“Just the facts, Ma’am…..”
That’s a famous line attributed to the old TV show “Dragnet.” (TV Trivia Alert! The phrase was never actually uttered by Detective Joe Friday. The closest lines were, “All we want are the facts, ma’am” and “All we know are the facts, ma’am.”) But still, it’s a good catchphrase that I would like to suggest that the media talking heads and pundits might like to use just about now.
The facts are that Representative (D-AZ) Gabrielle Giffords was shot point-blank in the head on Saturday, January 8, 2011, in Tucson, Arizona. As of today, 1/11/11, she remains in the hospital in critical condition. (A recent LA Times update indicates that she is breathing on her own and moving her arms.) 6 people, including a 9-year-old girl, died; 14 (or 19 depending on which story you read) other people were wounded. Jared Lee Loughner, age 22, the alleged shooter, has been arrested and is in custody, charged with murder.
Those are the facts…. Everything…or MOST everything else thus far, has been pure speculation. Another phrase that comes to mind to describe the “everything else” is “a bunch of hot air.” Keith Olbermann comes to mind, as he loudly windbagged his way through his self-righteous Special Comments the other night. (Oops…was that an uncivil of me?)
The word “civility” has been bandied about like a badminton shuttlecock since, like, about 2 minutes after the shooting took place. Politicians and pundits on both sides of the fence have said that the violent rhetoric of certain politicians and political parties is to blame for the tragic mayhem that transpired in Arizona.
Without any facts like the rest of us, Sen. John McCain had this to say, “Whoever did this; whatever their reason, they are a disgrace to Arizona, this country and the human race, and they deserve and will receive the contempt of all decent people and the strongest punishment of the law.”
And yes, it’s true that politics in the United States has descended into a wretched quagmire of partisanship, non-cooperation, negativity, name-calling and dirty money.
But is politics the reason that Jared Lee Loughner allegedly opened fire on innocent folks attending an event at a Safeway supermarket in Tucson, AZ?
The real answer, for now, is that WE DON’T KNOW!!!
The jury’s still out (in fact it hasn’t even been convened yet) on what the shooter’s motives were. But that hasn’t stopped endless media babble about blame, crosshairs, Sarah Palin and nasty, uncivil politicians.
Jared may be mentally ill…from everything that I’ve read he has all the symptoms and signs of suffering from paranoid schizophrenia…but I don’t know that for sure. Nobody does right now….
The guy was never checked out by a mental health facility even though he was booted out of college for bizarre behavior, turned down by the Army for being mentally unstable and posting incoherent ramblings on YouTube and MySpace that may have indicated a touch of insanity.
He may’ve been motivated by violent political rhetoric…or he was not.
I certainly agree that politics in the United States is uglier and dirtier than ever. Whatever happened to reaching across the aisle to get things done rather than trying to undermine everything a guy does just because he’s black? Whatever happened to “by the people and for the people”?
The divisions started way before September 11, 2001…but 9-11 was an opportunity for the US to build bridges. Instead the powers that were decided to bomb them instead. How civil is that?
There are still two continuing military conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. 4,432 US military personnel have died and 32,943 have been wounded in Iraq. 1,446 US troops have perished in Afghanistan (http://antiwar.com/casualties/). How civil is that?
TV and movies assault viewers of every age with guns, violence, bloodshed and death every single day. Is that civilized?
In the year 2000, the so-called “reality” show “Survivor” premiered. The basic premise of this appalling piece of trash was for people to be mean as hell to one another, to backstab, lie and scheme in order to win a million bucks. The MEANEST person won. How civil is that? Did that contribute to Loughner’s shooting spree? Who knows?
“Survivor” is STILL on the air along with a whole slough of copy-cat shows. They all promote rewarding extremely bad behavior. What is so entertaining about watching real people watch treat each other like sh*t? There are certainly a lot better ways to give away a million dollars.
My point, & I do have one, is that our uncivil society is not just based on politics. It is based on a culture of guns, media violence and sensationalism. Any one of these things could have sent Jared Lee Loughner over the edge. Or not….
In my opinion, the pundits & talking heads would do well to discuss the elephant in the room that nobody wants to look at: mental illness. Services are practically non-exsistent for people like Jared Lee Loughner. People call people who are mentally ill monsters or demons. (Reference John McCain above.). People are put to death because even though they are mentally ill, they are deemed “legally sane.”
I pray for Rep. Giffords and her husband, for the families & friends of those wounded and for those who mourn the untimely loss of their loved ones. I also pray for Jared Lee Loughner and folks like him who have fallen through the cracks and cannot get the help they need.
I hope that some good will come of this tragedy. Stricter gun control would be nice, as well as the demise of negative and hateful campaign ads, more help for the mentally ill and the cancellation of hateful reality shows.
Just like after 9-11, we have an opportunity to do good again, to practice compassion & forgiveness, to make changes for the greater good. I hope we don’t blow it this time.
It starts with each of us as an individual…. Be civil to one another.
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