Friday, January 27, 2023 -
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WE are all reeling from the shock of the tragedy in Tucson. Now Congresswoman Giffords and Jared Lee Loughner, unfortunately, join the creepy pairings in American history, the likes of John F. Kennedy and Soviet sympathizer Lee Harvey Oswald, Abraham Lincoln and pro-slavery  KKK member John Wilkes Booth, Martin Luther King, Jr.  and James Earl Ray, plus, sadly, many others.

Right. This is not the first time here in America a government official was shot. Thank G-d Congresswoman Giffords’ outcome was different from the other victims in history. The intention of the shooter, however, was the same. To hurt and maim and kill another human being in government.

Heartbreakingly enough, the shooter did succeed in hurting and maiming and killing. We mourn and grieve for all those innocent lives shattered in mere seconds last week.

Of course, I was not alive in previous eras when destructive acts of violence took place, and perhaps the temperature of today’s discourse is nothing new. But to me, the rising poisonous and toxic rhetoric seems dangerous.

In the last week, so many issues have arisen out of the pain of this tragic incident in Tucson. The two issues I keep hearing about the most is that each side of the spectrum spews hate and blames the other side, plus, of course, the never ending gun control debate.

What upset me so much was the business as usual bickering and blaming of the media. I mean, where was a pause, something of a reaction that at least attempts to take a bit of a higher road and reflect about where we, in both parties,  might have all gone a little wrong?

I THINK the crosshairs icon on Sarah Palin’s map is nuts, inappropriate and dangerous. At the same time, she did not commit this crime. But right at the beginning of the week, before any information was available, she was being blamed all over the Internet for this tragedy with inflammatory rhetoric.

Meanwhile, it turns out that this mentally unstable nut job who pulled the trigger is not only not a conservative, but more of a left-of-center, unstable person whose favorite book is The Communist Manifesto, with a place for Mein Kampf also on his reading list.

My point is not to defend Sarah Palin, but to highlight the reflex finger-pointing by provocateurs on both sides. Where is the integrity, responsibility and respect to wait and reflect and find out what happened?

The purpose of the First Amendment in context of government is the meaningful debate of ideas among colleagues when opinions differ with regard to policy. Instead, it sometimes feels like a preschool playground with a lot of name calling, nastiness and plain tantrum- throwing.

Each side works from the assumption that if you disagree with someone you are bad, or don’t care about America.

We have all grown so accustomed to Internet trolling that  anyone can say and write anything they want in whatever manner suits them. In this era of constant Internet exposure all that trolling has desensitized us to toxic rhetoric, constantly lowering the bar of civil discourse.

Here I am doing the very same thing. Blaming. Instead of a political party, I am blaming the Internet. Because, I suppose, when something of this magnitude and tragedy happens we all just want to do something! and change something! and point to something tangible as a cause. All this as a way of trying to address our fears.

We feel, “if only  we can identify or control what the cause is, this will prevent such a tragedy from repeating itself.”

Blame is just another coping mechanism we all revert to in a time of crisis and fear.

ANOTHER easy thing to blame is the instrument which is responsible for the murder. The gun. This is an obvious, natural reaction. If it were not for the existence of the gun in this guy’s hands, the murders could not have taken place.

Of course, if someone wants to hurt or maim another person there are many instruments to do that. A hammer. A steely switchblade. Of course, the gun is different because it only harms. A hammer can kill, but also build and repair. A knife can kill, but also serve as a way to prepare dinner. Not to mention, the gun’s effectiveness in killing exceeds that of a a hammer, a knife and lots of other instruments. So the gun symbolizes one thing to us, and that is the potential for violence and death.

As sad as it is, sometimes life situations demand and justify the use of a gun to kill. Other times, it is wielded by nut jobs who just randomly shoot people off this earth.

I don’t know. I don’t have a black or white stance on gun control. My gut is always no guns, because at the end of the day that is the instrument used by a person to kill.

But it is complicated, because the responsible gun holders will always be responsible with arms whether it is a constitutional right or not, and the bad guys will somehow always find the guns if they want to scare or kill someone. If not through the front door, they will somehow procure these guns by the back door.

In the aftermath of this horrific tragedy the point is not for us to take away or modify the rights that we have, but to learn to stop, pause and exercise more responsibility, care and caution with these rights.

My prayers are with those families grieving the loss of their loved ones and for Congresswoman Giffords’ full recovery.

Copyright © 2011 by the Intermountain Jewish News

Tehilla Goldberg

IJN columnist | View from Central Park

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