When they said “vote or die” I don’t think this is what they had in mind

or: well this is what you get when young people get involved in politics

It has been weeks since the events in Tucson. Giffords is showing ‘remarkable’ signs of recovery as every effort has been made to save her life. The events that day were more than the sum of adjectives used to describe it; words of any polysyllabic form fall short at a time like this. It was both shocking and tragic in the most heinous manner. The lives ended and the hundreds touched by this event including the senseless death of a nine-year old girl and a judge, among others. As we are searching for answers and guidance out of something like this we are watching ourselves spin out of control trying to find causality and something to point our fingers at. It is in our nature to try and find a source and snuff it out to prevent anything like this occurring again. But in our haste to try and gleam some kind of wisdom from this shooting I think we are suffering from a social PTSD distorting our ability to logically examine and process this event because we are all too close to it to think clearly.

I am not alone in the manner by which I process grief or prolific events like this. When I experience loss or hard times of any kind I find solace in laughter and finding the humor in any situation. I don’t dare make light of the event directly, but as I look out on the sea of comments and steps being taken I see great humor and hyperbole that is rife for satire. The knee jerk reaction of public figures, lawmakers, and vocal groups makes for great punchlines. I see the likes of the left blaming the violent rhetoric of the right as the right points the finger at the socialist left, and the middle pointing fingers at both sides, and all I can think is “Well, at least young people are getting involved in politics.” It sucks, and just like 9/11, and every other time we have felt wronged as a nation by the audacity of the singular or few, we want blood and we feel that if we do nothing then we are simply giving up on a civil society. Ya know, that is the same bullshit line of thinking people with reusable grocery bags use to help themselves sleep at night, “I’m doing something about this; at least more than the next person.” Go fly a kite with all that mishegoss.

Some are trying to push legislation to further limit gun rights and try to stave off the problem of these kinds of shootings. Some people are dealing with their grief by suggesting that if we took people’s guns away, kept them from carrying them, owning them, or buying them as they currently are allowed to, then this might never…happen…again. It’s all pie in the sky; shit happens. People will get guns, as long as they are being made and there is a demand for them. From Derringers to mini guns and RPGs the supply of weaponry will always find a way to meet the demand. We could take white-out to the second amendment and eliminate any right to bare arms; just eliminate a piece of the bill of rights. We could melt down every gun in existence, destroy every warhead and missile on the planet, and even go as far as eliminating swords, requiring a license to own a butter knife, and some whack-job will sharpen a stick and stab someone. Deaths by bow and arrow would sky rocket and archery class would be the new JROTC, so you can put that baby to bed.

Others point fingers at the language we are using to debate sensitive and complicated issues. People think our language is creating an angry and violent sector of humanity that is taking ‘death panel’ and ‘enemies of the state’ a little too far. This might be something we need to keep in mind, but is this the answer? We could wrap ourselves up in swaddling cloth of kind words and revert to Sesame Street etiquette and that won’t do it. As one who loves graphic verbal imagery and over the top metaphors I really have a hard-on for free speech and freely alluding to Republicans observing pagan-like rituals including goats blood and self-flagellation. For the sake of our rights let’s all admit that it is not the rhetoric but the issue itself that brings out these kinds of actions. When anti-abortion protestors shoot a doctor on his way in to the clinic they were not inspired by the words of ‘murder’ or ‘baby killer’, it was the actuality and the realness of what was happening that they worked up in their minds which drove them to the most ironic of actions. We would all categorize a doctor-killing pro-lifer a walking contradiction who was unbalanced to begin with; Jared Lee Loughner took his queues from Mein Kampf and the Communist Manifesto…rhetoric not found in today’s cable channel political debate. Hitler, not Hannity, was his inspiration, and I gotta say that if Hannity, Beck, or ANY other pundit was his guiding light to action then he needed better role models anyway. Loughner is one sandwich short of a picnic so let’s keep our hands off our words. We are not even allowed to say “fuck” on network television yet, so I think any kind of self-censorship is really unnecessary until we throw off the shackles of the puritanical speech we still senselessly observe in broadcast television; until we allow the f-bomb in primetime I say we haven’t gone far enough.

We could set Glenn Beck and Rachel Maddow as the title fight of UFC 126 to find out who is right about the hidden Socialist agenda of the Obama administration and it wouldn’t be far enough. To go one further if we decided who was right by settling debates with a two-party sponsored cockfight I still don’t think anyone but the most deranged would be frothing at the mouth to pull a gun on a public policy maker any more than they are now with this pussyfoot civility we have been clinging to. All the time we must practice restraint in our language. I just want to hear people get really angry; it’s the emotion bottling and the tongue biting that leads to outbursts. If it was cockfights and thunderdome then psychopaths might get their fill of blood and feel like something is getting done. It is the impotence and the “civility” behind a veil of politically correct speech in a minefield of “buzz words” that has driven me to scream at times. We have free speech but no one is allowed to speak freely because some constituents might not like it and “that kind of talk” is frowned upon; in the same breath teasers before the break are about the end of democracy and the government wanting to rape the family dog…it’s all talking out the side of our mouths.

I will be the first to admit that there has been an exponential increase in end of days speech. Every issue has become the one that will end us all. From week to week it is another moment of decision on a precipice of utter destruction. Exaggeration and apocalyptic rhetoric, the kind that makes every issue and event in to the second coming of Christ and the straw that will break the American democratic camel’s back, is evident by the coverage of this event. It was almost immediately coined as the “Tucson Massacre” by the media that in itself seems a little extreme. ‘Massacre?’ Really? I can understand ‘tragedy’ or ‘senseless murders’ but ‘massacre’ seems a bit grandiose for 6 death and 13 wounded. I am not belittling the event, but when we use this word it turns this into more than the sad event it is. Before you know it there will be a vague and hastily written bill before Congress called “Christina’s Law” that comes out of this event where nothing but decorum and national grief was called for.  If we are looking to watch our words and enter a time of civil debate and thoughtful speech then the first thing that needs to change outside rhetoric is the sensationalized manner in which we cover it.

My personal guide to labeling terrible acts:

A Senseless Act

shooting spree trumps senseless act

tragedy trumps shooting spree

blood bath trumps tragedy

massacre trumps blood bath

genocide trumps massacre

Holocaust trumps EVERYTHING

I hate to break it to you, but there is almost nothing to be found in this event but sadness and another in a long line of tragic losses of life.I know we have an insatiable need to categorize and label and find some kind of “why” in all of this, but even if we got one it wouldn’t make sense to us. Loughner could tell me that a polka dot elephant that lives in his hair told him to do it and I would give it as much credence as if he told me that he was guided by FOX NEWS; he is mental, so I don’t care what he says. This is not the first shooting of a government official; from Lincoln to JFK to Bobby and everything before, after, and between, figures in the public eye will become victims of the mad and extreme. Malcolm X and MLK weren’t even elected officials and they became targets for simply their ideas and zeal. Outside of this there are uncountable and often minimized massacres through history, in America’s past from school campuses to the daily streets. People kill and die and there is nothing that can be done. We can’t sit there and become scared to talk, limit rights, and do whatever it takes for us to feel like we are doing something to prevent this; there is nothing that can be done. We had one psychopath act out in a violent manner and took his misdirected anger out on an object he probably just saw as a representative of the larger problem.

This feeling of vengeance due to seeming helpless in the face of tragedy is as old as history. Our politicians can’t sit on their hands, they need to look like they are helping and making a difference, so they don’t have to explain doing nothing in their next campaign. This kind of possibly disingenuous, probably misguided, and most definitely impotent kind of action will do more to hurt than it will to help. We could try to get him the death penalty, but it accomplishes nothing for those lost and does nothing to deter other crazies from coming out of the wood works; right now there is a guy jerking off in his mom’s basement to the Loughner’s mugshot and he isn’t scared of anything. We could watch our words, but speaking more thoughtfully does not make abortion, gay rights, corruption, high taxes, unemployment, illegal immigration, education, the death penalty, free speech, gun control, two wars, oil drilling, global warming, environmentalism, government spending, and on and on, any less polarizing or inflammatory of subjects. We can whisper and hug and even blow each other while debating and the words and gestures mean nothing to a person who is unstable and is going to act out in what they think is a necessary and justified action as they have concocted it in their own mind. You can wave the flag, cry foul, and we can do everything we can to convince ourselves that we have done enough, but tomorrow another will have died and one day another figure head will die just as senselessly on the cement of a Safeway parking lot as the gang member in the back alley. Death is equal to all other death just as life is equal to all other life and it will be the same tragedy whether with an assault rifle or a sharp stick and words will always fall short no matter which one’s you use.

Addendum:

I am fully aware of the hypocrisy and contradiction found here in. I am not positioning myself above those mentioned here or that I walk some divined path of restrained rhetoric. More than anything I let the dogs loose on anything I feel and make no apologies for what is contained herein. I embrace and exercise my first amendment right and am thankfully not restricted by decency laws or guidelines; fuck it.

 

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