Tucson Tragedy: How will America handle the madness?

Collin Reichman

If we were lucky, the only thing worth remembering about Jan. 7 would have been the atypical defeat of the Saints by the underdog Seattle Seahawks.  The headlines would joke about the millions lost in Vegas on the upset, and everything would continue on.
We aren’t lucky though. And last week was not a normal one. A rare and awful tragedy struck Tucson, Arizona, and I hardly have the space here to properly recap the events.
Suffice it to say, bad things happened. A man named Jared Lee Loughner went to an event being held by Democratic congresswomen Gabrielle Gifford. Loughner brought a gun, he started shooting and people died.
Loughner, like all thrice-named assassins, will haunt the history books for decades as a bald-headed lunatic (there must be some research done in the future between dangerously psychotic behavior and frightening personal-appearance choices).
It didn’t take long for people to point fingers, blaming any repugnant rhetoric as the direct cause of such heartbreak.
God, wouldn’t that be terrific? The healing would be much faster, more meaningful, if we could find an effortless way to explain Loughner’s hatred.
Maybe we’ll find a flowchart in his garage. It could be titled “Why I Killed.” The chart would blame the Tea Party, maybe, for their dangerous “Second Amendment solutions” idiom. Maybe it would blame Sarah Palin’s infamous cross-hairs map. That’d be grand, wouldn’t it?
Like children, we need our tragedies abridged and swiftly swept under the rug.
Blame alleviates the guilt many feel now — the guilt of a politician who maybe took his language too far, the guilt of a commentator who made long-winded speeches about our impending civil war.
Of course, no such explanation exists. For the millions who have already seen Loughner’s abnormal YouTube diatribes, it is clear that this is not a man of normal or relatable motivations.
Like all unbalanced malcontents, Loughner appears to be a delusional narcissist with a violent contempt for fellow human beings.
With Loughner refusing to speak to investigators, it’s up to America to decide his legacy for him. Were his crimes the result of our splintered national unity, non-existent gun regulations or the failure of our mental health professionals to recognize a ticking time bomb?
Soon lawmakers will have their way with his memory, shaping him into the poster boy for whatever new solution they’ve pulled from their asses.
“We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies.” It might be a stretch into the realm of lame quote-whoring to cite Lincoln here, but I’m doing it anyway. Most people remember the “better angels of our nature” gem, found in the next line of Lincoln’s speech addressing the southern opposition to his presidency.
But I’ve always liked that first bit. Direct, no hyperbole. Lincoln knew that we might occasionally be opponents, but never enemies. Then again, that ugly giant watched the nation plunge into Civil War, so maybe he doesn’t know so much.
But hey, that saved us down the road, didn’t it? We were once literally at war with one another, and not the kind that Glenn Beck likes to talk about with his magic chalkboard of wonder. Real blood, real gore, brother on brother; dark brutal shit.
The point is that things have been worse.  Do well to keep your heads and smart up about addressing each other in public. Blame republicans if that makes it easier, or democrats, I don’t care. As long as the point sticks that words and deeds are indeed linked.
Remember that our environment led to this. For most it’s just talk, and nothing more. People blow off steam, and it usually won’t mean a thing.
For other “fringe characters,” it’s something different. It’s a call to battle, and permission to destroy.
I will write nothing more on this topic. These kinds of appalling catastrophes cannot be simplified, solved or reasoned away in the mere 600 words afforded to me. We can only hang our heads, and promise to do better. All of us.

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