On Saturday, January 8, 2011 Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was gunned down and critically wounded by 22 year Jared Loughner. Six people were murdered in the attack, including a federal judge and a nine year-old girl. Gabrielle has survived her attacker’s attempt at murder but by all reports she will have a long road to full recovery ahead of her.
The ‘alleged’ shooter is a man who suffers from paranoid delusions that flit like trapped birds between beliefs (the Rules of Grammar were designed by the government to control our minds! the 9/11 attacks were engineered by the Illuminati! The Cubs won the Pennant!) This man has been deteriorating over time, becoming more and more incapable of connecting with reality. His friends had distanced themselves, his college had told him he could not return without psychiatric clearance and a young woman from one of his classes stated that she always made sure to sit close to the door because she fully expected him to ‘pull a Virginia Tech’ some day.
The immediate reaction of the Sheriff of Pima County was to blame the shootings on the overly dramatic, tabloid style rhetoric used by self-styled political pundits. Frankly, I understand his rush to judgment. What might now be called a knee-jerk reaction by people like me to blame what happened on Cooper, Savage, Hannity and Olbermann was the natural result of the increasing inability to have any kind of discussion about anything with anyone. We are so tired of wading through the muck and the mire that passes for political discourse today that most of us thought, “Well, what do you expect?” when the first news reports of the attack crawled across the bottoms of our television screens.
However, in the last 48 hours more information about the shooter has been released. It is now clear that political rhetoric (whether calm or not, vicious or not) had little to do with the attack. Mental Illness was the reason for the attack.
The shooter became fixated on Congresswoman Giffords several years earlier because of her polite but firm response to a question he posed during one of her ‘meet the constituents’ events. Jared had asked her a question about the purpose of government when words have no meaning – in other words, he spoke his delusion out-loud – and Gabrielle had respectfully answered his insanity as best she could. However, it was not good enough. He began to stalk her, off and on, and frankly, she was doomed.
This story is not about the ravings of either side of the political spectrum. As much as I would like to blame people like Anderson Cooper for calling people trying to organize a political movement by a name commonly reserved for a sex act between homosexual men and NO ONE ON THE LEFT STANDING UP TO PROTEST for this kind of action, it has nothing to do with what happened. As much as I would like to blame Sarah Palin and her minions for Okaying a chart that showed Gabrielle in the cross hairs of a target, this act had NOTHING to do with THAT childish and exceedingly STUPID ad.
This story, in all its glory, is about what happens when a lunatic is allowed free access to the Internet, the ability to purchase firearms and the helplessness of his family to legally do anything to protect the public (and him).
It is also, if we really want to speak to the truth, about why people like me do not want their full name used on places like The Hive. It is why we hide our Facebook pages and we let Law Enforcement know every time our stalker shows up using multiple names and accusing us of everything from promiscuity to active drug addiction. It is why our bosses know about the threats, our family members have names, and addresses and pictures and we take the time to build the credibility we need to protect ourselves.
Let’s be honest – this is not about one side being worse than the other. And let’s be brutally honest – it is not about getting our points across. It is about being too afraid to step in and say to someone else, “This is not about free speech, it is about what is acceptable and what is not acceptable and you have crossed the line”.
Both the Extreme Left and the Extreme Right have always been guilty of this kind of behavior. Whether or not it is worse today, I really don’t know. What I know is that in the past, the RECENT past, a man who is truly a Christian would never threaten to beat up someone practicing Buddism, a city councilman would not be called a Nazi because he does not want homeless men and women taking over a neighborhood park and a woman would not have to steer clear of a community internet board because someone hates her religious affiliation.
Finally, I call upon all those who ARE true Christians to assemble themselves in Tuscon over the next few days. I call upon them to position themselves between the families of the deceased – in particular the Green family who lost their 9 year old child – and the mentally ill members of the Phelps Family. These self-styled Baptists (and they are NOT Baptists anymore than St John the Baptist was a Baptist) plan on picketing the funeral services of those murdered by Jared Loughner. These people are exercising their right of free speech.
They are also lunatics who enjoy inflicting pain on those they do not like.
So, when are we going to stand up and say, “Go ahead and wave your little signs…but you will do it over HERE where OUR FRIENDS CANNOT SEE YOU”.
When are WE going to stop being afraid to do what is RIGHT?