January 17, 2011

Response from a Native Arizonan to the January 2011 Tucson Shooting

The January 8, 2011 shooting of 19 people and the death of 6 at Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords' "Congress on Your Corner" event united Arizonans and Americans in mourning last week. Unfortunately, for some - misplaced anger and ignorance also characterized this last week. Anger, apparent via some serious finger pointing, rose in the hours immediately following the shooting.

Anger has defined my own response - as I witnessed people with no real understanding of American or Arizona history - make statements about the current political climate and alleged shooter Loughner's motives. Last week, I was too grief-stricken and angry to write about this. This week, I am ready to share my own thoughts on this horrible event and the real history of politics in Arizona and our country.

After the shooting, we heard the usual statements of condolence, promised justice and solidarity made by politicians to the families and community affected by the shooting. But, almost before we could absorb what had happened, news outlets, politicians, bloggers and pundits began making accusations about the "vitriolic" nature of the Arizona political climate that no doubt led to alleged shooter's, Jared Lee Loughner, choice to open fire on an innocent crowd of people. Reporters, whose job it is to report on the most extreme aspects of our society, couldn't wait to talk about what a terrible political climate exists in Arizona and share that they just knew this was going to happen.1,2,3 Yet, there were still some legitimate responses from news outlets, trying to report the news fairly. 4

Additionally, instead of investigating the shooting with dispassionate professionalism, Pima County Sheriff Dupnik immediately voiced his opinion that the shooter was influenced by extreme political language - before he'd even investigated the young man.5 Sheriff Dupnik was/is apparently friends with some of the victims and was understandably upset by the shootings. Nonetheless, when he'd had time to cool down, he still spouted the same blaming rhetoric about talk show radio hosts and Arizona's climate of hatred and bigotry.6

While I am not naive enough to believe that law enforcement professionals always perform their roles in a manner unbiased by their own personal opinions and beliefs, I do think they should at least pretend they're not letting those opinions cloud their investigations.

I am no stranger to the concept that "if it bleeds, it leads" (in the news). All my PoliSci buddies heard it with me in classes till it oozed out our ears. I understand the tendency of politicians to couch every hot issue in the most extreme terms. After all, extreme terms are what catalyze voters on both sides of the political aisle to move to the voting booth. However, understanding these things doesn't mean I have to like it. Also, it doesn't mean those of us who don't use extreme language to define ourselves or our beliefs should stay silent on issues that are important to understanding this event and the real nature and state of American and Arizona politics.

As a rule, I haven't really written about political topics on this blog. And, I'm not sure that I'm about to start doing it regularly. It's not my desire to become a political blogger or try to convince you that my way is the only way. It is, however, always my intention to be a voice of reason and to provide a space where we can discuss those topics about which we are passionate about in a respectful, informed and thoughtful manner.

So, over the next few days, I'll be sharing some of the things that have been on my mind with regard to the shooting and the history of American politics in general. Yes, my major was History and my minor Political Science - so I am passionate about these things! I hope that you will take a little time to read, to comment and to think about the choices that you make daily which make define the kind of Arizona or America we'll pass on to our kids.

In the end, if those of us who are reasonable - sit back and say nothing - we can only blame ourselves when life (or our society) takes a direction we do not like.

As always, I love hearing your opinion. However, in the spirit of respectful discussion, please keep your comments and responses informed and courteous.

For a historic perspective on whether Arizona's political climate is really getting more heated, click here.

Copyright (c) 2011

Dick, Jason."Wild West's Violent Ethos Deeply Ingrained in Arizona's Gun Culture." National Journal, January 12, 2011. http://nationaljournal.com/member/wild-west-s-violent-ethos-deeply-ingrained-in-arizona-s-gun-culture-20110110

2 Krugman, Paul. "Assassination Attempt in Arizona." The New York Times, January 14, 2011. http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/01/08/assassination-attempt-in-arizona/?ref=politics

3 Newton, Casey. "Some Thoughts On Arizona." Crumbler, January 10, 2011. http://crumbler.tumblr.com/post/2677943230/some-thoughts-on-arizona   

Picket, Kerry. "Liberals blast Palin and 'rhetoric' following AZ shooting." The Washington Times, January 13, 2011. http://www.washingtontimes.com/blog/watercooler/2011/jan/8/liberals-blast-palin-and-rhetoric-following-az-sho/ 

5 Dupnik, Clarence. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fVOCPO_a_MI, the comments made on that page about Sheriff Dupnik are not necessarily my opinions but it was a good video of the Sheriff's own words.

6 Netter, Sarah. "Arizona Sheriff Blasts Rush Limbaugh for Spewing 'Irresponsible' Vitriol." ABC World News, January 13, 2011. http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/arizona-sheriff-blasts-rush-limbaugh-spewing-irresponsible-vitriol/story?id=12583285

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