I haven’t had time to fully process the shooting of Rep. Giffords because it came close on the heels of a death in the family of one of my close friends, but I have a few thoughts on the reactions that we’ve seen in the last few days.
This was, clearly, a horrific act of violence. I’ve seen nothing so far to indicate that this was caused by anything other than mental illness, and don’t think that there’s much chance of a story unfolding that leads to any other conclusion. As such, the idea of blame in this situation isn’t one we should even be discussing.
Instead, I think that this is a time for reflection on what has happened here and what we can do to reduce the likelihood of this ever happening again. I say “reduce the likelihood” because I don’t think that it is possible to completely prevent actions like these; when the human mind turns on itself, the results are impossible to predict.
But it is not impossible to stop and think about the climate that our words create. Was Loughner taking his clues from Sarah Palin? There’s no evidence of that. But can I imagine a situation in which someone might? Yes. I think that should give Palin pause when using rhetoric designed to appeal to self-styled revolutionaries. The same is true, of course, for any Democrat who makes similarly inflammatory statements.
Jon Stewart’s reaction on Monday, while it made for horrible comedic material, was touching. Faced with a tragedy of this magnitude, he didn’t even attempt to do a normal show, instead taking the first nine minutes for a cathartic discussion of the tragedy that he had seen and whether its possible to find any sliver of hope from this situation. Check it out, it’s worth your time.