Do not politicize a tragedy

February 10, 2011 — by Synthia Ling

Gunshots rang out in front of the Arizona Safeway store on Jan. 8, transforming the line of eager local citizens waiting to speak with Democratic congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords into a screaming, chaotic crowd. Jared Loughner, 22, stood in the parking lot randomly shooting. In the aftermath: six dead, 13 injured and plenty of controversy.

While the tragedy shocked the nation, the public seemed more fixated on pointing fingers at who was to blame for this grisly act of violence rather than on condolences for the fallen. So who’s fault is it?

Media on Palin

National news stations continuously replayed pictures of Sarah Palin’s advertisement of “crosshairs” that looked like gun sights over Democratic districts, including one over Giffords’s seat. There is even an eerie interview clip from Giffords responding to the ad stating, “When people do that, they’ve got to realize there are consequences to that action.” Clips showed Palin exclaiming the catchphrase: “Don’t retreat—RELOAD!” In the media frenzy, many people rushed to link the shooting to Palin, who’s known to be an avid gun-toting hunter.

Right and left showdown

Meanwhile, Palin’s right-wing supporters rapidly threw back the blame to the left, citing that Loughner was a liberal and had “Communist Manifesto” listed as one of his favorite books on Myspace; the left responded that he also enjoyed “Mein Kempf.” Both sides got defensive and unreasonably aggressive. This divisiveness seems to only reinforce that it was the heated political rhetoric in the first place what what motivated Loughner to resort to this horrific act.

Nation in unrest

True, there are angry Americans and intensified debates. With the economic instability and high unemployment rate, it is inevitable that there will be frustration. However, resolving the nation’s current problems takes progressive political action.

Regardless of the way Congress votes on controversial measures—whether it’s heath care or tax cuts—some people will be infuriated. Unfortunately, this anger sometimes leads to threats—hateful phone calls and e-mails—and in some extreme cases, violent action.

Nonetheless, people should not be forced to suppress their speech and beliefs, even if it means backlash and threats. Because no matter how much Democrats and Republicans clash, neither side can be held responsible for Gifford’s devastating injury.

One person, not political rhetoric, is to blame

Let’s face it: There can only be one person to blame for this tragedy—the lone shooter. Although it may sound scary, these acts of violence aren’t always preventable. There can be safety measures taken and lessons learned, but just one person can slip through the cracks and create devastation. This shooting happened because of a Loughner’s erratic mental state, not his right or left beliefs.

It is sad that the news stations and talk shows exploit this tragedy to create conspiracy theories and jump to false conclusions. Perhaps even more tragic than the shooting in Tucson is the shameless politicization of a tragedy.

Perhaps some political rhetoric is too extreme, but this rhetoric did not ultimately push Loughner to kill. Political leaders such as Sarah Palin will get the message without the unnecessary finger pointing and righteous indignation.

The senseless movement to assign ultimate responsibility for this tragedy must come to an end. We cannot let the shooting divide our nation even further.
Understanding for the mentally ill

If anything should come out of this tragedy, it should be more awareness in dealing with the mentally ill. There were warning signs to friends and schoolmates that Loughner had mental issues, yet they were never addressed.

Conversely, people should not also jump to conclusions that those who are psychologically ill are all violent; rather, the public should try to be more understanding and aware of those suffering and seek help if they know someone who is struggling with mental issues.

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