Diverse Thoughts on a Great Tragedy


In the wake of a tragic shooting in Tucson, members of Congress and the media mourn and soberly reflect along with the rest of America.

No, I’m just kidding. In the wake of a tragic shooting in which six people who weren’t members of Congress were killed, members of congress rush to exploit the tragedy for their own ends.

  • Peter King of New York wants to make it illegal to bring a gun within 1,000 feet of the president, vice president, members of Congress or judges of the Federal Judiciary.
  • James Clyburn of South Carolina thinks TSA should let Congresscritters slide through security.
  • Robert Brady of Pennsylvania wants to make a crime of “language or symbols that could be perceived as threatening or inciting violence against a federal official or member of Congress.”
  • Carolyn McCarthy of New York wants to outlaw large-capacity clips.

(No word yet, in this orgy of oo-oo-me-me-me regulation, who will get to coopt Christina Green’s name to attach to his bill.)

Following a shooting rampage by an obviously mentally ill young man, the media want desperately to blame the Tea Party.

A politician calls that “blood libel.”

The Church of the Flaming Asshole (Unrepentant) plans to picket the funerals of the people killed.

And, to cap the stupidity, some radio stations buy off COTFA(U), giving them airtime in Phoenix and Toronto in exchange for their not picketing Christina Green’s funeral.

In other words, it’s a target-rich environment for snarky blawgers. Where to start? How about with COTFA(U), which I will not otherwise name here. (In case you didn’t know, they are a Baptist church in Topeka, Kansas, that demonstrates at the funerals of servicemen because, in their theology, God hates gays and Jesus was a total dickhead. It all makes sense, I’m sure, in their disturbed little minds.) Just as the goal of terrorism is not death or destruction, the goal of COTFA(U) is not to disrupt funerals, but to create outrage and get media attention. Call them outrageists. They have a right to protest, which I would defend just as vigorously as I would defend the right of a grieving family to dispatch them to meet Jesus and find out if he is really the pendejo they think he is. But they don’t have a right to the outrage they crave, or the media attention. Outrage? Nah. How pathetic would your existence have to be to join COTFA(U)? Media attention? There’s got to be something more important to talk about. So please, when COTFA(U) announces its intention to do something, talk about something else. Because when you give them attention, the outrageists have already won.

Having started there, let’s rewind. “Blood libel,” really? That’s not a phrase this politician just pulled out of a hat. She’s deliberately comparing the Tea Party to European Jewry (whether she’s trying to appeal to people who think that Jews make matzoh with the blood of Christian babies or to people who don’t, I don’t see the percentages in that play, unless she’s an outrageist too), and claiming that, while her rhetoric does not incite violence against Democrats, the media’s rhetoric incites violence against people like her.

The truth is that you’d have to be mentally ill to kill a Democrat because of Republican political rhetoric—or a Republican because of Democratic political rhetoric. There isn’t enough difference between a Republican politician and a Democratic politician to make either worth a bullet. The American political system is like the WWF—politicians put on a big show to keep the audience entertained and engaged, but at they end of they day they are all feeding at the same trough and working toward the same goal (getting that audience to keep the trough full). Killing a Democrat because you think a Republican wants you to is like killing a wrestling “heel” because you think a “face” wants you to.

Which brings us back to Congress.

The problem in Arizona was not large-capacity clips. It was not threats against a Congresswoman. It was not TSA security lines. And it sure wasn’t that the killer legally brought his weapon within 1,000 feet of the Congresswoman. The problem was that one severely mentally ill young man had inadequate psychiatric care and access to firearms.

The gun-control single-issue folks will focus on the ease with which the killer got his gun. But (except to those who still think they can keep guns out of everybody’s hands) that and his inadequate treatment boil down to the same problem; where is the congressperson who is talking about keeping the seriously mentally ill from falling through the cracks? The vast majority of seriously mentally ill people will never buy a gun, much less kill someone. Do these Congresspeople not care about them? (No, of course not—polls have shown that the mentally ill aren’t a significant voting bloc.)

Not that there is a government solution to the problem, but it’d be nice at least to see our putative representatives talking about the real problem rather than trying to make themselves personally safe by insisting on being treated as a special class. At the very least, as long as they’re talking about insoluble problems they’re not passing more laws.

Congresspeople probably shouldn’t have to fear violent death at the hands of their constituents much more than their constituents should fear death at each other’s hands; but neither should they be allowed to hide in bulletproof limos, insulated from the challenges of 21st century life. If airport security lines provide a tempting soft target to terrorists and other nutjobs (they do), congresspeople should have to wait in them like anyone else. If a congressman (or anyone else) can bring a gun within 1,000 feet of me, I should be able to take a gun within 1,000 feet of him. If people can say and write things that “could be perceived as inciting or threatening violence” about me, they should be able to say and write such things about Congressman Brady (or, for that matter, about Barack Obama—sending people to prison for writing bad poetry that could be perceived as a threat is perverse).

We are, after all, all in this together, and the sooner we stop electing tools who exploit every tragedy to feather their own nests at the expense of the rest of us the better off we’ll all be.


4 responses to “Diverse Thoughts on a Great Tragedy”

  1. “Robert Brady of Pennsylvania wants to make a crime of “language or symbols that could be perceived as threatening or inciting violence against a federal official or member of Congress.””

    Sort of kills off the notion of freedom of speech doesn’t it? As we’ve seen over the last couple of decades, anyone can brand anything as threatening.

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