Arizona horror: why reality matters

It is a horror and a tragedy: a guy with a gun lets loose in public targeting a political figure. The damage there was bad enough but there is more insidious damage in the reaction. That is getting discussed which may help create lessons learned.

The ammunition for the reaction damage is, one the right, Palin’s “crosshairs” campaign rhetoric and, on the left, the Daily Kos comments (since redacted) regarding one of the victim’s votes on assuming office and how to deal with that.

There are a few cases evident of the ‘both sides are the same’ school that the finger pointing, blaming, and political stagemanship being leveraged out of the horror is exactly the same on both sides of the political spectrum. Rick Moran seems to fall towards that meme, for instance. That needs to be called for what it is: denial. What should have precedent is determining the differences between the way various points of view look at, and use, the horror and using that for learning.

Lesson learning can be seen in Harnden’s The unseemly rush to blame Sarah Palin, the Tea Party and Republicans for murder in Arizona — “I’d be more reassured by a sheriff who concentrated on facts rather than over-heated, sweeping generalisations.”

Then there is Michael Daly’s view: Rep. Gabrielle Giffords’ blood is on Sarah Palin’s hands after putting cross hair over district to illustrate the point. “Here is what Sarah Palin said on the Facebook page where she depicted Gabrielle Giffords in the cross hairs of a rifle scope: “Don’t retreat! Instead – RELOAD!” … Well, the guy who shot Giffords yesterday managed to keep firing until he killed six, including a child, and wounded 13.”

Byron York makes a comparison and contrast: Journalists urged caution after Ft. Hood, now race to blame Palin after Arizona shootings — “There was ample evidence, in other words, that the Ft. Hood attack was an act of Islamist violence. … Nevertheless, public officials, journalists, and commentators were quick to caution that the public should not “jump to conclusions” about Hasan’s motive. CNN, in particular, became a forum for repeated warnings that the subject should be discussed with particular care.”

To some extent, these immediate reactions are emotional extrapolations about how one sees those who disagree with him. They represent what one wants it to be as a means of trying to understand the horror. That may be one reason why the subject is people rather than tools (so far). That is also why the perpetrator is getting short shrift in the dialog (so far). When the focus narrows, which it will likely do in time, the perpetrator and his tools will come under scrutiny. How that is viewed will also very likely provide some comparison and contrast lessons for those who care to learn.

The reality is in the specific behaviors that can be observed, not in emotional extrapolations. Those behaviors start with the perpetrator and his recent history. It is those behaviors that must be understood before taking action to reduce the odds of such a horror happing again.

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