Within an hour of the tragic shooting in Arizona, it had begun. The blame game. The effort to score political points.
The attacks on the ugliness of the political debate mimic the very ugliness they condemn.
The sheriff blamed Rush Limbaugh. Liberal bloggers went after conservative talkers. Conservative talkers lashed right back at the sheriff and the liberal bloggers. Drudge kept running the headline that the shooter was remembered by high-school acquaintances as a "liberal pothead."
My own rule of thumb, in the days since, is that anyone who is out there blaming someone else is probably equally to blame.
Obviously, the person to blame is the one who pulled the trigger. If, as all evidence suggests, that man was Jared Lee Loughner, then it is perfectly clear that the man to blame is a deeply disturbed, mentally ill, deranged individual who — in my book at least — knew what he was doing and knew that it was wrong. And that is all that is required to defeat an insanity plea and establish his responsibility.
He deserves a vigorous defense. And if, as the evidence suggests, he is guilty, he deserves the ultimate penalty. That is the easy part. The hard part is what we do with it.
First and foremost, of course, we pray. We send our sympathies to the families of the victims. We take a moment — more, I hope — to hug our loved ones, count our blessings, cherish the privilege we have to live in a country where such an action is so unusual, so aberrant, as to stop us in our tracks.
Do we use it?
Do we use the death of a 9-year-old child, of a respected federal judge, of a young congressional aide, to score points in a political debate?
Political discourse in America is a nightmare: vicious, ugly, mean-spirited, and personal. It wasn't always this way, but it is now. Sadly, it mostly serves the interest of those who engage in it. And it mostly works. And Tucson has made it worse, not better.
At a time when we need to be pulling together as a country, reaffirming our fundamental values, sending the message loud and clear to whack-jobs everywhere that violence has no place in American politics, we're head over heels in blaming each other.
I turn on the radio, and the left is blaming the right and the right is blaming the left.
Enough already. Stop. Shut up.
A child is dead. A wonderful judge is dead. A congressional aide is dead. A woman saying hello to her congresswoman is dead. And more. And more injured.
I don't care who is to blame. If we cannot come together now, if we cannot say no to all the people who are playing this ugly game and have been for so long, if now is not the moment when we say enough, no more, it doesn't matter whether this shooter was from the left or the right, we need to stop playing with fire . . . then what will it take?
© Creators Syndicate Inc.