THE GIFFORD SHOOTING: SOME THOUGHTSJanuary 12, 2011
Many people have commented about the shooting of Congresswoman Gifford, offering this or that political take, or speculating about this or that conspiracy. What interests me, however, is its cultural implications. We've been, since 9/11, treated to a variety of official "conspiracy theories," from 9/11 itself, to the more recent allegations concerning Assange and Wikileaks, and now - reading between the lines a bit - the Gifford shooting. We seem to be not only a "conspiracy culture" but, since the JFK assassination, a "lone nut" culture.
In all honesty, I have to look at my own reaction to this tragedy as a symptom of my own affliction with these two "memes" within our culture. Most of those who have heard me interview or who know me personally realize that I am just not a political creature, for I'm disgusted at the behavior of both political parties and indeed the overall corruption of our system and its inability to address the public good in a meaningful manner. So, when I heard of the shooting, and without knowing much more about it, my first gut reactions were "Oh man, here we go again, another lone nut, another Columbine" and then, almost as quickly, the thought came "what group was behind this, and why?"
It is a sorrowful comment on our society that this incident happened at all; that the victims' families now suffer the loss of their loved ones. That is the core issue, but it is an equally sad commentary on our culture that we cannot assess this for what it is, and respond accordingly with sympathy and compassion for those whose lives have been so suddenly and tragically altered because of it. It is a sad commentary that already our "two" political parties scramble to politicize the event, and that our culture is looking for the latest examples of lone nuts and conspiracies. It is a sad commentary that we have become so traumatized, passive, and apathetic that we respond to such events by looking for explanations and rationalize what, in the final analysis, cannot be rationlized. I did not and do not agree with Congresswoman Gifford's party, nor her politics. But in the end, we do not settle political differences from the barrel of a gun. My heart goes out to her and her family and to those who lost their lives, and to their families.