Will America Finally Learn from Tragedy?

January 21, 2011 Opinion

Over the last few weeks, much has been said about the Tucson shooting. As of this writing, the target of the attack, Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, is recovering at the University Medical Center of Tucson. She has shown great signs of improvement, such as opening her eyes and raising her fingers in a “peace” sign. Her medical condition has been upgraded from critical to serious, a huge milestone and a good sign of recovery. Of course, she still has a long way to go, facing many months of physical and speech therapy, and it will potentially be years before she will be completely back to normal, if ever.

Yet, even in light of this good news, we must not forget the unfortunate families that lost loved ones. Six men and women died that day, ranging from federal Judge John Roll and Gabriel “Gabe” Zimmerman, a member of Giffords’ staff, to Christina- Taylor Green, the nine-year-old girl born on 9/11, who had become a centralizing beacon for people on both sides to come together— or so one might think.

Whenever a tragedy occurs in this nation, we tend to try and make sense of what has happened. It is in our nature. As humans, we want organization; it is biologically within us to need to make sense out of something so senseless, so chaotic. As a nation, we have many faults. We espouse a sense of community in our rhetoric, glorifying this nation as truly wonderful since we can all come together in times of tragedy; but within weeks, after the funerals are over, and the cameras have all left, we still go back to the “same old, same old.” We go back to the jabs, the insinuations and the blatant lies. We say hateful things about one another, and our political sphere has been full of violent imagery and denigrated talk, not just since the 2008 elections, but for decades. I refuse to go into who made what political poster or who had whatever slogan that may or may not have incited hate.

This is all circumstantial. Just as Marilyn Manson and the video game Doom were blamed and seen as influences in the Columbine shootings a near decade ago (both allegations later refuted), political rhetoric has become the new scapegoat that easily distracts the sheep from the real issues at hand.

Personally, I believe that what we have allowed as mere “talk” and “the game of politics” in this country is deplorable, although I am not surprised. But this is what bothers me every time: countries that engage in far worse mud-slinging than we do still have the ability to maintain some sense of civility and remain on topic to some degree, while still being quite inflammatory, and yet not produce even a fourth of the vitriol that is seen in the United States. Just look at Britain and its Questions to the Prime Minister, where members of Parliament go back and forth, every week, and question the prime minister (and the ruling party), directly, televised for the whole nation to see.

A concept like this, something I would love to see in this nation, could never be implemented in the U.S., or at least not without grave consequences, I am afraid. Instead of looking at Jared Lee Loughner, the prime suspect in the Tucson shootings, as a man fueled by rage, whose motives have been unjustly summed up by political conjecture, could we all, difficult as it may be, just come to a universal and accept this fact: This man is not mentally stable.

Instead of listing what books he read, what religion he was, or what music he listened to as “influences” (which, of course, any rational human being can tell you that just because he may subscribe to that certain preference in material, does not mean that he represents all or even some of the people who also are a part of a certain group), maybe we should focus on other things.

Why not focus on how he obtained a gun whose magazine capacity was that of 31 rounds and, maybe, remedy our gun laws, a clear link to the deaths of these individuals. I am sorry, but in fact, guns do kill, as does as the crazy person who fires them. Or how someone who has a clear clinical case of paranoid schizophrenia was able to roam around for years on end and never be diagnosed or treated, or that his condition was never brought to light by his parents or peers.

I think the biggest questions of all that our society must look at are right in front of us. We need to look in the mirror and ask ourselves these questions: Must there always be the loss of innocent life before we truly understand that we can no longer be apathetic about one another and our issues? Must there always be war before we can open our hearts to peace?

Finally, how long will it take before we forget it all; forget the carnage, forget the sadness and go back to the same old, same old? If you cannot answer these questions, then save your tears for the next tragedy, as it is only a matter of time

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