It is not a surprise that the focus of the national media has been on the tragedy that took place in Tucson a few days ago. Like other national tragedies (presidential assassination, 9/11, Oklahoma City, etc.) our eyes and ears are turned toward Arizona as we try to make sense out of the horrific events that took place at a place of peaceable assembly.
The first question anyone wishes answered is why? What motivated this young man to begin taking the lives of six people and wounding fourteen others including his principal target, Congresswoman Giffords? We may never fully know. It seems that we are dealing with someone seriously mentally disturbed. Whether or not there was any "political" motivation is uncertain. Could it have been prevented; could there have been more attention paid to this individual to realize the signs of his troubled nature?
Politicians take no time in responding to the issue depending upon where they fall on the political scale. Liberals are looking at issues of gun control and blaming the more inflamed rhetoric that issues almost daily in political exchanges and on talk shows. Conservatives may want to see this as a random act by one disturbed individual and not connected in any way to any political rhetoric. Are there lessons we can learn from all of this?
This tragic act may not have been the result of political unhappiness on the part of the shooter; he may have had reasons to dislike a number of people in government or positions of authority. We may never know. While I do not agree with her political positions and could certainly not support her in any run for the presidency, I do not believe Sarah Palin would want anyone killed or harmed in any way because of political differences.
Having said that, however, is there a lesson to be learned about tamping down the political rhetoric - particularly the kind that attacks others because of their positions? The political ad which Ms. Palin's followers used in the previous election showing a marksman's target zeroing in on particular congressional districts they wished to have defeated was in poor taste. We do not know if such types of advertising or statements of the same ilk trigger things in the minds of those more mentally disturbed who may act out their frustrations through violent means.
I wrote a blog around the election time asking if "political civility" was an oxymoron. I raise the question again. Can we not find a way to voice our opinions in constructive ways and not through personal attacks on our political opponents? The new Speaker of the House, John Boehner, said it in his opening remarks to Congress a few weeks ago - namely that we can disagree without being disagreeable. Would that all of our elected officials of either political stripe would heed those words and began to deal with the issues facing our country and our states in a spirit of open dialogue and collaboration.
Our prayers certainly go out to the Giffords family and the families of those who lost love ones in this tragedy. We should also keep in prayer the family of the perpetrator who are enduring great pain and feelings of guilt at this time. And can we not also pray that the perpetrator will receive whatever mental health assistance he needs if it is determined that this action was that of a disturbed mind.
Let us hope that we can all learn some lessons from this tragedy and move our country and our communities forward with peace and harmony as well respect for the feelings and opinions of others even if they disagree with our own. May God continue to bless America.