucky enough to hire him.

Sorry, got caught up in some sniping there. Cramer's point over the years is that both sides of the political coin are responsible for turning out mentally ill patients into the general public, and the unwillingness to corral the fresh crop. It's also clear that the parents were living in a state of denial as well. So, there is plenty of blame to go around as far as letting the killer roam among us. You and me, too, because we are part of the society wearing blinkers on the mental health issue. Until we're willing to tackle the issue rather than the symptoms (like guns or large magazines), we're doomed for repeats.

Moving on to another sharp contrast - the reactions of the President and of Sarah Palin. It's no secret that I detest our President and what he represents. I also appreciate Ms. Palin. Her ability to make progressives' heads spin every time she opens her mouth makes me laugh. She does articulate what we as conservatives feel quite a bit - but she is not a puppeteer controlling the slack jawed marionettes of the right wing as so many seem to believe. I am amused by many of the insults based on her lack of experience and knowledge - especially when contrasted with Teh Won's vast amount time spent voting "present," the ins and outs of foreign policy learned while "community organizing," and his articulate speaking away from a teleprompter. Oh, wait..... 

I can even understand why Sarah Palin reacted as she did after the murderous events in Arizona. She and other right wing pundits were immediately blamed for causing the bloodshed with absolutely no evidence, and said evidence now points to more progressive influence than anything. Apologies for getting it wrong? Not on your life. That is the tolerance and bipartisanship those of us on the right have become accustomed to getting from those on the left. As far as I'm concerned, the "blood libel" video is completely understandable.

Aaand, there are certain little things about the President's speech at the University of Arizona I just can't get behind. First - it was put on by Organizing for America - which is funded by the Democratic National Committee. Non partisan? Are you kidding me? Then there were the t-shirts - I'm sure we've all seen the pictures by now. At first, it was assumed that the OFA bought them, but it's come out that the University actually purchased them, and they had no mention of the President. No matter to me - t-shirts to commemorate a memorial of a slaughter? This is an example of good taste and restraint?

But these are niggles. The important thing is what the President said:
You see, when a tragedy like this strikes, it is part of our nature to demand explanations – to try to impose some order on the chaos, and make sense out of that which seems senseless. Already we've seen a national conversation commence, not only about the motivations behind these killings, but about everything from the merits of gun safety laws to the adequacy of our mental health systems. Much of this process, of debating what might be done to prevent such tragedies in the future, is an essential ingredient in our exercise of self-government. But at a time when our discourse has become so sharply polarized – at a time when we are far too eager to lay the blame for all that ails the world at the feet of those who think differently than we do – it's important for us to pause for a moment and make sure that we are talking with each other in a way that heals, not a way that wounds.
Scripture tells us that there is evil in the world, and that terrible things happen for reasons that defy human understanding. In the words of Job, "when I looked for light, then came darkness." Bad things happen, and we must guard against simple explanations in the aftermath.
For the truth is that none of us can know exactly what triggered this vicious attack. None of us can know with any certainty what might have stopped those shots from being fired, or what thoughts lurked in the inner recesses of a violent man's mind.
So yes, we must examine all the facts behind this tragedy. We cannot and will not be passive in the face of such violence. We should be willing to challenge old assumptions in order to lessen the prospects of violence in the future.
The President certainly rose above politics with those words. He did, in fact, leave quite a bit of rhetoric behind. Whether he manages to stay above the fray in the future is another matter entirely. But, in this moment in time, Barack Obama was Presidential. His words were of truth and healing. In this case, the accolades are apropos.

Like I said, I don't blame Sarah Palin a bit for what she said or how she said it. But - and this is the biggie - she missed an big opportunity here to rise above the fray as the President did. We have a saying out here in flyover country:  "Never rassle with a pig, they like it too much and you'll just get covered in pigshit." Sarah jumped right in there, as we saw.

This mass murder also hit hard because of the target. It wasn't just some random people on the street - this clown went after a member of Congress and managed to get a Federal Judge while he was at it. The idea that this kind of thing can happen to our insulated lawmakers has been a cattle prod firmly applied to their collective butts. Now we are seeing some claim that since they are more special (as public servants) than the rest of us, they deserve laws specifically designed to protect them above all others.  Guess the rest of us only matter on Election Day. Again, searching for a solution by treating the symptoms.

So, this is a very complex problem that application of simplistic solutions won't control.


Lisa Paul said...

You and I aren't going to agree on this, even though we are both gun owners. Yet you raise an excellent and often overlooked point on the issue of the state of our mental health system being the real culprit -- not to mention all the cracks this guy fell through.

I do think there wasn't screaming blame of Sarah Palin -- there was speculation of a possible link between heated, gun-centric rhetoric and perhaps adding fuel to a mind already leaning toward violence. Especially since your authority, Gabby Giffords, was one of the first to call attention to that link with a specific reference to Palin's target graphic and the possibility of violence. Then there are repeated reports by the Secret Service that, as Palin's rallies became more heated, the death threats to the Obamas spiked. There is enough evidence out there of links (not causes, but another link in the chain down a terrible road) that speculating on a possible connection is not, shall we say, out of Left Field.

But I think the President's words should be heeded -- he called out both sides to keep the dialogue civil and constructive.

As to the pep rally atmosphere and the T-shirts, well, a friend of mine in Tuscon put it this way, "Nobody here is complaining about the way the memorial was handled or the cheering." I think the atmosphere would have been different if it had been held in a church. But it was in a stadium filled with college students.

I do remember a friend whose mother entered the hospital for a minor issue and, over the course of three days deteriorated to the point where she died. After the service, my friend sat at the reception downing hi-balls, smoking cigarettes and telling raucous jokes. She explained that she'd just had enough of grieving. She had to laugh.

From my comfortable perch in front of the TV, I'm not going to lecture to Tuscon about the proper way to grieve.

That said, I hope my friends and family are alert, caring and proactive enough -- should I ever show signs of mental illness -- that they immediately wrestle me to the ground, pry the rifle out of my hands and get me on Lithium.

Lisa Paul said...

Jeez, I can't even spell Tucson. And I used to live there!

Jeffro said...

Yep, you are correct that we won't agree much! I saw the twitter stream that was coming from the compassionate left - and I can guarantee you Sarah Palin's head would be off if some had their way. The Secret Service fielded a lot of wacko death threats when W was President as well, so we can go tit for tat on that issue as far as right wingers being violent vs left wingers. I'm for thinking political affiliation alone isn't much of a factor.

I have no problem lecturing the Phelps clan on how to grieve from my comfortable perch in front of my television. It's a matter of degree from then on, as far as I'm concerned. One thing I didn't mention was the raucous attitude of the students in the audience - and kudos to Obama - that seemed to irritate him. When you represent the office of the President as the singular head of one of the main branches of our government, a little solemnity goes a long way. Again, going tit for tat, can you imagine the howls if W had, say, referred to the victims and survivors by his nicknames?

And most of my problem with even attempting to muzzle the political pundits is that it tends to favor those in power, no matter the side. Can you get me the head of Markos Moulitsas? I think his brand of political activism is a poison to our society, so he must go. I hope you realize I'm being sarcastic.

But I'm tryin,' Ringo. I'm trying real hard.

Like I said - we can give each other endless examples of how one side had wounded another in an extremely hurtful and insulting way. I really fear there will be no way this will all subside - any time someone declares a truce, it will be violated.

It might be too late for me - I'm already a weekend hermit, posting on the intertubes in my pajamas, as it were. In this here Wild West, I ain't been bothered much, as long as I show signs of life (my neighbors get concerned if they see my pickup parked out front when I'm home sick and should be out and about). Good psycho drugs and housing on the taxpayers' dime might be peachy, for all I know. Just as long as they don't tie the long sleeves too tight, I suppose.

Lisa Paul said...

Jeffro, you should know better than to read Twitter streams -- they're ALL wackos over there (except for Chaz)!

Yup, we both have irresponsible loudmouths on each side. I'll see your Marcos Moulitsas and raise you Ann Coulter and Michele Malkin. (Glenn Beck I'm giving a pass because he showed himself to be a gentleman this week.) I'll even give you that Keith Olberman gets off on the wrong horse frequently and beats it to death.

The nuts we will always have with us. What gets me is when politicians -- either elected or hopeful are uncivil, inflammatory and irresponsible. And I'm not pointing the finger at anyone -- I mean that in a general sense. Elected officials and those who aspire to be should be held to a higher standard.

As Obama said, I think there is more that unites us than divides us. I'm one of those dreaded card-carrying Liberals, but I have no problem with hunting -- if it's conducted in a humane, safe and sportsman-like manner. (But then I don't think I'd have a problem with anything carried out in a humane, safe and sportsman-like manner.)

I wouldn't even have a problem with a roomful of Jeffros with guns. (Thanks for the great gun safety tips by the way.) I'm struggling with how we can protect ourselves from having a mall full of Jared Loughners packing heat.

I hesitate to pile on his parents at this time -- but that should have been our (excuse the gun-related metaphor) first line of defense. If you think your son is a nut. If you know he has a gun. Why don't you a) take the gun away b) call the sheriff when you suspect that he's loaded said gun into his car. Thanks, Dad, for chasing him out to the desert, but it didn't really do any good, did it?

Jeffro said...

Elected officials and those who aspire to be should be held to a higher standard.

Amen. The only way they listen is if we vote 'em out, but most of the shrieking loonies are playing to the home crowd in the first place. Oh well.

Yep, the parents bear a ton of the blame. They were the closest and got to see the crazy the most.

Lisa Paul said...

Hey, even James Carville agrees with you. He said on Bill Maher tonight: "It's not about gun control, it's about crazy people control."

Like I said, if all gun owners were Jeffros, no problem. Most of us are responsible, kind and sane. But legislation is to protect the rest of us against crazy, evil and greedy.

dennisranch said...

Great post Jeffro!

Seems to me, and I will get jumped for this, Liberals, for the most part, do not want to take care of and protect themselves. they want the Police or the Army or somebody else to do it so they can go about their lives. Which would be fine in a perfect world, but face it, this world ain't perfect and there will always be some one with a screw loose and they just might be one of the guys supposedly protecting us! Look at Ft Hood.

As to this tragedy, there are many many people killed every year by drunks with cars. Prohibition didn't work. Neither will gun control. And there is always someone who just can't help themselves, they need to look, or worse yet, do around the clock coverage, of a tragedy. Maybe more people need to go to war so they would get tired of seeing blood and guts, then there would be fewer people who would stand around and watch something like this develop or happen as they would nip it in the bud, so to speak.