Crime or tragedy?
(Re: “Stopping massacres: what won’t work and what will,” Danish Plan, Jan. 13.) Mr. Danish is perpetuating the fear and terror that has poisoned politics and the quality of life not only here at home, but all around the world. This is understandable as long as the scope of individual perspective is limited to how the world functions in relation to one’s self. The true question is how we want to view random acts of violence, how we want to view those who perpetuate them, and whether or not we want to let the trauma of these acts shape the way a human being experiences the world.
What words shall we choose to color the events of Jan. 8? One word would be “crime,” in which innocent victims’ lives were ended by a criminal — a fairly black and white, simple and very convenient picture for you and I as we remain uninvolved and free to judge from a distance. I would challenge anyone who contemplates the Tucson shooting to begin from the word “tragedy.” A tragedy for all involved — those who lost their lives, those in mourning for them who have the need to heal in order to return to a manageable quality of life, and all who are in fellow citizenship with every person on the scene that day.
In order to truly understand the event requires uncompromising empathy. For the wounded? Surely. For the dead? Only as far as we can comprehend. For the guilty? Jared Loughner was a seemingly ordinary individual, but found meaning in his own experience of separation from the rest of the world. A perverted righteousness. Shall we perpetuate his pain in ourselves and allow it to take control? Or should we recognize it for what it is, only pain, in ourselves and in each other? This knowing is the key to coexistence and can help illuminate how to act with compassion, the only true prevention against acts of isolated insanity.
Alexander Boates/via Internet
The limits of free speech
(Re: “War of words,” cover story, and “Stopping massacres: what won’t work and what will,” Danish Plan, Jan. 13.). Right-wing talk radio does not deserve free-speech protection any more than corporations do. It is a well-established corporate propaganda monopoly. In most parts of the country there are no free alternatives for politics while driving or working, and call screeners ensure the lies and threats cannot be challenged in real time. Limbaugh and the other RW talkers are coordinated on national issues, often reading the same talking points from their 1,000-plus radio stations. When they threaten and name someone in politics or media or a Conference on World Affairs speaker at Boulder High, they wield much more power than someone blogging on the Internet, where changing pages is even easier than with a newspaper.
The argument that 95 percent of talk radio is right-wing because it reflects the opinions of most Americans is absurd. Limbaugh and Hannity get hundreds of millions of dollars to represent billionaires, not for advertising local restaurants and plumbing services. The only reason they were successful limiting health care reform and action on global warming, deregulating Wall Street, and lying us into trillion-dollar wars is that most Americans still believe the lie that they are independent political entertainers.
The talk-radio monopoly has set the hateful tone of American political discourse over the past 20 years. Radio has made the GOP what it is today. And even after the Arizona tragedy, bipartisanship will be impossible as long as Republicans fear Limbaugh more than they want to do the right thing. Sheriff Dupnik is right about talk radio and is getting hell from the right because he called out their most important media tool.
While the debate following the shooting in Arizona has rightly focused on inflammatory rhetoric, gun laws and national neglect of mental health care, an apparently taboo concern is the growing official acceptance of assassination as an integral weapon of our military and intelligence arsenal.
By its nature, the war on terror is an undertaking in which national borders are irrelevant, but “justice” is now exclusively being served not by law and the courts, but by the gun.
The first publicized predator drone attack was against a suspected Al Qaeda leader in Yemen. A nuclear scientist is assassinated in Iran. What began as grasping-for-signs-of-success reports of “body count” in Vietnam and saturation bombing in Cambodia has morphed into missile strikes targeting suspected Taliban leaders in Pakistan. “Winning hearts and minds” has been superceded by again trying to kill our way into victory. And again cavalierly dismissed is the accompanying death of innocents and increased hatred of our presence in foreign lands.
In military terms, the death of Christina Taylor Green would be but collateral damage. Standards set at the top inevitably filter down.
Our violent diet
The shootings in Tucson are a reminder that we are one of the world’s most violent societies. Violence governs our foreign relations, our sports and video games and our diet.
Yes, our diet. Desensitization to violence begins in the home, when parents assure their naturally inquisitive, animal-loving children that chickens “give” eggs, cows “give” milk and that pigs “give” their flesh for us to eat. The horrific daily violence and barbaric slaughter visited on these innocent animals and subsidized by us at the checkout counter gets buried in our subconscious mind.
Once our kids have learned to live with the violence of their diet, how much of a stretch is it to while away their idle hours on video games like Mortal Kombat, Manhunt or Grand Theft Auto? How likely is this experience then to govern how they resolve a social confrontation in their neighborhood or a military one in an Afghan village?
Most of us abhor violence, but we don’t know how to prevent it. Giving our kids an honest answer when they ask, “Mommy, where do hamburgers come from?” is certainly a great start.
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