Emily Buckley, JMI Intern and Florida State University Sophomore in Political Science & Criminology
The events that transpired in Arizona on January 8, 2011 were horrific, unpredictable, and down right evil. No sane person can even begin to understand how someone could discharge his gun on innocent people in an unprovoked attempt to cause serious infliction of damage and death.But the reality is that crazy people happen. Someone once told me that you cannot change people’s actions–you can only control your reaction. In the aftermath of tragedies such as this, we as a nation need to learn to control our reactions.Widespread news outlets and the ability to broadcast live from locations has been a great asset to the spread of public information and expansion of the nation’s knowledge. However, access to information doesn’t give us the right to overreach in psychoanalysis and speculation.Within minutes of the shootings, media outlets began an ideological blame game against what they deem “hate speech” and “antigovernment rhetoric”. While a 9-year-old girl and a federal judge lay in the morgue and a well-liked, centrist Congresswoman lay in an operating room, the American media and a few others in public service used the tragedy to further a political agenda.The majority of Americans saw this tragedy for what it was: a mentally unstable man committing an unthinkable act. Not because he was affiliated with a right wing or leftist organization, but because sometimes crazy people do crazy things. As a nation we must come together and place the blame solely where it lies, and not buy into the media’s desire for a “sexy” story, constantly feeding the fire of speculation to maintain a captive audience.Political rhetoric gets messy. It’s been that way for hundreds of years, and it will be for hundreds more. To suggest that it is meant to be anything else is foolish. Maybe it makes some such as Rep. Robert Brady feel better when he faults the rhetoric of the Tea-Party for the tragedy, or Senator Durbin when he specifically accused Sarah Palin’s political rally cry for the incident and labeled it “toxic”. But this type of reaction is unacceptable in a democratic society. In a nation where people are free to dissent from the government using peaceful protest and free speech, it is irresponsible to attack those freedoms because a disturbed person chose not to.If we start down the path of limiting people’s ability to freely speak, we are opening the door to a society where actions become the main outlet for dissension. We have the freedom to choose words over actions, and while we may be limited in our ability to control others actions, we do have the capability of managing our re-actions. This is one of the extremely important lessons to be learned from the Arizona tragedy.Can we come together as a nation and responsibly control how we react in the face of tragedy? Or will we crumble in the wake of heartbreaking misfortune and limit the freedoms of many because we couldn’t control the actions of one?