When psychos decide to kill people, we clamor for explanations. We're disturbed by the notion that someone can wake up, and decide to end the lives of others, almost at random. 6 people, who were simply at a minor political function, no longer exist. All because some guy named Jared Loughner made a decision. It's unsettling.
We all look for a cause to explain these things. If there is a cause, some sort of underlying reason, or maybe outside influence, then the world remains a sensible and logical place. Cause and effect, right? It even feels a bit safer, as we can convince ourselves that psychos like Loughner can't affect our destinies, not without some separate cause, at least.
After Columbine, for instance, the Right blamed Marilyn Manson, the Left blamed the NRA, and nobody blamed the sentient, self-aware human beings that executed their classmates. They even memorialized the killers alongside their victims! Could you imagine an eternal flame dedicated to Lee Harvey Oswald, sitting alongside the one to JFK?
Now as we examine the shootings in Arizona, we're asking who or what is to blame. And it baffles me that the unanimous choice isn't Jared "I have three names now" Lee Loughner. He bought the gun and ammunition. He concocted the scheme. He even wrote a farewell on his MySpace page. He pulled the trigger. He knew what he was doing and he did it.
He wasn't in a fit of uncontrollable rage, it wasn't spur of the moment. He was even able to get off with a warning after running a red light on his way to the assassination, so he couldn't have been an out of control madman. It seems like Loughner is the cause here. But some people out there believe he and his actions are merely an effect.
The gun control people have begun to chirp, for example.
Which is ironic, since Giffords has been a supporter of gun rights, and owns a Glock handgun (or at least did in 2008, Source).
Guns don't have free will. Human beings do. Guns kill people, but they can't murder. Idealist anti-gun nuts can fantasize about a world without guns, which means that Loughner wouldn't have been able to kill so many, if anyone at all. It also means a world in which everyone who has ever used a gun in self-defense against a physically stronger attacker, would be victims.
Then there's the more abstract cause behind the murders. Can a political atmosphere incite someone to commit murder? According to some, it has.
I can't confirm this, but the word of the day for January 8 on the New York Times desk calendar must have been "vitriolic." I've heard that word more in the last week than I had in the last two decades.
As a writer, I must concede an affinity for that word. It conveys a sense of acidity. It sounds like it means. Even if you've never heard it, you can tell it's not something good.
"The vitriolic political atmosphere" is being held partially responsible for Loughner's actions. You see, Giffords is a Democrat. She fought and won a close election against a Tea Party candidate. And here's a list of all the ties that we've learned Loughner had with the Tea Party:
That's what pisses me off about the insinuation (and occasional accusation) against the Tea Party in this assassination attempt. This isn't a Tea Party person committing a heinous act. This is a completely random, essentially unaffiliated psycho. This guy's rhetoric can't be described as Liberal or Conservative. It's not Moderate either. If nonsensical gibberish had a political party, Loughner would be their candidate for Senate.
He believes 9/11 was a conspiracy, that the world will end in 2012, and that Christianity was conceived in order to help politicians. He didn't vote in the 2010 midterm elections. Most Tea Party people, and Conservatives in general believe 9/11 has been genuinely portrayed, that the world won't end next year, and most are Christians. The same can be said of most Liberals.
He'd say things like "What is government if words have no meaning?" not "Cap and Trade is Crap and Tax." So it's beyond moronic to blame "vitriolic political atmosphere" for what this guy has done. And certainly the finger pointing against the Right is beyond stupid, as this guy wasn't even Conservative.
I don't think the gun control people, or the vitriol control people are trying to take advantage of this incident. They honestly believe that if handguns were harder to get, then psychos like Loughner would get a job at the cement factory and live productive, nonviolent lives. They honestly believe that Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, and Sarah Palin control people, and make them do horrible, unspeakable things.
This guy refused to be a participant of a society, where there are multiple people with different views, cooperating yet competing together. But instead of turning into an introverted hermit, he attempted to inflict his twisted ideas on the rest of us. He didn't believe we had the right to disagree with him. He didn't believe we had the right to have a society without him. He didn't believe that other people have the right to live.
And some Conservatives are pulling the same accusative crap, calling Loughner a "left-wing political radical." And if an Hispanic person had shot a Republican politician in Arizona, you can bet your sweet bippy that there'd be Right Wing voices screaming about the need for immigration reform, and how the atmosphere around SB 1070 fueled the violence.
I'll end with a counter argument/question to all these causality theories about Loughner and the Tea Party. If this "vitriolic atmosphere" is partially responsible for this murder, why is this the one incident? This is such a rare act. Some news outlets have tried to portray this as part of a string of violent acts, alluding to threats against politicians, and vandalizing of offices.
But murder is on another level. And if an "atmosphere" is to blame for one assassination attempt, doesn't it follow that there'd be more than one? Historians often blame the social and economic atmosphere of Weimar Germany for the rise of Hitler. But Hitler wasn't the only Nazi. An entire generation of Germans were angry and psychotic.
Nobody blames political atmosphere for John Hinckley or Lee Harvey Oswald. Even John Wilkes Booth, who had a distinct and clear political vendetta against Lincoln, gets the blame for the assassination, not the "vitriolic political atmosphere" surrounding the Civil War.
Hopefully, Loughner's will remain a singular event. Which is one positive to take from this thing, that we live in a country and a time where political violence is exceedingly rare and almost universally abhorred. Despite the abundance of vitriol.