This past Saturday, six people were killed and 14 were injured in a shooting that took place outside a Safeway store in Tuscon, Az. Arizona Democratic congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was among the injured. Giffords was shot in the head and remains hospitalized in critical condition.
Shortly after the news of the shooting went public, it seemed like the Democratic and Republican parties, as well as a good chunk of the country’s media, began pointing fingers—mostly at each other.
Many news outlets began to point at former Governor of Alaska Sarah Palin, and the now infamous map she had up on her website. The map showed 20 symbols, which appeared to be crosshairs as seen through a gun sight, placed over districts that at the time were represented by democrats. The whole map was accompanied by the phrase, “It’s time to take a stand.” After the shooting, the map was removed from Palin’s website and the criticism has remained that this image has somehow encouraged violence.
There are a lot of factors that could be dissected about this incident gun laws in Arizona, becoming an increasingly more violent nation and blaming other countries for being extremist when we are becoming extremist ourselves. But one of the most important things to realize in the aftermath of this shooting is that we should not be pointing fingers. We should, instead, be examining why this happened in the first place. We should be asking ourselves what kind of country we have created in which someone feels like the best solution to disagreeing with someone is to shoot her in the head. The extremism that many politicians from the U.S. criticize whole cultures for is clearly showing its presence at home, from both the shooter in this incident and from those discussing the aftermath.
People should be (and many are) as concerned about the reaction to the shooting as to the shooting itself. Many people have said that the shooting was the result of an increasing polarity between the Democratic and Republican parties over the course of the last year. Obviously, no one has listened enough to stop spewing the irrational arguments that created that polarity in the first place.
Immediately after the shooting happened, we should already have realized that our ongoing lack of civility had been, and continues to be, unacceptable. Yet still, the talk going on isn’t about how to prevent and stop these things (both the violence of a shooting and the finger-pointing). Very little time was spent trying to understand what happened before Palin’s face was all over the news, which should not be what our nation focuses on after an incident such as this.
Hopefully (and perhaps too optimistically), as time goes on, we as a nation can learn how to examine what happened last Saturday as both a lesson in how to react to a tragedy but also how to remain civil in the wake of a political attack.