By Tray Wetherell
Politicians and pundits alike woke Saturday morning to business as usual in both state houses and at the U.S. Capitol. Pundits were thinking about how to get their message across to the masses while firing up the fringes, and politicians were thinking about how to utilize the base to help carry their agendas with little to be had for the center. That is until a lone gunman decided to take matters into his own hands and attempt to assassinate a congresswoman from Arizona. Rep. Gabrielle Gifford, who just 10 months earlier warned about the visceral nature of recent rhetoric, was shot point blank in the head along with several others while speaking at a grocery store. Among those killed included a prominent judge and a 9 year old child who came to see Gifford and get an autograph. Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik, in his initial press conference while being questioned on possible motives commented that “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,”
This and other comments made by the sheriff sparked cries from both the left and the right to speculate to the motives of the shooter, and to begin painting him as either a leftist or right wing extremist. Reports began coming in not a few hours after the shooting that the suspect, 22 year old Jared Loughner, who as of publication appeared to have been acting alone, was everything from a pot smoking socialist to a ultra conservative activist bent on making a difference. Glen Beck, a popular radio and T.V. host in conservative circles went on the defensive for other conservative pundits, especially Sarah Palin. Palin who specifically targeted elections in swing districts with what could have been considered “cross hairs” on her web site, became especially visceral and heavy worded. Beck for his part blamed the gunman and at the same time shamed others in the media for using this event as an opportunity to attack the right. “I hold those responsible for the violence, responsible for the violence. I denounce those who attempt to blame political opponents for the acts of madmen.”
On the left, Jon Stewart, host of the popular Comedy Central series The Daily Show also dismissed the idea that the “toxic politics” of the times are the reasons for the shootings. His focus on his show that aired on the Monday following the shooting focused on the right and lefts efforts to blame the other side for the shooting in the first place saying that many on the political right and left were working feverishly to blame their opponents. “How do you make sense of these types of senseless situations? I don’t know if there is a way to make sense of this senseless thing.” Stewart went on saying that while we should not hold blame for words spoken, we should watch how we do speak to each other, especially in such a partisan and divisive political atmosphere. “I do think that it’s a worthwhile goal not to conflate our political opponents with our enemies if for no other reason than to draw a better distinction between the manifesto of paranoid mad men and what passes for acceptable political pundit speak,”.
Indeed while we do not understand the entire situation concerning the shooter or his motives, we can clearly understand that as far as the pundits are concerned, the blame game is clearly in full force. With little to no regard for the victims of the rampage or their families the political machine continues to churn leaving behind the opportunity voiced by few that we as a nation should calm down the rhetoric, and take stock of what we have become in this divisive society that we have brought on ourselves.