One of the biggest threats to democracy is random violence against public office holders. And that is compounded when regular citizens get caught in the crossfire, and that is what happened in Tucson, Arizona Saturday.
Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, a Democrat, was shot in the head — and remained in critical condition at the last report I had read before posting this — and six others, to include a federal district judge from the area, as well as a nine-year-old girl, were killed. In all, as I understand it, 20 (updated number as of Sunday afternoon) were shot by a 22-year-old nut case of a gunman with an semi-automatic weapon, who just walked up in a supermarket parking lot and started firing.
He had been kicked out of a local community college, reportedly for making some sort of disturbing video, and was known by some classmates to be somewhat creepy, and caught the attention of some people by making various rambling and incoherent but seemingly not very friendly statements. And isn’t it ironic that these mass killers don’t usually just come out of the blue, that they have been noticed to be a bit off by others. But it is a free country and guns are readily available both legally and illegally.
At first report, I thought he might be a right-wing nut case, but in the stories I have read he is described to be politically left of center. But really that means nothing. These nut cases don’t really have normal political understandings.
It does not help, though, that right-wing radio (and in some limited cases left wing radio — but there is little of that available) and Fox News daily spews out the worst of vitriol against everyone considered to have the wrong ideas — that being usually President Obama and all Democrats or even Republicans who would dare to think things out and try to negotiate across the aisle.
There is nothing wrong with fierce debate, but the senseless name calling and vicious personal attacks and outright lies that are used in place of reasoned debate which takes some thinking instead of just reacting and which is just a cheap shortcut around real ideas, creates the atmosphere that seems to incubate crops of nutcases ready to hatch anywhere and everywhere.
To be sure, the mentally deranged will always be with us, and in a society with freedom of movement it is hard to protect against them. But all responsible people in public life would do well to take heed and tone down the rhetoric.
There is some thought that the gunman, who was apprehended, may have had one or more accomplices. Either there are more nutcases on the loose in this one or there was some type of plot against this congresswoman, thought to be the main target, by someone utilizing the nut case that was arrested, I’m thinking.