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Tossing civility overboard creates ripples far and wide

Published: Mon, January 10, 2011 @ 12:00 a.m.

The worst thing members of Con- gress could do would be to react to the weekend shootings in Tucson by walling themselves off in fear from their constituents. The second worst thing would be for everyone else to pretend that inflammatory rhetoric, weapons allusions and references to “Second Amendment solutions” to political disagreements don’t matter.

Let us be quick to stipulate that we’re are not suggesting that the government can or should attempt to enforce civility on people or politics; we’re saying that thoughtful people ought to censor themselves. There was a day not long ago when suggesting that people watch what they say would have been viewed as constructive criticism, not an affront to the Constitution. There was a day when just because two people disagreed, one wasn’t a fascist and the other wasn’t a communist. There was a day when teachers would say quaint things such as, “you can disagree without being disagreeable.” And there was a day when people named Everett Dirksen, Lyndon Baines Johnson, Thomas “Tip” O’Neill and Ronald Reagan, men with political philosophies that were as different as night and day, could still end a day of political battling in nonpartisan conviviality.

Saturday morning, an obviously disturbed young man opened fire on an Arizona congresswoman, Gabrielle Giffords, and anyone else within range. As of this writing, Giffords remains in critical condition after surgery for a head wound. Six people are dead: U.S. District Judge John M. Roll, 63; Christina Taylor Green, 9; Gabe Zimmerman, 30, a Giffords aide; Dorothy Morris, 76; Dorwin Stoddard, 76, and Phyllis Scheck, 79. Fourteen others were wounded.

The 22-year-old man taken into custody, would have likely killed more but for the intervention of a woman and two men who subdued him while he was trying to load a new magazine into his Glock semi-automatic pistol.

For the record, those heroes were Patricia Maisch and Roger Sulzberger, who were waiting in line to meet Giffords, and Joseph Zimudie, who as in a nearby drug store when he heard shooting. Hero is an overworked word, but it clearly applies to people who run toward danger when others are doing what seems natural, running away.

A portrait emerges

Less than 48 hour after the shooting, most of what has become public knowledge about everyone caught up in Saturday morning’s attack outside a supermarket is superficial, including what is known about the alleged shooter, Jared Loughner. But the initial portrait is of a disaffected and increasingly unbalanced young man given to bizarre readings of the culture and politics surrounding him.

Regardless, early evidence indicates Loughner planned his attack, that he knew what he was contemplating was wrong and that he tried to reload, obviously unmoved by the horror around him: a congresswoman shot in the head and more than a dozen other people mowed down, one a child and others elderly.

Whatever form his punishment may take, clearly he should never spend another day of his life outside an institution.

The primary responsibility for the havoc he wreaked belongs to him. But, obviously, others saw him spiralling out of control. There were his strange postings on the Internet, run-ins with the law and expulsion from community college. Only his enablers during this time know who they are and how they failed him.

But to return to the earlier theme, Loughner may have been an outsider, but he was certainly not alone in his theories that ours is not a government of or by the people. Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik is under fire from fellow Arizonans for saying: “When you look at unbalanced people, how they respond to the vitriol that comes out of certain mouths about tearing down the government, the anger, the hatred, the bigotry that goes on in this country is getting to be outrageous.”

Intemperate words don’t load guns or pull triggers. But if we believe that words matter, we can’t ignore that the vocabulary of fear and bigotry stokes the fires of paranoia, hate and violence in the Jared Loughners of the world.


1cambridge(4064 comments)posted 5 years, 5 months ago

"When you look at unbalanced people, how they respond to the vitriol that comes out of certain mouths about tearing down the government, the anger, the hatred, the bigotry that goes on in this country is getting to be outrageous."

You don't have to look any further than the comments of about a dozen posters on this board and you'll know who Sheriff Dupnik is referring too.

You have posters here that can't write the word Democrat without writing the word socialist next to it.

You have so called "Christians" who call for a "holy war" against 1.6 billion Muslims because they worship differently. Now you have the same degree of mental defectives, so called "Muslims" calling for the same "holy war". Never mind that these fanatics probably haven't seen the inside of a church or a mosque in years and don't represent 1% of any religion.

They hide behind the "patriotic" usernames they give themselves while the express ill will toward their neighbors and cheer any pay cut, loss of benefits or any other misfortune that falls on those neighbors.

They belong to organizations that hide behind more of that "patriotic" hypocrisy like the "birthers" or the "tea party patriots" when all they are doing at their little get togethers is feeding off of each others hatred of anything and anyone that thinks differently. These people see the word "progressive" as something negative and claim "green is the new red." WTF does that even mean?

They force feed themselves on Rush Limbaugh's hours of hate speech, Glenn Beck and his endless video's of Nazi Germany and their twenty four hour news network dedicated to indoctrinating them into the hate zombies they are turning into. Rush, Glenn and Fox know that these people are week minded and can be manipulated just by helping them blame what their lives are on someone else.

The funny part is that these people with that endless list of who and what they hate haven't figured out who is really responsible for their misery. If these people would just for one minute be honest with themselves they would admit that who they really hate are themselves and what they let their lives become.

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2walter_sobchak(2672 comments)posted 5 years, 5 months ago

Politics have always been and always will be charged with inflammatory rhetoric. It is nothing new. Remember the Aaron Burr/Alexander Hamilton Duel? Unfortunately, in a free society, as it were, we have loons that commit heinous acts. With the way this one prepared for his dirty acts, it was hardly caused by inflammatory rhetoric. And, anyone that heard any interviews with Sheriff Dupnick knows his comments to this tragedy were tinged with politics.

But, I guess that some rap music, with it's blatant hate for white people and law or the misogynistic lyrics is not inflammatory. Muslims can spout hate and threaten journalists if they dare to print a picture of Mohammed but Christians are told that a Crucifix in a jar of urine must be accepted as art. Michael Moore can make a movie full of falshoods that his followers readily spout but it's OK if George W. Bush is called the anti-christ. When Ronald Reagan ran for president, I rememberpeople saying he was going to get us into World War III with the way he gave speeches. How did that work out?

It was interesting flipping around the cable news networks Saturday to see the way the story was being covered. Only MSNBC inserted this guys middle name of "Lee" in its description because the only real kooks in this world are angry white men with three names!

Unfortunately, there are these kinds of people in our society and sometimes they snap. But, to blame this on inflammatory rhetoric is absurd!

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3palbubba(802 comments)posted 5 years, 5 months ago

Why are we shocked when some nut job goes beserk? We have politicians on both sides of the aisle who speak in hate and anger at those who disagree, we as a society have endorsed the killing of the most innocent in our society,unborn babies, we pass health care that will probably lead to euthenasea down the road. All of this when you look at it is hate and killing. Why are we suprised?

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4Stan(9923 comments)posted 5 years, 5 months ago

Well cambridge . . ..

I wouldn't trust you to be civil during a speech given by a conservative . Jared Loughner was a known drug user with a mental condition .

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5piak(508 comments)posted 5 years, 5 months ago

Good point, Jessiedavid. In this valley, you are either a Democrat or need not read the editorial pages. Speaking of which, the Vindy does practice "diversity". They will include some Conservative articles now and then in their paper. It is after all, their paper and they don't have to do this. And they even make sure to provide the counter argument to the Conservative piece. But there's no Conservative oounter argument provided for the many biased leftist articles.

I note that Kasich hadn't yet taken the oath of office but he was already being criticized in the press. And some of the feature cartoons can only be interpreted in one way-left leaning, to be sure. Anybody who's not a Democrat gets no respect around here...so sayeth old Rod Dangerfield.

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6Silence_Dogood(1670 comments)posted 5 years, 5 months ago

With over 350 words on hate speech and not one single mention of MSNBC's Keith Olberman,the leading example of hate speech on tv today, makes me wonder if you can really look at things with on open mind. It needs to be pointed out to you that EVERY example that you put forth was from the Republican side of the isle.Is that your example of HATE speech, and your own vitriolic outburst.
Not narrow and myopic.

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7cambridge(4064 comments)posted 5 years, 5 months ago

Silence_Dogood.....I referred to haters, you're the one who referred to them as republicans.

You can comment on anyone you want, know one is stopping you.

MARGETALICA.....Thanks for proving my point. You never disappoint.

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