Politics wrongly overshadows emotional impact of tragedies

February 9, 2011 — by Cecilia Hollenhorst & Priyanka Nookala

Six people lay motionless in an Arizona supermarket parking lot, dead from the shots of a lone gunman. While most would first and foremost consider the immense tragedy of such an event, a surprising number of people shifted the focus of this massacre to politics after discovering the identity of one injured victim: Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, a Democrat recently re-elected in a heavily Republican area.

In the days following the national tragedy of the Jan. 8 Arizona shooting, newspapers, television stations and individual bloggers questioned the political implications of Gifford, a moderate democrat, being targeted. Reports surfaced of a website endorsed by Republican Sarah Palin in which Gabrielle Giffords was listed as a “target.”

In place of articles about the shooting victims, headlines proclaimed Sarah Palin’s guilt in provoking the shooting. Instead of hearing the names of nine-year-old Christina-Taylor Green or seventy-six-year-old Dorothy Morris, two of the six killed in Arizona, news reports centered around Palin and Gifford’s opponents.

While Palin’s “target list” was far too controversial to be effectively hushed-up, even in light of the Arizona shooting, no political critique should have taken the place of acknowledging the emotional impact of the tragedy on the United States.

Of course, the cause of every tragedy and plans to prevent similar ones in the future must be addressed, but victims are easily forgotten in the wake of political finger-pointing. Jumping into making assumptions mere hours after an event is unnecessary and insensitive.

A country must be given the chance to understand the damage done before resuming tearing down each other’s views. Six deaths and 13 injuries are a tragedy from any perspective, political or otherwise, and should be respected as such, not used as an opportunity to debate controversial political issues.

Although politics have played a large role in hard times, there have been recent incidents such as the collapse of the Chilean mine in August 2010, where citizens and countries temporarily set aside political desires to blame the Chilean government and mine owners.

Instead, they focused on the people who were trapped underground for 69 days. The Chilean people worked together to develop technology to reach the miners and rescue them one by one. Families reunited and people worldwide cared deeply about and admired the miners and their rescuers.

America needs to follow this example of responding to a tragedy with the care and sensitivity that every person and family impacted deserves. The first response to such an enormous loss should always be concern for the people, not politics.

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