I was really hoping I wouldn’t have to comment on the horrible events in Arizona this past Saturday because I hate getting too serious, but I now feel compelled to comment because there are some who want to use the shooting to limit free speech.. A gunman walked into a public event hosted by a congresswoman, Gabrille Giffords and opened fire. In the end, six were killed and as many as 15 were wounded. The congresswoman was shot through the head, but thankfully, as of this writing, is still alive. Early indications are the congresswoman was his main target. Why she was his target is murky, but I am of the belief it wasn’t because of her political ideology.
The gunman was a mentally ill kid who demonstrated highly volatile behavior on more than one occasion. His community college even tried to kick him out of school. How do I know he’s mentally ill? Because I watched a video where he claimed the government was using grammar as a mind control weapon. He also was angry because he wasn’t allowed to introduce a new symbol into the English language and numeric system. He showed classic signs of schizophrenia. My guess is he targeted Congresswoman Giffords because of her job not because of her political party. She was the highest profile person that worked for the government in his area.
Some say that political rhetoric is to blame for this tragedy, that this kid was somehow influenced by right wing hate speech. I say the following as someone who has left wing views on most social issues, that’s a bit of a stretch. The kid was influenced by his mental illness. I’m concerned that we are looking for someone to blame here other than the boy and his mental illness. Congress has taken the opportunity to create a bill that would make it illegal to threaten a member of congress. It sounds like a sensible bill, but the word “threat” will be open to interpretation, and history has shown us when a law is open to interpretation it can and will be abused. For instance, the now infamous cross hair images of members of congress on Sarah Palin’s website could be interpreted as threats. I am no fan of the former Governor of Alaska, but the images are not threats. They were in bad taste, and we shouldn’t be surprised that she didn’t have the common sense to not use the images on her website, but they are not the reason Congresswoman Giffords lay in a hospital bed right now with a bullet wound to her head.
We should all feel angry over what this young man did, but we shouldn’t let our anger get the best of us. This was not an example of “free speech” run amuck. This was an example of what a diseased mind can accomplish given the right (or wrong) tools. Giving our lawmakers the power to interpret what qualifies as free speech opens a dangerous door that we may not be able close. It’s not the answer. I’m not sure what the answer is, but we can all start by not replacing political rhetoric with blame rhetoric.