Making Rancid Lemonade….
On 8 January 2011, a man named Jared Lee Loughner fired a pistol into a group of people gathered outside the Safeway located at Ina and Oracle Roads in Tucson, Arizona. Loughner killed six people and wounded 13 others. The dead were Federal Judge John Roll, 63; Mr. Gabe Zimmerman, 30; Ms. Christina Taylor Green, 9; Ms. Dorothy Morris,76; Ms. Phyllis Schneck, 79; and Ms. Dorwan Stoddard, 76. Among the wounded was U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords, a Democrat who appears to have been Loughner's primary target.
Within a day of the attack, both the congenitally liberal and their libertarian clones began ‘spinning’ the news to their own ends, with every fatuous pundit, has-been celebrity, and professional media hack trying to contextualize the shootings in terms that legitimize his or her pet ideology. In the week since, we’ve been told Loughner was motivated by excessively acerbic political rhetoric; by lack of sufficient gun control; by Sarah Palin’s use of rifle scope crosshairs on her website ‘targeting’ political rivals; by the increasingly vocal resentment of illegal immigrants; by the supposed rise in Islamaphobia; and even by the general conservative opposition to things like gay marriage, the repeal of Don't-Ask-Don't-Tell, abortion-as-birth-control, socialist health care, and so on.
Of course, even though Loughner appears to be afflicted with a "textbook case of paranoid-schizophrenia
," not only doesn't mental illness make good political scapegoating fodder, it is also an inconvenient fact that weakens attempts at vilifying conservatives, so it has been played down by everyone except those who haven’t anything to gain by pretending otherwise. People either gloss over it or they disingenuously conflate the issue with others, invariably and incorrectly concluding that more government control (of guns, of the mentally ill, of whatever) would have prevented this tragedy. For example, a writer for the January 24th issue of Time magazine stated, “If the Arizona shootings point in any direction, it is toward reassessing the excessive liberties we’ve granted ourselves in recent years.” Seriously?! We should seek less
freedom and reduce even more our ability to defend ourselves because a mentally ill man did something horrible, something that only excessive
government control might have prevented? Yeah, right.
In fact, we don't need fewer liberties or more gun control. We need a coherent national mental health care program that is adequately funded, effectively marketed, and efficiently run. More important, the liberal leadership (it doesn't have
to be an oxymoron) in this country needs to not squander the 'teachable moment' by blurring the focus on mental health issues, as linking it to gun control efforts would certainly do.
More gun control would not have saved Giffords. It may have reduced the numbers of wounded and killed, but even that's not a given. Regardless of the law, people who want guns will be able to get them and will use them to devastating effect, as has been shown in more than one supposedly gun-safe European country in recent years. More to the point, guns are not the only weapons that kill. The 1961 Pulitzer Prize winning photograph
by Yasushi Nagao showed a murder committed in front of 3,000 people. On 12 October 1960, a young Japanese nationalist named Otoya Yamaguchi jumped on stage at a political rally and stabbed the Chairman of the Japanese Socialist Party twice with a 12 inch Samurai sword. The victim, Inejiro Asanuma, died before he could be taken to a hospital. All the gun control rules on Earth wouldn't have made an iota of difference in 1960 and they likely wouldn't have made much difference in Tucson either.
The simple truth is that sometimes people just do bad things for bad reasons, and there isn't much anyone can do to prevent it. Easier access to mental health care might have helped Loughner and changed the future, but the attack was nobody else's fault, and more gun control will neither change the past nor prevent this kind of thing from happening in the future, regardless of Liberal know-it-alls' claims to the contrary.
What makes all of this even worse is that the demagogues of the left clearly count on most Americans being too addled to know they’re being fed pap wrapped in populist-flavored distortion, or too torpid to care. They are betting we don't remember how they have attacked or demonized every conservative leader and government institution, and even Christianity, for the past 40 years—that we've forgotten all the vile epithets, curses, and damnations, the constant comparison of President Bush to Adolph Hitler, or the suggestion that Sarah Palin’s husband had sex with his daughter! Even a minimal sampling of the angry liberal rantings of the past few decades would fill gigabytes of hard disk space and disgust any decent person, yet all this week they have been claiming conservatives are responsible for the corrosive and excessive political rhetoric that inspired the attack on Giffords. I will concede without qualm that Limbaugh and his ilk have done their share of ugly name-calling, but they’ve never really come close to the insult, innuendo, slander, and hatefulness that comes out of the modern liberal cynic-class.
Fortunately, a good many of us haven’t forgotten any of it, and we see all of this affected posturing and pandering talk about ‘less heated rhetoric’ for exactly what it is: opportunistic mouthings of contemptible people whose real goal is turning others’ misfortune to their career-enhancing advantage. I’ve no doubt that most people were initially stunned and appalled by the attack—only the most callous and cruel wouldn’t be. Knowing human nature, however, and given the speed at which the aspersions began, I’ve also no doubt that some people thanked the Fates for the political windfall, perhaps genuinely sorry for the victims, but also absolutely elated at the cornucopia of images and sound-bites they could use to promote their own agendas.
To me, the sham and the spin is as repugnant as it is infuriating, and I will not forget how quickly so many people in government, academia, and the media raced to turn a horrific tragedy into useful political talking points. The whole indecent lot of them should be ashamed of themselves.
Missing the Point – Again
Unfortunately, much of the conservative response to the liberal hypocrisy has been almost as acrimonious and inane, or it was ill-advised, like Sarah Palin's unnecessary and counter-productive video response to the mooncalfs who blamed her for inciting Loughner to violence. Certainly, it's true that the Western media's liberal bias makes it difficult for reason and moderation to get airtime. And it's equally true that in our tweetering-idiot culture of 140-character truth, calumnious claims cannot be allowed to go uncontested for long or they will take on a permanent cast, regardless of their validity. Even so, the only appropriate response to the left's detestable blame-laying is contemptuous disdain, not point-for point debate or disagreement.
There is no question that Americans relish fierce competition and cantankerous debate—that's part of the fun of politics, and of life—but most of us also generally value moderation in politics, as well as decency and civility, fiscal conservativism, and a bipartisan focus on putting America first and party politics second. More important, Americans are generally smart enough to recognize a trickster's bill of goods when they're being sold one, as was made clear in the recent mid-term elections, when some Tea Party candidates were elected, but not the nutcases in Delaware and New Mexico. Americans want change (though not dangerous and stupid change) and it's instructive that they voted to have fewer Democrats in Congress in 2011, not more. I suspect we're going to see a lot more of that kind of change in the next two years.
To be sure, I do not care for Sarah Palin, nor do I think highly of the Tea Party, and I would not currently vote for anyone associated with or promoted by either. Regarding the Arizona shootings, however, I think Palin has been viciously maligned by the left in a concerted effort to score preemptive points for the 2012 elections. I also think a lot of people feel the same way I do, and that this is going to backfire to wondrous effect unless President Obama and the Democrats in Congress really do try to work with Republicans for the common good. If they do not—if it's all just smoke and lies—I believe the rhetoric of the past eight days is going to come back on the Democrats with a vengeance and we'll see an even larger house-cleaning than we saw last November.
For my part, I am looking forward to 2012 with eager anticipation. I'm sure I'm not alone.
Update (after the 2012 election): Sadly, I gave most Americans too much credit, but worse, I underestimated the Republicans' ability to field a totally unappealing, utterly boring candidate. IMO, the election was the GOP's to lose and they worked round-the-clock to do just that.
Corrections & revisions were made to this essay on 20 & 22 Jan 11; it was updated 24 Jan 14 & 12 Sep 16.