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Banbury Cross

a pillow for lost thoughts...

Post details: Tucson

Tucson

On Saturday, January 8, 2011, a young loner named Jared Lee Loughner opened fire on participants of a United States congresswoman's meeting with constituents held in a supermarket parking lot in Tucson. Twenty people were shot, six of them fatally and U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords is in a critical condition. In a sinister twist, a little girl born on September 11 died in that shooting too.

A cold act like this leaves us gasping for words. Our daily life does not prepare us for such extraordinary lapse of humanity. But as time plods on, we are forced to absorb the reality and adjust. Eventually, words appear and when they do, it is telling what kind of emotions and hidden agendas they reflect. While a number of commentators had risen above the ramparts of their ideological castles and showed proper decorum, others wasted little time and got right back to tilling their stretch of arable bigotry. The ensuing festival of finger pointing produced a tasteless tug-of-war between a right wing nut theory and its left wing counterpart. Previous girlfriends were summoned to testify, past records were scrutinized, some MySpace accounts archived, and Twitter suddenly turned into a reliable source of information. The most disappointing fact though was an assumption - common to both camps - that their form of hatred is somehow nobler than the one they were frothing about.

The trauma of the shock is rarely a good time for analysis. It is more a time to remind ourselves that we live in a complex world in which no single doctrine can claim to hold all the answers. However trite it may sound, each of us owns but a tiny little piece of truth and we would do a great service to our country and to ourselves if we started listening to each other rather than waving our cherished partisan flags and digging for political capital - whether we get our flavor of truth from Keith Olbermann or Glenn Beck. But in the barrage of arguments and counterarguments, attacks and counterattacks, humility was barely heard.

As I watched the Sunday morning shows, I noticed a lot of calls for toning down the divisive rhetoric. While that is certainly a valid concern, it only addresses the symptoms, not the cause of the violence. And as every good doctor knows you can't have a completely recovery without identifying the heart of the problem and treating it. Sure, the media addicted to blatant sensationalism will always be happy to report on a little controversy. That's just media being media. But someone should stand up and ask where is all that vitriol coming from. Why is a significant chunk of the population slipping into radical mindframe and general mistrust?

If you read the comments section in blogs and newspapers, one theme that stands out is the growing perception that there are in fact two Americas. One located roughly in the corridor between New York and Washington DC, and the other spread uniformly over the rest of the country. One enjoys the sunshine pouring down on a privileged class comprised of powerful elites and wealthy moneychangers, and the other, populated by the hoi polloi of Ohio, Michigan or Alabama, is being rained on day in and day out. With this kind of social milieu and a spreading feeling of injustice, it is only a matter of time until some deviant mind in the crowd wakes up from its apathy and takes its frustration to the nearest gun shop.

After our elected representatives return from their respectful hiatus, they should take a deep look inside their collective soul and ask themselves whether they are steering the country in the right direction. Why do so many citizens feel that the laws are written by lobbyists with generous corporations in mind? Why do young people feel disenfranchised from the world where personal connections seem more important than skills or knowledge? With the approval ratings for Congress hovering near historic minimums, such introspection would be a great way of honoring the memory of those that lost their lives in this lunacy.

Going after the causes, rather than symptoms.

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