Originally published in The Daily Toreador.
Some of the last big news we students have received before coming back to school was the extremely unfortunate shooting of 18 people in Tucson, Ariz. The event could accurately be described as the attempted assassination of Democratic Representative Gabrielle Giffords.
I don’t currently have any form of television programming at my home, so I got the news the same way I get most news these days: from the Internet. Sadly, this meant that I saw some of the worst political commentary on the event that was available.
Of course, as Giffords is a political figure, the shooting can indeed be deemed “political,” though the shooter’s motives aren’t 100 percent clear. The problem is that moments after news of the shooting broke out, Twitter and similar sites were aflame with all major political parties placing the blame on the other side.
On my feed, at least, it started with a lot of comments bringing up Sarah Palin’s infamous “Take Back the 20” map of political “targets,” which depicted crosshairs over locations in the United States in which political opponents to the Palin and Tea Party cause reside. Giffords was among those in the crosshairs. The map was rightly criticized even before this shooting, and the people in charge of the website removed it immediately after the incident occurred.
So when word got out that Giffords, one of Palin’s “targets,” had been gunned down, a lot of people immediately blamed Palin and the Tea Party. They posted comments blasting Palin as a person, saying that they hoped this was the end of her career (if not her life) and that the Tea Party would crumble as a result. Conservatives as a whole were also attacked, with people such as New York Times columnist Paul Krugman saying the rhetoric of right-wing radicals such as Glenn Beck is directly connected to such violence.
All this before police had even publicly identified the shooter, much less his political affiliation or motives.
This was followed by an equally reprehensible display of conservatives firing back. Once the shooting suspect was identified as 22-year-old Jared Lee Loughner, cases were immediately being made for him being someone who leaned heavily to the left of the political spectrum.
They tried their hardest to find evidence that Loughner was, in fact, an ultra-liberal. Among other things, they referred to his apparent atheism and his fondness for books such as “Mein Kampf” and “The Communist Manifesto.” At the very least, they had an easy time showing that Loughner wasn’t exactly a Bible-thumping Tea Partier.
So there we were, not even sure whether Giffords was alive or dead, not sure of anything but the alleged shooter’s identity, and all we cared about was making the other side look like the villain. We had turned her terrible tragedy into a battleground for some idiotic sense of political morality. “See? This is what those other folks think. Vote *party affiliation here*.”
People are dead. Others are seriously wounded. And we’re fighting over politics.
It may have been the most despicable thing I saw over the holiday break.
Now, let’s be clear. Even though I lean conservative, I consider the aforementioned target map deplorable and a huge mistake. And if Palin were to run for president in the future, I can all but guarantee that I will be voting for her opponent, no matter who it is. I’m not here to defend her.
However, we need to remember to keep things in perspective. Trying to pin the blame of a horrific shooting onto a disliked political candidate, no matter how bad she is, is horrible. And even if you can cite self-defense as an excuse, trying to turn the tables and make Democrats out to be the killers is just as bad.
Obviously there will be extremists on all sides making their political party (or religion, or race or gender) look bad. They showed up online, too, saying things like, “Giffords deserved to die. She supported the gay agenda.” Yes, that’s absolutely despicable, but it’s not indicative of an entire group of people. A lot of self-proclaimed liberals would have said similar things about any Republican figure that was shot down. It’s a two-way street.
In viewing the YouTube videos that were allegedly posted by the shooter himself, you can tell that this isn’t a man driven by the desire to push the liberal worldview or impress Bristol Palin. His ranting was that of a sick individual with a hatred of religion, government, currency and even abuse of proper grammar.
It takes a seriously disturbed individual to gun down well over a dozen people. A party affiliation does not make you a monster. CNN reported that Laughner listed himself as “independent” on two seperate voter registration forms.
Personally, while Giffords may not have been someone I would have voted for, my prayers go out to her and her family, as well as the other victims of the shooting. I couldn’t care less whether the shooter was a liberal, conservative, Christian, Muslim or atheist. There are far too many more important issues to be thinking about.